How to winterize your home: it’s something many homeowners wonder about every year. While proper home winterization may seem like a cumbersome task, it’s often easier than you’d expect.
By tackling the right steps, you’ll make sure your home is ready for the cold, icy, snowy winter months. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here is a handy checklist, as well as 10 tips on how to winterize your house.
Winterizing Your House Checklist
This checklist for winterizing your home can serve as a great starting point. It covers most of the activities people need to handle if they are trying to figure out how to make your home cozy for winter.
Here is a quick getting house ready for winter checklist:
- Handle Heating System Maintenance and Tests
- Top Off Any Fuel Tanks
- Winterize Your AC System
- Inspect Your Fireplace and Chimney
- Winterize Your Plumbing Pipes
- Update Your Insulation
- Winterize Home Windows and Doors (and Sunroom)
- Check Roof and Gutters
- Test Your Detectors
The checklist above is simply a starting point for preparing your home for winter. Some people may need to take extra steps based on unique features in their house, while others may be able to bypass some of the points above.
If you’re looking for tips on how to winterize your house based on the items on the checklist, we’ve covered each point in-depth below.
10 Tips on How to Winterize Your House
1. Start in the Fall
It isn’t uncommon not to think about how to winterize your house until the cold weather rolls into the area. However, that isn’t the ideal time to start. Instead, it’s usually best to begin the process in the fall.
By beginning in the fall, you have time to handle each step without feeling rushed. Plus, you’ll get to capture more money-saving benefits, as well as keep critical components of your home safe from winter-related damage.
2. Heating System Maintenance and Test
Nothing is more worrisome than turning on your heating system on the first cold day only to discover it isn’t working right. That’s why testing your furnace before you’ll need it is essential.
Before you turn your heating system on, check the furnace air filter. If it’s dirty, you’ll need to do some maintenance. For reusable filters, follow any cleaning instructions. If you’re using a disposable filter, replace it with a new one.
Additionally, check your heating vents. If they are dirty, clean them. If there are obstacles blocking them, clear them. That way, air can flow freely, keeping your home more comfortable.
You also want to take a look at your exhaust vents. Fuel-burning furnaces, water heaters, and boilers may all have vents that direct exhaust gases out of your home. Before you turn the heating system on, make sure the vents are clear and open.
Once the filter and vents are addressed, it’s time for the test. Turn the heating system on and set the temperature to 80°F. Once the furnace kicks on, let the system run for several minutes to see if it’s operating properly. If the furnace doesn’t turn on or something seems amiss, schedule an appointment with an HVAC technician.
3. Top Off Your Fuel
If your home has a propane tank or uses fuel oil for its furnace, schedule an appointment to have your fuel topped off. By getting that handled now, you’ll have a full supply for the winter, ensuring you don’t have to worry about running out during the coldest months.
4. Winterize Your Central Air or AC Window Units
While it might not seem like your AC needs much attention after the weather gets cooler, taking a moment to winterize your central air system is a good idea. Clean any debris off of the condensing unit, including the fan blades. Then, cover the condenser with a waterproof but breathable cover.
If you use window air conditioners, remove them from the windows and store them until next spring. If they aren’t removable, close the vents and get waterproof, breathable covers for the units. That will help prevent drafts and protect the ACs from the elements.
5. Inspect Your Fireplace and Chimney
While it may seem like you don’t need to worry about how to winterize a fireplace, that isn’t the case. Wood-burning fireplaces with chimneys can allow cold air into your house if they aren’t properly maintained. Plus, built-up material in the chimney can be a fire hazard.
Before winter, inspect the fireplace and chimney. Clear any obstructions, make sure that the damper is opening and closing correctly and that the chimney draft is drawing up smoke properly.
If you haven’t had your chimney cleaned within the past several years, schedule a professional cleaning. Also, examine any firebrick in the fireplace to see if there are any cracks, open mortar joints, or other issues that need repairs.
6. Winterize Your Pipes
Frozen pipes can break, leading to costly and damaging leaks. That’s why winterizing your home plumbing is essential. It helps ensure that your pipes don’t freeze when the temperatures drop.
Begin by insulating any exposed piping, especially pipes in parts of your home that aren’t temperature-controlled, such as crawlspaces, attics, and exterior walls. Disconnect any hoses on your outside faucets and, if you have the ability, turn off the water supply to exterior faucets and drain them. Then, cover exterior faucets with freeze caps.
7. Update Your Insulation
If you want to figure out how to keep your house warm during the winter, updating your insulation might be your best move. One of the first spots you may want to check is your attic. After all, hot air rises, so insufficient attic insulation means heat is escaping your home faster.
Exactly how much attic insulation you need depends on the kind you use. Insulation levels are measures in R-Value, and you typically want to get to an R-Value of R-38. If you’re using loose fill, your R-Value per inch of depth varies between 2.2 and 3.8, depending on the material. With batts, the range is 2.9 to 4.3 R-Value per inch. Examine the material you want to use, and then you can estimate the required depth to reach an R-Value of R-38.
There are other spots in your home where updating your insulation is wise. For example, you may want to wrap your hot water heater in an insulating blanket, especially if it isn’t in a temperature-controlled part of your home. Adding foam sealing gaskets to exterior switch plates and outlets can also be a good idea.
Insulating your house for winter is best done in stages. That way, you can focus on areas that will have the biggest impact first and work through the other sections at a later date.
8. Winterize Your Windows and Doors (and Sunroom)
Getting windows and doors ready for winter is a must. Since they are openings through your walls, leaks in these areas are common. Inspect your windows and doors, inside and out, to look for caulk damage. If you find gaps, fill them with a high-quality caulk.
Clean your window tracks to remove debris, ensuring they seal closed correctly. Replace any damaged weatherstripping around doors.
If you’re trying to determine how to insulate a sunroom for winter, many of the tips that apply to windows also work with sunrooms. You can also add clear insulation to the windows themselves and, if you have a ceiling fan, switch its direction to push warm air down.
9. Check Roof and Gutters
Before winter weather rolls in, take a look at your roof. If you find missing or damaged shingles, replace them. If you find flashing around roof projections that aren’t in good shape, schedule repairs.
Also, clean out your gutters and downspouts. That way, the water and wet leaves won’t get stuck in them. If water and damp debris freeze, they can cause damage, so make sure they are clear.
10. Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Finally, take a moment to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you haven’t changed the batteries in the past year, you may want to switch those out just to be on the safe side.
Additionally, check the dates on your detectors. Many detectors are only designed to last a specific amount of time, such as ten years. If yours are past the date, replace them.