Home Winter Maintenance Tips

Winter is the season we spend the most time indoors and at home. Take care of your biggest investment, your family and your wallet this winter by following these quick tips on home maintenance and safety.

Take Care of Your Heating System

Your heating system runs constantly throughout the cold winter months so it is important to keep it well-maintained to prevent needed repairs and also keep your system running efficiently.
Remember to change out your HVAC filter each month. Replacing HVAC filters is crucial to keeping your air clean. Filters clean out pollutants such as molds, skin cells and allergens.

Check the gas connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger to ensure safety and efficiency. Improper connections are a fire hazard and a dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes poor burner operation.

Conserve Precious Heat

Proper insulation of your home is critical to ensure proper heating and conservation of heat to make the most of your heating costs this winter.
Inspect the insulation in your attic and crawlspaces. Warm air rises and leaves the house through the roof, so focus your insulation efforts on your ceilings and attics. Areas around recessed lights, the attic hatch and plumbing vents should be sealed as they commonly are the main issue in allowing warm air to escape your home.

Storm windows help heat stay in and cold stay out. If you’re on a tight budget and do not already have storm windows, pick up an inexpensive plastic film sheet kit from your local hardware store. These only last one season, but help with insulation efforts. Weather-strip all doors that lead to cold or outside areas.

Close curtains or shades at night and keep them open during the day, especially in rooms that receive a lot of light and sun. Re-arranging your furniture like couches, chairs, tables and beds away from any exterior walls makes your home seem warmer by putting some distance between you and the cold air. This also leaves room for the air to move around better, making it warmer.

Be Safe

The cold and snow of winter can create hazardous conditions. Take a moment to plan ahead and prepare your home and family for the worst of what winter can bring.
Stock up on sidewalk salt and sand (for better traction) and apply generously to all walkways and driveways at the first sign of slick conditions.

Check your snow shovels for cracks or other damage. Have a backup shovel just in case. When shoveling, push the snow in front of you, if possible. If you need to lift a shovel-full of snow, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back. Do not toss snow over your shoulder or off to the side.

Outdoor Maintenance

Outdoor home care does not end when winter comes. Even in the cold weather months, your yard still needs maintenance to keep your home safe.
Make sure tree and shrub branches are well away from the house and windows. Ice can cause branches to break and damage your home.
Walk around the outside of your house and do a scan. Check the foundation for small cracks or openings where mice or other pests can sneak in. Seal up any possible entrances to keep these critters out. While outside, clear any snow accumulation off gas meters and away from basement windows and your dryer exhaust vents.

Steps to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing

Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic. These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember – the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be. Heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Closely follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions.

Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out and the heat in. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.

Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.

When the temperature drops

A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall. Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

Before you go on vacation

Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55 F (12 C). Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing or Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it will be deactivated when you shut off the water.

If your pipes freeze

If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber. If you detect that your water pipes have frozen and burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shut-off valve is and how to open and close it.

Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe. Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water because you could be electrocuted.