Winter can bring costly lessons for many homeowners. Here's a handy checklist to help you prepare your home for a cozy and stress-free winter.
1. Winterize your plumbing to prevent freezing pipes
Frozen and ruptured pipes can be extremely costly to fix, but can also be avoided with a little forethought. Keep your heat to a minimum of 65 degrees during extremely cold weather conditions, and make sure exterior pipes are properly insulated with sleeves or heat tape.
Outdoor faucets shouldn’t be overlooked either when you’re winterizing. Drain them completely before it gets too cold and then protect them with an insulated cover.
2. Schedule inspections for your furnace or boiler and hot water heater
Having your furnace or your hot water heater go out in the middle of winter can be a nightmare. It can also be a huge expense if either needs to be completely replaced. Regular inspections and servicing can greatly extend the life of your furnace, boiler, or water heater.
3. Get your fireplace and chimney or woodstove inspected and cleaned
Not only can built-up ash and soot become a major fire hazard, but birds, squirrels, and other animals love to build nests in chimneys. Don’t wait to find out the first time you build a fire this winter that your chimney has been clogged with debris.
4. Check your dryer vent for clogging
A clogged dryer vent can be a major fire hazard. It can also cost you a higher energy bill over time as it causes the dryer to work less efficiently. If you’ve noticed it’s taking longer to dry your clothes, it could very well be a clogged vent causing the problem.
5. Change your thermostat
If you’re still using a manual thermostat, it’s time to consider upgrading to a programmable one. Programmable thermostats let you set the temperature to automatically lower or rise depending on whether you’re going to be home or not. Potentially a big savings in your energy bill.
6. Clean your gutters
Making sure your gutters are free from debris is also important because they ensure water is properly draining away from the house. Clean gutters can prevent ice dams from developing—pulling on gutters, or even tearing away from the house altogether. Don’t forget to check the downspout! These can easily become clogged with dirt, leaves, and twigs.
7. Weatherproof windows and doors
Making sure your windows and doors are properly sealed can help lower your energy bill. Consider putting in curtains with an insulated lining over windows that don’t receive a lot of sunlight.
8. Clean up snow and ice
Winterizing isn’t just about the house itself. You’ll also want to keep sidewalks and entryways free of snow and ice to prevent anyone from slipping and falling. It's a good idea to check and make sure your homeowners insurance covers liability as well, in case a guest is injured on your property.
9. Replace smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries
This is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to protect your home and your family from fire or other hazards. Batteries should be replaced every 6 months, and the entire smoke detector should be replaced every 10 years. It’s recommended that carbon monoxide detectors are replaced every 5 years.
10. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher
Keep an unexpired, wet chemical fire extinguisher readily available and easily accessible. This can help you protect your home and family by allowing you to put out small fires before they get out of hand, or to suppress a fire until the fire department can arrive and douse it for good.
Take the time to review your homeowners insurance
Even with all the precautions in the world, the unexpected can and will happen. It’s important to make sure you’ve got proper insurance coverage in place when it does.
For instance, if you did any home improvements over the summer, you might be underinsured for the current value of your house.
Take a look at your different insurance policies—are they with a variety of carriers? Bundling policies under the same provider, such as home and auto insurance, can be an overlooked source of savings for many people.