Beat the cold: Tips for winterizing your home

Before the temperature drops and the first snowflakes fall, it's time to think about winterizing your home. A little preparation now can go a long way in ensuring your comfort, safety, and energy efficiency throughout the colder months.

Vivian Tejada
August 11, 2023
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Protecting your home against the elements is important throughout the year, especially in winter. The accumulation of ice and snow around your property and below-freezing temperatures can lead to expensive repairs in the future. You can curb these costs by winterizing your home before the temperature drops — a good rule of thumb is to start winterizing your home in early fall.

If you’re wondering how to winterize a house, continue reading for an extensive winter preparedness checklist for home protection. While you don’t need to complete the following tasks in order, try your best to complete them before the first snowfall.

How to prepare your home for winter

Seal gaps around windows and doors

One of the easiest ways to winterize your home is to identify air leaks around doors and windows. Air leaks allow cold drafts to permeate through windows and doors, as well as crawl spaces within the home. Cold drafts are easier to notice in the winter because of the sharp difference between outdoor and indoor temperatures. However, they’re harder to find in the spring or summer, given that cold drafts are not as easily felt during warmer seasons.

An effective way of locating the source of a cold draft is to hold a lit candle a few inches away from a window or door. If the flame goes out, there’s a draft. Apply caulking or weatherstripping to identified areas to seal off the gap. If you don’t notice any drafts but still find one room is cooler than others, cold air may be entering through the window glass. In this case, it’s best to apply window film directly onto your windows’ glass. You could also install dual-pane windows to make your home more energy-efficient.

Reinforce insulation in the attic and basement

Once you’ve insulated your windows and doors with airtight materials, you’ll want to do the same in two of the largest areas in your home. Given that they’re located at the most exterior points of your home, the attic and basement are susceptible to unwanted heat loss. In the summer, cold air escapes through these areas, and cold air can easily enter in the winter.

One way to protect your home from harsh winter conditions is to install spray foam insulation in your attic and basement. Not only does spray foam insulation help lower your utility bills, but it also blocks against moisture and enhances resistance to mold and mildew buildup. Spray foam insulation cost ranges from $1,284 to $3,741. If moisture accumulation is a big concern, consider improving ventilation with exhaust fans.

Maintain your heating system

A well-maintained heating system is a critical aspect of winterizing a home. Knowing when to replace a furnace or water heater can save you thousands of dollars down the road. It’s also important to regularly replace furnace filters and keep an eye out for carbon monoxide detectors, given that you spend more time indoors in the winter than in other seasons.

Having a reliable and safe heat source helps minimize energy consumption, lower heating expenses, and enhance overall comfort within the home. It’s recommended homeowners schedule HVAC maintenance twice a year, especially if they live in an area with clearly defined seasons. This ensures optimal heating performance during both cold and warm climates.

Maintain your fireplace and chimney

Fireplaces add a rustic and cozy aesthetic to any home. If you have one on your property, keep it clean and serviced throughout the year, especially during winter weather.

Improper insulation or a warped, rusted, or damaged damper allows cold air to enter your home. A dirty chimney can be a fire hazard, so you’ll want to sweep it after use. Make sure it’s free of soot and debris so you can safely build fires all winter long.

Install a programmable thermostat

Programming your home’s thermostat allows you to optimize heating schedules. Installing a programmable thermostat helps homeowners effectively manage heating resources and reduce energy consumption, particularly when they are out of the house or not using certain areas of the home.

The Department of Energy recommends maintaining the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. You can lower the thermostat a few degrees when you’re away for the holidays or under the covers at night.

Protect your pipes and plumbing systems

One of the most important aspects of winterizing your home is protecting your water pipes. Frozen pipes that burst are costly repairs that require immediate attention. It’s not something that can be ignored for long, and the longer it’s ignored, the more expensive it is to address. On average, burst pipes cost homeowners about $5,000 to replace. To avoid frozen pipes:

  • Create a protective barrier around your pipes with insulation sleeves or tape.
  • Locate the main water shutoff valve for quick access during emergencies.
  • Repair broken windows to avoid cold air entering the home and freezing pipes, especially in the basement.
  • Seal any vents around your home that may have remained open during the summer.
  • Set your thermostat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
winterize-your-home

Drain and disconnect outdoor hoses

In addition to protecting your pipes, it’s important to protect your outdoor hoses. You can do this by draining water from outdoor sprinkler systems and garden hoses, shutting off the outdoor water supply, and storing the hoses in a sheltered area such as a garage or shed. Insulating outdoor faucets is also a good idea, given that ice can start to form around these areas and block the flow of water in the future.

Clear gutters and downspouts

Unlike hoses and sprinkler systems, your home’s gutters and downspouts can’t always be removed. You’ll need to prepare your home’s gutters to ensure safe and efficient water drainage throughout the winter. Gutters guide rainwater and snow away from the roof, preventing long-term water damage to the home. However, it becomes quite complicated to do when dead leaves and debris obstruct gutters. To avoid clogging issues, clean your gutters regularly, especially before it begins to snow.

Consider installing gutter guards made of materials like stainless steel or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These guards effectively keep out leaves, pine needles, roof sand grit, and other debris from the gutter. While occasional brushing may be necessary, gutter guards make routine cleaning much less labor-intensive.

Prepare outdoor spaces for snow and ice

Lastly, you’ll want to prepare the outside of your home for ice and snow. Outdoor furniture and appliances, such as patio chairs and grills, can easily become damaged after heavy snowfall. Prevent this from happening by storing yard and patio items in the garage or basement. For gas grills with propane tanks, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank before storage.

Final thoughts

Winterizing your home could be expensive. From reinforcing your windows and doors to insulating your pipes, there’s certainly a lot to consider. If you’re expecting a rough winter in your area but aren’t sure how you’re going to finance home improvements, consider Point’s Home Equity Investment.

Point’s HEI provides a unique financing solution to homeowners who want to upgrade their homes but don’t have the funds immediately available. With an HEI, you can access a lump sum of money in exchange for a share of your home’s future appreciation. Homeowners can pay it back anytime within a 30-year period with a refinance or home sale. There are no monthly payments or restrictions on how to use the money. Visit Point to find out if you qualify and start the process of winterizing your home.

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