Sparkling snow and crystal icicles may be pretty in theory, but with them come frozen pipes, faulty HVAC units, slippery sidewalks and MORE! Regardless of if you LOVE winter or despise it, the season is quickly approaching and now is the time to get your house in order (if you haven’t already…). Yes, I KNOW we live in the south, and while we may not have to deal with -30 degree temperatures and multiple feet of snow, there are several preventative winter home maintenance items you CAN do to ensure you don’t spend your holidays handling winter weather disasters!
Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready
There are a few winter home maintenance items you should do before the temperatures really start to dip to ensure that your heating system is working at its best. If you notice any strange new noises coming from your heaters, or one area suddenly seems cooler than another, have the system looked at right away. Here are a few tips on how to maintain your heating system this winter:
We took the time to speak with Foust Heating & Air and here were their top suggestions to ensure your heating system works top notch this winter:
- Change your air filters out on a regular basis. Dirty filters place undue stress on a unit and can cause it to work less efficiently.
- If you heat your home with oil, you should have your furnace or boiler cleaned EVERY year.
- If you heat your home with gas, ensure that you get it cleaned every three years or so.
- Invest in a maintenance plan. Have a professional come out on a regular basis to check your system for any issues, and catch them ahead of time!
Check the Fireplace and Chimney
If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home (and if you actually use it to heat your home, not just for decoration…) you will want to ensure that you have it cleaned yearly by a professional chimney sweep. Creosote buildup and debris such as leaves, birds nests etc can all be very real fire hazards that can easily accumulate after months of no use. Don’t think just because you own a gas fireplace that you are off the hook, those should be checked too! There could easily be debris blocking the chimney. PLUS it gives Mrs. Clause a break from cleaning all that Soot out of Santa’s coat every year…
Keep an eye on trees.
Snow and Ice can quickly accumulate on tree limbs, making them heavy and more prone to breaking. This can be especially dangerous if said tree is within reach of your home. Use a broom to knock excess snow (or ice which is more likely in Eastern NC…) off branches after each snow. If you took our advice in the fall, your trees should all be properly trimmed away from the home, with dead branches already removed. HOWEVER if a limb does fall during the winter months, have it removed as soon as possible.
Check Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You should check your detectors every month or so. This is something that is very important in the winter months, however, as we are keeping windows closed and using our fireplaces more often. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heating is the cause of 27 percent of structure fires during the winter months.
Ensure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in each bedroom, on each floor and in the kitchen. Studies have shown that the combo units are actually a safety hazard as smoke rises, but CO is heavier and tends to stay lower. Smoke detectors should be placed up high, while CO detectors should be placed at floor level to get a quicker detection, should the need arise. On to the next item on our Winter Home Maintenance list…
Invest in a good shovel, window scraper and a bag of salt
I know, I know “we’re in the south” BUT that’s all the more reason to invest NOW, because we ALL know how it gets down here when there is a threat of snow! You won’t be able to find a SAND shovel, loaf of bread or space heater in a 100-mile radius!
A good shovel (I’m talking with a blade on the end like this one…) can save you time and back ache, and is especially helpful for areas that are prone to ice – ie Eastern NC.
A sturdy window scraper can really help you out on those frosty mornings when you don’t have time to start your car ahead of time, or during surprise storms and you’re wearing dress clothes with the kids in tow and need to clean he car off quickly!
Being from Wisconsin, trust me when I say a bag of salt is worth its weight in gold for ice prone areas. Yeah, sand is great for traction but toss out a couple of cups worth of salt the night before inclement weather and you won’t be the one slipping and sliding the next morning. An added perk? If the weather DOESN’T get bad, the salt may stick around until next time, and save you the hassle! If you forget ahead of time, you can still salt after the fact, and the salt will eat away at the snow on your walk, making it a lot safer for you and your family.
This picture shows a salted walk vs. a walk with no salt…
Protect entryway flooring.
Snow, ice, road salt and sand all get tracked in all winter long, and your entryway floors can really take a beating due to this. Help protect those floors by using floor mats inside and outside EACH entrance of your home. Consider a boot scraper or brush, and a waterproof tray for placing wet shoes to dry.
Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Water expands when it freezes, and is it expands can cause pipes in your home to burst. This is always an unpleasant situation to come home to. Best case scenario its under your home and you have to call the plumber out. Worst case its INSIDE and has caused damage to your flooring, Sheetrock and who knows what else! Take some time now to prevent thousands of dollars’ worth of damages by utilizing the following tips during your winter home maintenance:
- Insulate pipes that are near windows, doors or other unheated areas
- Disconnect your garden hose from the outside faucet
- Keep the heat in your home set to AT LEAST 55 degrees F.
- If prone to freezing – leave your faucets dripping slightly as running water does not freeze as easily as stagnant (standing) water
- Open cupboards to allow heat to flow to pipes under sinks etc when you are going out of town
- Close vents to crawlspaces to keep the area warmer
- If you have a pump house, ensure you have a heat bulb OR even a regular light bulb running to keep it warm
Too late? Here’s what to do if a pipe freezes:
- Turn on the tap of the frozen pipe and leave it open while treating the pipe.
- Allow warm air to flow safely to the affected area — always use any heat source (electric heating pad, blow dryer, space heater) safely to avoid potential harm and damage to your home and its occupants.
- If you’ve found one frozen pipe, check all the taps in the house — if only a drip comes out, there is likely another frozen pipe.
- If you cannot access the frozen pipe, or if your efforts to thaw it do not work, call a licensed plumber.
Check for Air Leaks
The temps have already started to drop. And while we *may* still get a 70 degree day here and there, the fact is that cold weather is officially here. Now is the time to act to save on heating costs during the winter months. Checking for air leaks around windows and doors, including cracks in caulking or weatherstripping can save you money on your heating bill in the long run. If your weatherstripping or caulk are cracked or peeling, now is the time to replace it.
Also, as a side note, check to make sure all windows are CLOSED securely. I noticed my daughters room felt colder than the rest in the house and could NOT figure out why. I checked the vents, I turned the heat up, no change. After searching and searching I finally found the culprit… her window was open about an inch at the top. *face palm*
Check the Roof
Give the roof a good look before winter hits. Are there any loose or missing shingles that may result in leaks from melting snow or ice? We just had a hurricane a few months back – have you had your roof repaired and shingles replaced? Now is the time to get on it! Take a quick look at the gutters and make sure they are clean of debris, which can cause ice dams during winter weather. While you’re up there, check for broken seals around vents and the chimney.
Proper installation of insulation (say that five times fast…) is a very important winter home maintenance item, and can help keep your home warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. If your insulation is thin, has gotten wet or damaged etc.. your heating system will have to work overtime to try to heat your home this winter (and vice versa when cooling in the summer). Adding insulation to your attic, walls and crawlspace can save you big on heating costs this winter. Most homes are UNDER insulated, having only 3-6” of insulation in their attic. The US Department of Energy recommends 8 – 16” of insulation.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
If you have ceiling fans in your home, there should be a switch to switch the fan blades and make them run clockwise. Running the blades in a clockwise position during the colder months can push heated air down. This home maintenance task makes rooms with high ceilings more comfortable.
Protect the Air Conditioner
Yes, your HVAC is built to withstand outdoor elements. However, it can still be damaged by falling ice, tree limbs and other debris. You don’t need to rush out and buy an expensive waterproof cover (actually, most experts say these are a big ‘no no’ for your unit… they may protect your unit, but they create a warm cave like space for a plethora of critters and vermin…) All you need to do is grab a sheet of plywood and a couple bricks. Place it on top of the unit and Voila! You are good to go.
Bring anything that can’t stay outside, IN
Pots, patio furniture, rakes and shovels etc… all these items should be brought inside during the colder months. Pots can freeze and the slightest jostle can cause them to break. Patio furniture, just like cracks in your home, can be effected by water and freezing temps, potentially ruining your furniture. When storing your garden tools, add a light coating of vegetable oil to help prevent rust over the winter months. Make sure to bring in your hose as well!
Install Storm Windows and Doors
We may have mentioned this before, but installing storm windows and doors will help reduce heat loss during the colder months, especially for those with single-pane windows. You can special-order storm windows and doors from home improvement stores. Be sure to measure carefully before ordering!