How to Winterize Your Home

Um, Bryan?  What exactly do you hope to accomplish by putting a heating unit in front of an outdoor faucet?  That’s a head-scratcher.  Well, as usual, we’ll set you (and the readers) straight with some home improvement tips for winterizing your house.

  1. Reverse Your Fans.  Many of us have ceiling fans throughout our homes.  While the common thought is that fans only cool the house, we often don’t consider that fact that they can also keep it warm.  A cool fan always turns counterclockwise, did you know that?  Change the direction to clockwise and the old adage of “Warm air rises, cold air sinks” gets a reality check.  Clockwise blade motion will pull the warm air downward to keep you comfortable and reduce the heating bill.
  2. Wrap Your Pipes.  Freezing weather may cause pipes to burst, which can be a pain.  Instead of sticking a heater at the end of that outdoor faucet, check and make sure the water source connected to a hose is turned off for the season.  Wrap any non-insulated pipes with fiberglass insulation or rubber sleeves.  As an added precaution, you may also consider wrapping pipes with heating tape, which will release heat and prevent freezing.
  3. Inspect the Chimney.  While you don’t necessarily have to clean it yearly, your chimney should at least have an annual checkup.  After all, we tend to use our fireplaces a great deal during the winter.  Contact a chimney sweep and have them do a basic inspection, which will check for more easily-seen issues, i.e. residue buildup or items that shouldn’t have gotten in to begin with.  Animals have a tendency to build nests in there.  Nothing should interfere with the functionality of either the fireplace or chimney, as this creates safety and health hazards. Also, you might consider skipping this step with a direct vent gas fireplace.
  4. Put Up Storm Doors and Windows.  These items add extra weather protection to your home and keep that expensive heat inside where it belongs!  These are stronger and heavier to keep the cold out.  Of course, they do come with a price tag, so if it’s not worth the investment, at least get some window insulation.  The insulation is basically sticky plastic sheeting to put on the inside surface of the windows to block out any air drafts.
  5. Check the Furnace.  When you fire up the furnace for the first time during the season, it will most definitely stink.  A properly working furnace won’t keep the smoky stench for long, though.  It’s wise to make sure everything is working properly by having the furnace cleaned each year.  In conjunction with this, you should check the furnace filter monthly.  Doing so will result in better airflow, keep your furnace cleaner, and reduce the chance of fire.
  6. Clean the Gutters.  The gutters around the outside of your home are meant to drain water.  However, lots of other gunk accumulates in them.  Leaves, dirt and other organic buildup take up residence and impede water drainage.  This is problematic in the winter months due to the amount of rain and snow fall that Pittsburgh receives.  Improperly draining and aligned gutters, pipes and downspouts will sometimes leak near your foundation and into your home, causing water damage.  Grab a ladder and clean those gutters out for winter.
  7. Eliminate Door Drafts.  The doors in our homes sometimes leak in air at the bottom.  An easy solution for this is to get what is called a draft snake—or make one!  Roll up a towel and put it at the bottom of the door or fill strips of fabric with sand and lay it down for a tight seal.
  8. Caulk.  Holes or leaky wall corners drain the heat out of your home.  Find these spots and seal them with caulking material.  You’ll save 5-30% of your energy this way!
  9. Increase Insulation.  While your attic and other areas in the home may already have some insulation, it never hurts to add to it.  It’s recommended that attics have at least 12 –inch thick insulation.
  10. Dress Warmly.  Yes, sometimes you just have to give in and put on that hoodie.  This is definitely the way to go if the goal is to reduce heating costs.  Wearing sweaters and sweatshirts inside can warm your body 2-4 degrees at no cost.

There are several easy ways to winterize your home.  Don’t be like Bryan and take shortcuts; you’ll regret it later.  Take these steps early and you’ll be set for the winter season!