With the seasons changing and the weather starting to get colder, many people are starting to spend more time indoors. This time of year is also a great time to think about what you can do to winterize your home. Doing small projects now can help ensure that your home will be ready for any winter weather that may occur in the coming months. Making sure that your home is ready for winter prior to the onset of cold weather is important to help keep your home safe and warm throughout the winter months. There are many things you can do, both inside and outside your home, to get your home ready for winter weather! Winterizing your home also brings the added bonus of helping to improve the efficiency and longevity of the components of your home, making your home safer, and lowering your energy bills.
Many of the projects that you can do to prepare your home for winter weather can be done indoors, making it possible to complete them even after winter has begun. These projects can range from installing insulation to different areas of your home, to making sure your chimney and fireplace are clean and safe for the first fire of the season. Other indoor projects to get your home winter-ready include:
- Caulking: using caulk around your windows and installing foam protectors around outlets can help prevent cold air from entering your home, and can help keep warm air in
- Installing insulation: most heat loss occurs through openings in a home’s attic. Sufficient and proper insulation in areas of your home where the most heat escapes can help reduce heat loss and can lead to lower energy bills
- Prevent heat loss from windows: in addition to letting warm air out, cold air can leak in through window cracks. Installing thermal-lined drapes or curtains can help keep warmth in and lower heating bills. According to the U. S. Department of Energy, using proper window coverings can reduce the amount of heat lost through windows by up to 25 percent, which can result in significant savings in heating costs. You can also cover your windows with plastic wrap or bubble wrap to help provide an additional layer of insulation
- Protecting your pipes: depending on how cold it gets where you live, you may need to ensure that your pipes do not freeze and burst this winter. This may not be a problem in areas of your home that are more insulated, but may be more likely to happen in pipes near exterior walls of your home, or in uninsulated areas such as the attic. You can find more information on protecting pipes here
During the winter months, your home’s heating system (and possibly your fireplace, if you have one) will likely be used more frequently. You can help heat your home more efficiently (and safely) by doing the following:
- Change the thermostat: if your home does not already have a programmable thermostat, making the switch can be a simple way to prepare your home for colder weather. A programmable thermostat can be customized to make sure that the heating system does not turn on when it is not needed, such as when you are not at home. You can also adjust the temperature of your thermostat to ensure that your home is warm enough without spending too much on your heating bill
- Adjust your water heater: adjusting the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can help save on energy costs. Additionally, insulating your water heater can help it retain more heat, and run more efficiently
- Check the fireplace: there can be hazards such as creosote buildup or animal nests inside your fireplace that can be dangerous. An annual inspection and chimney cleaning prior to the first time you use your fireplace each winter will ensure that your fireplace is free of any debris and safe to use
- Potentially reduce your energy bill: you can check with your power company to see if they conduct energy saving assessments, or home energy audits. A representative will help you identify changes you can make to ensure your home is more energy efficient, potentially resulting in lower energy costs
- Replace your furnace filter: this can help your furnace function more efficiently; if the filter is obstructed by lint, dust, or other particles, it may take longer for your furnace to heat your home. Replacing the filter at least every three months can ensure your furnace is working well and heating your home efficiently. Additionally, having your furnace serviced each year will ensure that it is running properly and safely
- Adjust your ceiling fans: if you have ceiling fans throughout your home, reversing their direction will help push warm air down, and help to recirculate it throughout your home
- Close off lesser-used areas of your home: if you have rooms in your home that are not used as frequently, closing the door to those rooms will help keep more heat in the areas of your home that are used more often
- Change your air filters: this is an easy way to help keep your HVAC system running smoothly, make sure it is heating your home properly, and to help it last longer. You should change the air filters in your home every three months
- Check your alarms: the change of seasons is a great time to check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, to make sure that they are working properly and to replace any dead batteries as needed
In addition to all the ways you can winterize your home from the inside, there are also many outdoor projects you can complete to ensure your home is ready for the cold winter months.
- Weatherproofing: there are several things you can do to weatherproof your home, such as installing a door sweep, or weatherstripping doors and windows. These can help keep out the elements and protect your home against inclement weather
- Winterize your roof: this can include checking for broken or missing shingles, clearing debris such as leaves from the roof, inspecting gutters, and installing snow guards. All of these can prevent damage to your roof, and can prevent any water damage from melted snow leaking into your home
- Install storm doors and windows: these can help keep cold air out and warm air in, and can help save up to 45 percent on your energy bill
- Protect outdoor pipes: Shut off any exterior faucets, and drain any water from outdoor pipes or sprinkler heads to make sure the pipes do not burst
- Inspect your deck: if your home has a deck, inspect it for any damage such as loose boards, and treat the wood if necessary to prevent any further problems during the winter months. Also be sure to clean off any leaves, pine needles, or dirt to prevent the growth of mildew and mold
- Prevent slips and falls: keep a sufficient supply of sand or ice melt to prevent ice buildup on your driveway, steps, and walkway to prevent any potential falls on the ice. Additionally, make sure to purchase a snow shovel before snow begins to fall so that you can clear walkways and prevent snow from accumulating
- Plant a windbreak: if you are able to plant trees on your property, trees like evergreens can form a windbreak on your property, and can prevent cold winds from reaching your home. This can potentially save up to 30 percent in energy costs
- Check your gutters: make sure that your gutters and downspouts are fastened properly, and re-secure them if they are sagging or loose. This can prevent gutters being pulled off of your house if there is a lot of snow. Additionally, make sure that gutters are cleared of any leaves, pine needles, or other debris, and that downspouts extend at least five feet away from the house to ensure that any melting snow does not cause any water damage or flooding
- Check the vents: make sure that any vents or any other openings into the house are covered to prevent any rodents, insects, or birds from nesting somewhere inside your home
While each of these projects can get your home ready for winter, you do not have to do all of them to be prepared for colder weather! Just completing a few of the projects on this list can help make your home a safer and more comfortable place to be this winter, and can help you save money on heating and electricity costs. You can find more information on ways to get your home ready for winter, including air sealing, moisture control, ventilation, and more, here. Some states even offer assistance with weatherizing your home; more information on eligibility and how to apply can be found here.
By taking some time to prepare for cold weather now, you can spend more time enjoying the winter season without being worried about your home. Once you’re ready to come back inside after your outdoor winter activities, you’ll know you have a nice warm home waiting for you!