Guide to Winterizing Your Home

By Camille Berry

Don’t be caught unaware, scrambling to keep the cold out after the temperatures drop. Even if you live in your home full-time, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself from burst pipes, cold drafts, and high heating bills. Here’s what you can do to winterize your home and prepare for the oncoming cold.

1. Clean your gutters

Never enter a cold season with clogged gutters. Debris from the changing seasons can create blockages that cause water to build up and freeze. The next thing you know, your gutters are pulling away from the house or creating damp spots in the walls and ceilings due to leaks or accumulating wet leaves and other remnants.

2. Wrap pipes

Winterize your plumbing as well. Cover pipes with insulation sleeves, which can be purchased online at a hardware store for just a few dollars, to help prevent them from freezing. Heat tape or heating cable will also do the trick. Be sure to seal any cracks in pipes to avoid swelling and breaking. Lastly, consider flushing your water heater, which will help it run more efficiently.

Learn how to prevent your pipes from freezing.

Prevent freezing Wrap pipes with insulation sleeves

3. Sweep your chimney

If you have a fireplace, making sure your chimney is clean and free of debris and buildup is an absolute must for winter. Call a chimney sweep or rent special vacuums used for cleaning chimneys. You can also burn chemical cleaners, which work to breakdown soot residue. Not only does this help the chimney work more effectively, it’s also an important safety consideration—a clean chimney is less likely to lead to fires.

4. Check for drafts and condensation

Check your windows and doors to make sure there aren’t any drafts winnowing their way into your home. There’s no use in preparing your home for winter only to be bothered by a persistent draft. The easiest way to check for drafts is to use your hands. Place your hand in front of your window frames and see if you can feel any sneaky breezes making their way into your home. Seal window cracks with caulk or pick up a draft stopper to place by the door.

Windows that are 15 years old or older or those with persistent condensation or leaks should be replaced. Double-pane windows are a great way to help make a warmer and more energy efficient home.

If you’re renting, purchase a thermal window film instead.

5. Replace roof tiles

Tiles can take a battering over the course of the year, and damaged roofing tiles can compromise the safety and warmth of your home in winter. So call a professional to investigate the condition of your roof. Have broken or missing tiles replaced and repair any cracks that might allow water to creep in and cause damage.

6. Insulate, insulate, insulate

Proper insulation goes a long way toward preventing expensive heating bills. Head up to your attic and check to see if your insulation is up to standard. Short of getting a professional in, if your home is prone to strange fluctuations in temperature, abnormally high gas and electric bills, or ice build up on the roof, you might have an insulation problem.

Add or replace insulation as needed and don’t forget to check walls as well—poorly insulated walls are the culprit behind most heat loss. You can accomplish the same in the rooms of your home by adding thickly shagged area rugs.

7. Invest in a thermostat

If you don’t already have one, install a smart home thermostat or a traditional thermostat that can be programmed to a timer. You’ll keep your house warm without having to blast the heat around the clock. If you’re worried about cost, turn your thermostat down by a degree or two and wrap up in a thick sweater and make sure you have a good quality duvet for your bed.

8. Close off unused rooms

By closing off rooms you don’t use (or use less frequently)—like offices, spare bedrooms, or bathrooms—you’ll keep the warm air collected in the most highly trafficked areas of your home.

9. Bleed your radiator

Bleeding a radiator is actually quite easy. Doing so will help your radiator run beautifully during the cold months.

Simply turn off the heat and open the valve with a radiator key. You’ll hear a hissing noise—that’s the air escaping. Hold a towel below the valve to catch any dripping water and wait for water to flow from the bleed valve. Close it back up and your radiator is ready to go.

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