By Sami Arseculeratne
Family Times is 20! To celebrate, we will pick one article from our archive each month – including this one, which appeared in our November 2006 issue. View our other anniversary content here.
Every season has its “honey-do” list, but winter’s chores may be the most important of all to your home and your family’s well-being and comfort. Taking time for routine maintenance before the cold weather arrives will save time and keep you inside, warm and dry, when the severe weather hits. (Enlist the family for help when tackling more dangerous tasks, like climbing ladders, or hire a professional to do the hard work.)
Even if you are on a budget, simple insulating and home maintenance will save a ton when it comes to emergency repairs and rising energy costs. Here are some ideas for preparing your home for winter.
You simply can’t have enough insulation, unless of course the house becomes practically airtight. Remember to allow stale air to escape by cracking a window on a day when the sun is shining and the temperature warms a bit.
- Unless your home is relatively new, your attic could probably use more insulation. Look for the R-30 rating, which is considered a minimum standard,, and add a second layer to your attic.
- Check for drafts around doors, window seals and electrical outlets on exterior walls. Caulk or add self-stick weather stripping tape to places where cold air can breeze through your home. Buy precut insulating pads to place behind electrical outlet plates.
- Caulk cracks near outlets, pipes, windows and doors. To properly use caulk, run a bead of caulk along a crevice, then simultaneously push it and wipe it with the tip of your index finger to ensure the gap is filled and that the caulk stays put. Use a tight-fitting latex or plastic glove for easy hand cleanup.
- Install storm windows and doors, or close all insulating double window sets on homes without double-pane glass or insulated windows. For a quick and inexpensive fix, cover the inside of windows that are prone to drafts with shrink film or polyethylene sheeting.
- Insulate exposed pipes with flexible pipe insulation tubes. They can be easily cut fit any plumbing fixture. This will keep your water pipes from freezing and bursting, and will help conserve energy.
Mark your calendar so you can complete these tasks during the warmer autumn months next year. Simple maintenance will leave you worry-free this winter.
- Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets and remove and store hoses. Use an insulating cap for the faucet or wrap with several layers of an old towel, then cover with plastic and a strip of duct tape.
- Trim tree limbs that reach near your roof line or the side of your home. Whipping winter winds may cause limbs to break, and the persistent scratching on your roof will wear away shingles. Remove dead trees or branches that can snap during storms or when heavy with ice.
- Check for signs of loosening or wear on roof shingles that can cause water leakage below the surface. For quick repairs, use roof caulk to seal small gaps.
- Clear gutters of leaves and other buildup. Clogged gutters may cause ice dams and other snow melt problems when the temperatures rise and dip.
Checking your home’s basic heat-generating systems will ensure that things are functioning well. Repairs can be made before they reach emergency status, and you can rotate routine maintenance to avoid strain to your household budget.
- Have your home’s boiler/furnace or heating unit checked by a licensed professional. This is the last system you want to have fail in the middle of a winter storm. Regular maintenance will prolong the life of your system with small adjustments and repairs.
- Replace batteries on smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Don’t have a carbon monoxide detector? Get one! They alert you to the deadly odorless gas that occurs during combustion – think fireplace, furnace, car exhaust in a closed garage.
- If you regularly use your fireplace or wood-burning stove, hire a chimney sweep to inspect and clean your chimney flue. If you do not plan to use your fireplace, buy a “chimney balloon,” an inflatable bag that blocks the warm air inside your home and prevents it from being sucked out the chimney.
- Have your water heater checked and serviced. The middle of a shower on an icy morning is not the time you want to have your water heater give out. Today, water heaters have a life span of about 10 years. Sometimes, a heating element within the water heater may need to be replaced but the rest of the unit is functioning. If replacement is necessary, consider a whole house instant hot water system; it costs more to install, but it will save money by not having to keep water in the tank hot 24 hours a day. electric heaters are the next most energy-efficient method.
- Stock up now on rock salt or ice melter, sand and window washing/de-icing fluid for your car’s window washing reservoir.
- Check your snow shovels to make sure they are in good shape, or have your snow blower serviced if it has been a few years since it’s been checked.
- Find the sled or snow-tube and, when the first big winter storm strikes, take the kids out to the nearest snowy hill. Have fun this winter because you’ve already done the season’s home maintenance and repairs!