Before the frost appears, you will want to prepare for the months ahead to avoid higher energy costs and minimize any damage that can be caused by the cold weather and snow. This is especially true for those of us living in the colder, northern region of our country. Here are 10 tips to help you get ahead of the frosty days that are on their way:
1. Roof — Check your roof for any loose or broken shingles that need to be replaced. Cut back any overhanging trees to prevent falling branches, pine needles and leaves from accumulating and damaging the roof. Snow guards and roof heat cables are available to prevent ice dams from forming. A telescoping roof rake is a safe way to remove snow while standing on the ground. It also works well for removing snow from the top of your car.
2. Gutters — Inspect your gutters to ensure they are clear of dead leaves and other debris. Clogged gutters could be potentially damaging by not directing rain or snow away from your house. You or someone you hire will need to climb a ladder to do a physical inspection. Check your local hardware store for a telescoping gutter cleaning wand, which extends from 40 inches to 70 inches and allows you to clean hard-to-reach spots.
3. Pipes — Frozen pipes can burst during the winter, causing a major headache for homeowners. Know where the main water shutoff is so you can get to it in an emergency. Drain all outside hoses and sprinkler systems. Remove the hoses and store them in a garage or shed for the winter. Insulate the faucets with a foam cover. Check for broken windows, particularly in the basement, which can let in cold air and freeze pipes. Seal any cracks around other openings, like doors and air conditioners, to keep the cold out. If you plan on being away from home for an extended period, turn off the water and drain the pipes completely.
4. Heating system — Make sure your heating system is ready to go by replacing the furnace filter and scheduling a service call. Filters should be replaced every three months to keep your system running efficiently. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be checked at least once a year to keep them working properly.
5. Fireplace and chimney — If you have a fireplace, have it inspected to ensure it is clear of any creosote buildup before you light a fire for the first time. A dirty chimney can be a fire hazard. If the buildup is severe, you will want to call in a professional chimney sweep to get the job done right. Make sure to vacuum out any ash left in the firebox from last winter.
6. Outdoor equipment — If you have a snow blower, now is the time to make sure it is working properly, before the first snowfall. If it has been stored in a shed in your backyard, make sure it is accessible. For that matter, make sure snow shovels, salt, sand and ice melt are also close at hand.
7. Walkways — Avoid slips and falls on icy walkways by making sure there are no issues with cracks, steps or handrails. Make sure to keep deicing agents handy to spread on steps, sidewalks and driveways.
8. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors — Make it a practice to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a month to ensure they are working properly. This is especially important during winter when residential fires are more likely to occur. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months and in your carbon monoxide detectors annually.
9. The yard — Check your yard, front and back, to ensure no branches can break off and fall on your house when ice or heavy snow builds up on trees. Now is the time to cover or stow patio furniture to make sure it is protected for the coming months. A coat of sealant will protect your wooden furniture over the winter.
10. Doors and windows — Prevent cold air from seeping into your home by replacing weather stripping and, if necessary, caulking any gaps. An inexpensive door draft stopper will prevent the cold from getting in underneath your doors.
After you have done all the hard work of preparing your home for winter, you can hunker down and enjoy all the good cheer and warmth of the season. Contact us for more information on how to efficiently winterize your home.