Home Winterization

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Winters here!! If you haven’t winterized you home yet you need to get busy.  Winterization will help protect your home against heat loss and damage to the water pipes. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived.

Plumbing System

Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured water pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.

 Insulate your water pipes:

Insulating your pipes, especially if you have a crawl space, reduces the heat loss and can raise hot water temperatures delivered through your pipes. That will save you money on your gas bill. And by making your pipes energy efficient, you also don’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on the shower, which helps conserve water and time. Wrapping your pipes with insulation will also help prevent your pipes from freezing during those long cold nights. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at the hardware store. Simply cut the foam to the length you need, wrap it around the pipe, and fasten it in place with duct tape.

All exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages, and crawlspaces, should be insulated. Insulation should cover the entirety of a pipe.

Plastic is more tolerant of cold expansion than copper or steel. Houses in colder climates might benefit from the exclusive use of approved plastic plumbing.

Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.

Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion, even those with automatic drain valves. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.

Homeowners should be aware that much of the plumbing system travels through areas that are significantly colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept high enough throughout the winter to keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing.
Leaks in the Building Envelope

Air Leakage

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can account for 5 to 30 percent of your energy use. Leaky window frames, door frames, and electrical outlets and switches can allow warm air to escape into the outdoors and cold air to enter the home especially on windy days.

Feeling for drafts with the back of your hand is an easy way to inspect for leaks around doors, windows and electrical outlets and switches.

A breezy day is a good time to walk around your home and feel for drafts. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.

 You’re likely to find drafts underneath doors and near windows. If you find a leak underneath your door put a draft snake across the bottom of it. A simple rolled up bath towel will work. If you have leaks near your windows, get some weather-resistant caulk and caulk them from the outside. You can use weather stripping as well.

Insulation:

Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping. Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates. Simply adding more fiberglass insulation in your attic can increase the energy efficiency in you home. If you’re adding new insulation to your current insulation, make sure the new insulation doesn’t have a paper-backing. The paper acts as a vapor barrier and can cause problems for you down the road.

If you are able to install the insulation your self it will save you anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of the cost of having it done professionally. You can purchase fiberglass batting or loose fiberglass insulation at your local home improvement store. If you buy the loose fiberglass they have blowers for your use in installing the insulation.

Install storm doors and windows.

Storm doors and windows can increase energy efficiency in your home by 45%. You install storm doors and windows on the outside of your regular doors and windows. Federal tax credits are available to help offset the cost of purchasing them.

Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather. If you already have storm windows replace any glass that is cracked or broken with LowE glass.

 

Heating Systems:

The heating system is used most during the winter so it’s a good idea to make sure that it works before it’s desperately needed. The following inspection and maintenance tips can be of some help to homeowners:

  • Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment quickly it might be broken.
  • Replace the air filter if it’s dirty.
  • If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.

Have Your Furnace Inspected.

Before you turn on that furnace for the first time this winter, have an HVAC professional come check it out and give it a tune-up. They’ll make sure your furnace is running efficiently and safely. During a furnace inspection the HVAC will likely do the following:

  • Do a safety check for carbon monoxide
  • Clean and replace air filters
  • Check blower operation
  • Clean motor and fan
  • Inspect gas piping to furnace

If your furnace is twenty years old or older you may want to replace if with a more efficient unit. Not only are the newer units more efficient there are federal tax credits for new furnaces which may cover he 30% of the cost up to $1,500.

Replace Your Furnace Filter Regularly:

Regularly change your furnace’s filters throughout the winter. A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency, and will eventually damage your heat exchanger.

Balance Your Air Vents:

Do you have a room that is colder than the rest of the house?  One of the most common mistakes people make is that they will have all the air vents fully open.  (1)The vents furthest from the furnace receive less air than those closest to the furnace. (2) The air to the vent closest to the furnace is hotter while the air traveling to the furthest point has to push a lot of cold air out before the warm air arrives. It’s an easy fix just adjust the louvers in your vents until you get the results you want. This may take a couple of adjustments but it’s worth it.

Clean You Air Supply Ducts:

If your ducts haven’t been cleaned in the last three or four years have them cleaned. Ducts tend to collect a lot of dust and allergens and if they have never been cleaned you might be surprised as to what is in them.  Clean duct work, plus changing the filters regularly, can make a real difference in your Family’s health during the winter months.

 

Cooling Systems:

Use a hose to remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit, if the home is equipped with one.

  • Protect the unit by placing a piece of plywood cut to fit over the top of your unit.

Remove and store window air conditioners when they are no longer needed. Cold air can damage their components and enter the house through openings between the air conditioner and the windowpane.

Reverse Ceiling Fans:

Most people don’t know that you can use your fans during the winter to keep your house warm. Ceiling fans can be reversed in order to warm air trapped beneath the ceiling to re-circulate. On every ceiling fan there’s a switch that allows you to reverse the direction of the blades. Switch it so your ceiling fan rotates clockwise. That will push warm air down and force it to re-circulate throughout the room. Don’t forget to make the switch again when it starts to warm up!

Chimneys and Fireplaces:

  • Have a certified Chimney Sweep inspect your fireplace before the first use of the season.
  • The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
  • The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn’t, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
  • A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
  • The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
  • Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.
    Roofs

Clean your gutters:

If debris is left in gutters, it can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight has the potential to cause damage to gutters. Also, trapped water in the gutter can enter the house and lead to the growth of mold. For these reasons, leaves, pine needles, and all other debris must be cleared from gutters. This can be done by hand or with a hose.

Roof:

Check your roof out. Remove all debris from the valleys. Debris hold moisture and will freeze and may damage the shingles underneath or cause water to back up under the shingles damaging the roof decking. Valleys are normally where I found a lot of leakage.

Replace any damaged or missing shingles. Repair any holes in the soffits that might allow pest to enter the attic.

Crawl Space Vents:

Make sure your crawl space vents are closed if there is going to be a period of a hard freeze. I would keep the vents on the North and West side of the home closed however unless there is a hard freeze the vents need to be kept open so that air circulates under the home. Also if your crawl space doesn’t have a vapor barrier have one installed. Air from the crawl space rises into the interior of the home and it brings with it any fungal spores and may contribute to health issues.

 Trim Any Trees Which Overhang The Roof:

If you have any tree branches hanging near your roof, windows, or driveways, trim them back. Snow and ice will weigh them down and possibly cause them to break. A lot of roofs and cars are damaged because a home owner failed to trim the trees back from the roof or over the driveway.

Adequate winterizing is especially crucial for homes that are left unoccupied during the winter. This sometimes happens when homeowners who own multiple properties leave one home vacant for months at a time while they occupy their summer homes. Foreclosed homes are sometimes left unoccupied, as well. The heat may be shut off in vacant homes in order to save money. Such homes must be winterized in order to prevent catastrophic building damage.

Vacant Homes:

The following measures to prepare an unoccupied home for the winter:

  • Winterize toilets by emptying them completely. Antifreeze can be poured into toilets and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Winterize faucets by opening them and leaving them open.
    Water tanks and pumps need to be drained completely.
  • Drain all water from indoor and outdoor plumbing.
  • Unplug all non-essential electrical appliances, especially the refrigerator. If no electrical appliances are needed, electricity can be shut off at the main breaker. In summary, home winterizing is a collection of preventative measures designed to protect homes against damage caused by cold temperatures. These measures should be performed in the fall, before it gets cold enough for damage to occur. Indoor plumbing is probably the most critical area to consider when preparing a home for winter, although other systems should not be ignored.

 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:

Winter sees an increase in the number of home fires and cases of carbon monoxide poisoning because people are running their furnaces overtime in order to keep warm. To keep your family safe, check the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change them if needed. If your smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector is over five years old then replace it. Replace any smoke detectors that are not “Photoelectric”.