Tips for preparing your home for the winter season
Living in Colorado, residents experience a full range of weather conditions and all four seasons. With winter coming on it is a good idea take a few easy steps inside and outside your home to help reduce energy costs and protect vital systems from winter’s wrath. Different eras and type of construction will affect what steps you should take to protect your investment. These steps should be taken before the first freeze of the season, usually mid-October.
Caulking and weatherstripping. To prevent air leaks around windows, doors, and penetrations, inspect caulking both inside and out. High quality paintable caulking is recommended for most areas, stucco and other masonry surfaces will require special caulking. Old failed or cracked caulk should be removed before new is installed. Ensure windows and doors close tightly, no light can be seen around their edges when closed, and no air is coming in through edges due to worn weather stripping.
Windows. If you have insulated glass windows you don’t need to do much, visually inspect weatherstripping, caulking inside and outside, and clean tracks. Single pane windows can have storm units installed or use plastic sheet insulating kits to improve efficiency. Replacing single pane windows with insulated glass units can improve efficiency as well; look for energy ratings before having new windows installed. If windows are replaced permits should be pulled to ensure the installation meets the most current building standards.
Furnace. CHANGE THE FILTER, and frequently; monthly while running the furnace and A/C if so equipped. Vacuum the blower, blower motor, and other interior components, or use computer compressed air to blow dust off components. Average life is 15-20 years for modern units, if your furnace is more than 15 years old have it serviced and certified for safe operation annually by a qualified technician. If the unit is replaced permits should be pulled to ensure the installation meets the most current building standards.
Boiler. Inspect the boiler and all visible pipes for leaks. Average life span of a boiler is 20-25 years, if your boiler is more than 15 years old have it serviced and evaluated by a qualified technician annually.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms. First things first, the abbreviation for carbon monoxide is CO not CO2. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is produced during combustion. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is what we breathe out and plants take in. Replace batteries in all smoke and CO alarms. Smoke alarms should be replaced if more than 10 years old, CO alarms at 5 years.
Hose Spigots. Always remove hoses from spigots. If your valves are frost-free this is all you will need to do, if you don’t remove the hose the pipe will freeze inside the wall and cause interior damage the next time you use it. If you have an older home your spigots may not be frost-free. These will have a valve inside that should be turned off and the lines drained. Hardware stores sell foam “igloos” that can cover the hose spigots, do not rely on these alone to keep the pipes from freezing.
Sprinkler System and lawn. Have your sprinkler system professionally winterized. Apply a winterizing fertilizer to your lawn and have it aerated.
Landscape. Clean up flower beds, wrap young trees, and trim tree limbs that are touching buildings, are dead/diseased, or could be damaged by snow load. Adding a layer of mulch or fallen leaves around tree and shrub bases helps to insulate and retain moisture through the season. Water trees and shrubs at least once a month.
Gutters and roof. Clean gutters and roof surfaces of debris. Gutters can be damaged if water does not drain and freezes in them. Debris on roofs can cause water to back up and ice dams may occur, pay special attention to valleys and northern exposures. Be sure gutter extensions are installed, are at least 5 feet long, and are clear of debris.
Emergency kit. Winter storms can knockout power or make it difficult to leave the home, an emergency kit should have essential materials in one place. Use a plastic tub labeled clearly and accessible. Include matches and candles, flashlights, first-aid kit, nonperishable food, bottled water, a battery powered radio, extra batteries. Having a similar kit in each car, with blankets added, is also a good idea.
When hiring a contractor to do any of the work above, be sure they are qualified to do such work, get references, and if a major component such as a furnace or boiler needs to be replaced, get second and third opinions and competitive estimates. At the time of failure it may seem like you need to have the work done immediately, but remember you can wear more clothing and use blankets to stay warm, and it will take several hours or even days before pipes will freeze, turning on water in sinks and tubs will also help to keep pipes from freezing.