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How to prep your home before the cold weather arrives

Nov 24, 2017 | Checklists, Home Maintenance, Winter Season

As the weather gets colder, we prepare to keep warm by packing away our shorts and pulling out our hats and gloves! We want to make sure that your home is ready for the change in weather too, so we created a checklist of some other easy home maintenance projects that are well with-in the average person’s ability. But even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense!

For the Inside of Your Home

Prep your HVAC system

Few things are more frustrating than waking up to a cold house! Be proactive by doing some routine HVAC maintenance before the weather gets too cold. Make sure that filters are in good working order and all vents are clear. Experts also recommend that homeowners store or cover up AC units for the winter. This is to prevent damage from winter weather and keep debris from falling into your system.

Prep your water heater

It’s no fun to step into the shower only to have no hot water. To avoid problems with your water heater this season, consider draining the water heater, which prevents sediment from building up in the tank. The team at Lowes has a great how-to reference showing you how to drain your tank plus other helpful tips.

Also keep in mind, if you are going to be away from home during the winter and you live where temperatures routinely fall below freezing such as is known to happen here in North Carolina, then you will need to winterize your hot water heater to prevent it from freezing and potentially breaking.

Prevent cold drafts

You can improve the energy efficiency of existing windows by adding storm windows, caulking and weatherstripping, and using window treatments or coverings:

  • Adding storm windows can reduce air leakage and improve comfort.
  • Caulking and weatherstripping can reduce air leakage around windows. Use caulk for stationary cracks, gaps, or joints less than one-quarter-inch wide, and weatherstripping for building components that move, such as doors and operable windows.
  • Window treatments or coverings can reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Most window treatments, however, aren’t effective at reducing air leakage or infiltration.
  • If your home has very old and/or inefficient windows, it might be more cost-effective to replace them than to try to improve their energy efficiency.

Keep fire safety a priority

Homes are more at risk of fires during the winter months, particularly as residents turn to space heaters to keep warm. If you haven’t already seen them, check out our posts on daylight savings home maintenance tasks and tips about fireplace safety.

Prevent frozen pipes

Frozen pipes can be unpredictable! If you are fortunate, a space heater or hairdryer will be able to thaw the pipes enough to get water flowing again, but in the worst case scenario, a frozen pipe could burst creating flooding and possible water damage to your home. Check that all of your pipes are properly insulated, and be aware that foam insulation may not be sufficient in particularly cold climates. Pipe insulation is available in several forms: tubular pipe sleeves; spiral insulation wrap; and fiberglass batts that can be taped around the pipes. If properly installed, all three can be effective. Find out more in this informative article.

For the Outside of Your Home

End-of-the-season yard maintenance

Some important yard maintenance tasks include raking leaves, trimming hedges, trimming unwieldy branches, and removing any weeds or roots that may impact siding, patios, and walkways and fertilizing your lawn.

Although the exact time to fertilize your lawn can vary due to weather conditions and climate zone, the final fertilizer application should be made sometime in November in most regions, at the point when the grass has stopped growing or has slowed down to the point of not needing to be mowed. Do not wait until the ground freezes, however. Ideally, there is still active growth occurring, but not enough to warrant mowing.

Pack up and store outdoor items

Clean, pack, and store outdoor furniture, grills, lawn tools and other items that could be damaged the colder weather. It is also recommended that you remove all of the gas from outdoor lawn equipment, including lawn mowers, before storing them for the cold weather months.

  • Run it: If there’s only a little fuel left after the final mow of the season, your best bet is to run the tank dry.
  • Drain it: If you keep your mower in the basement during the winter, you should remove the fuel regardless of how much is left because storing it inside could be a fire hazard. You can use a turkey baster or siphon to remove larger quantities of fuel. (You can add the leftover fuel to your car.)
  • Top it off: If you store the mower in a garage or shed, it’s better to fill the tank with gas, then top it off with a fuel stabilizer, available at home centers and gas stations. For good measure, run the mower for a few minutes so that the stabilized fuel can work its way through the carburetor.

Drain water lines

Now is a good time to turn off the water leading to outdoor spigots. Homeowners should turn off sprinkler systems and drain outdoor hoses to prevent water from freezing and bursting the lines. Winterizing a sprinkler system requires a homeowner to be knowledgeable about the type of system installed. It is imperative that you read your irrigation system manual or do some online research to determine the steps necessary to drain your lines.

Consider stocking up on winter essentials

Here in the Raleigh area, many of the trees are still turning to fall and winter weather is still an afterthought. Despite the mild temperatures, the cold weather is inevitable, and not preparing for the potential snow could be a dangerous and costly mistake. Keep in mind:

  • Some HOA’s or city ordinances require prompt snow removal from sidewalks and driveways. Prepare now by making sure that you stock up on ice melt to avoid slip-and-falls from occurring.
  • Check out the condition of your snow shovel or purchase one before the rush. If you wait until a storm is approaching, your selection in stores may be limited. If snow removal isn’t something you prefer to do on your own, check out some local snow removal experts, or neighborhood kids for that matter, who you can rely on to dig you out if necessary.
  • Lastly, make sure you have an ice scraper for your vehicle, which can be handy to make quick work of frost, ice or snow in the early morning when you are heading out the door to start your day!

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