When the weather turns chilly, your house needs to button up, too. And the way to do that is to learn how to winterize your house. No, not once the snow starts falling, but now. Trust us, you’ll want to nip any issues in the bud before the temperature drops too much.
Here’s a handy list of things to check on your house to keep it cozy, save on energy bills, and prevent a nightmare’s worth of damage you’ll have to tackle come spring (or even worse, in the dead of winter).
Conduct a pre-winter inspection
First, size up how prepared your house is for winter by taking a walk around its perimeter and eyeballing these features, says Bob Hanbury, a Newington, CT, builder for 40 years and a board member of the National Association of Home Builders:
How to prevent ice dams
Ice dams, however lovely they may sound, are ice mounds around the edge of your roof created when melting snow can’t drip into gutters, through downspouts, and away from your house. Ice dams are not your friends.
If any of those exits are blocked with leaves or ice, then water stays on your roof and continually melts and freezes, causing dams that push water under eaves and into your home.
Adequate and properly installed insulation helps prevent ice damming; so does making sure gutters and downspouts are in good shape and unblocked by leaves, bird nests, and other debris.
If ice damming has been a past problem, you can increase your odds of a drip-free winter by laying heating cables along the edge of your roof, in gutters, and down spouts, which will keep ice from forming. Cables typically cost $200 to $400, depending on the size of your house.
How to protect pipes in winterMother Nature laughs at the calendar (true) and can create a hard frost weeks before or after you expect. So it’s a good idea to protect outside garden hoses by detaching them and turning off the water to outside spigots by Thanksgiving.
After you shut off water valves, open spigots to let water drip out and prevent freezing, which can burst pipes.
And while you’re disconnecting garden hoses, hold them waist-high as you’re coiling them. That will let water drip out, keeping your basement dry if you store hoses there in the winter, or prevent cracks from frozen water if you store hoses in an unheated garage.
How to save on energy bills this winter
Another essential aspect of winterizing is making sure your home keeps heat in and cold out! Here are some ways to make that happen:
Lisa Kaplan Gordon is an award-winning writer who's covered real estate and home improvement for realtor.com, Yahoo, AOL, Popular Mechanics, and HouseLogic. When she’s not writing, Lisa's fly-fishing on catch-and-release streams. Follow @kaplan_lisa