Preparing your home for winter: 24 tips to help you survive the cold in comfort - ForumDaily
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Preparing your home for winter: 24 tips to help you survive the cold in comfort

There are many simple tips to properly prepare your home for winter before the onset of cold weather and feel comfortable and cozy, reports BestCalgaryHomes.

Photo: IStock

So, you found your winter outfit at the bottom of the closet and stocked up on your favorite hot drinks and soups. Sounds like you're ready for sub-zero temperatures, but what about your home? Have you already taken steps to winterize your home before the cold weather sets in?

As a homeowner, you should take precautions when winterizing your home to not only prevent damage and increase winter comfort, but also to preserve your home's long-term health.

Inspect your home for leaks and cracks

The first and foremost step to preparing your home for winter is to inspect the interior and exterior of your home for cracks and leaks. You'll usually find them on:

  • window sill;
  • concrete base;
  • plastering outside;
  • broken window locks.

Seal cracks using the appropriate method. When it comes to insulating, remember that ideally this is done in a warm environment, i.e. inside your home, although durable outdoor materials are also available.

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Insulation also comes in different forms, so be sure to find out which method will best seal any leaks you find in your home.

Insulate the attic

If your home is unbearably cold in the winter, installing a layer of insulation in your attic may be one of the best ways to winterize your home.

If you are putting more on top of an existing layer, make sure you are not using insulation that acts as a vapor barrier. This can lead to moisture buildup and mold growth. Don't know which insulation is better? Consult your local department store specialist for advice. Be sure to give him details, such as what type of insulation is currently being used to achieve the best results.

Check the boiler

Check the operation of the boiler before the cold weather sets in. There may be something wrong with your boiler and the problem should be fixed as soon as possible!

There is no substitute for boiler inspection and maintenance! This is definitely one of the most important parts of winterizing your home before the cold weather hits.

Inspect and clean the boiler

It's never a bad idea to have your boiler checked and cleaned annually. This ensures that it will run smoothly throughout the long winters.

Typical furnace inspection/tuning fees range from $99 to $149 CAD + applicable taxes per item.

Consider replacing your old boiler

If your boiler is old, then buying a new one may be ideal and will save you money in the long run. A new and improved boiler also means your home will be warmer in winter.

Old boilers can use up to 50 percent more energy than new ones and are not as efficient at heating your home.

In short, a functioning boiler is the key to not only winterizing your home before the cold weather sets in, but saving a few bucks while you're at it!

Buy boiler filters in advance

It is convenient to stock up on filters before the cold weather and check those that are used regularly in winter.

A dirty filter will reduce the efficiency of your boiler by restricting air flow and in severe cases can cause a fire. Different filters need to be changed at different intervals, but usually this happens somewhere around every two to three months. Many people change it every six months.

Apply window coverings

Adding window layers can help prevent heat loss, not only insulating your home but also reducing your heating bills.

Consider covering your windows with plastic insulation or more designer kits if aesthetic appeal is important to you.

Insulation kits can be found at home department stores such as Home Depot and RONA and are an affordable means of preventing heat from escaping through windows.

If you want to take it a step further, cover your windows with bubble wrap. In winter it works as an excellent insulator. Your friends and family may think you're crazy, but you'll save even more money on your heating bills, so who cares!

Clean the rain gutter

Carefully climb onto the roof and use your tool of choice (a trowel or broom works well) to remove the mess from the eaves gutter.

Cleaning your eaves gutter will prevent ice dams from forming, which can cause snow and water to flow toward your home's foundation.
Water in these areas can freeze and cause foundation problems that are very expensive to fix.

Inspect your roof

A full inspection of your roof—if it's safe to do so—should be part of the steps you take to winterize your home.

If your roof is slippery for any reason, you may want to call a professional to have it inspected. Or wait until you can do it yourself without any security risk.

Inspecting your roof is important because any leaks in your home's structure can cause water to pool and freeze in the underlying structure, window sills, and attic.

Once this water seeps into these nooks and crannies, it can freeze, expand, and cause massive damage to the structure of your home.

Route drain pipes further away

Make sure your gutters drain properly, don't become clogged, and are moving water well away from your home's foundation. As mentioned above, water pooling near your home's foundation poses a threat to its structural integrity.

Water expands when it freezes; so if it seeps into your home's concrete grating through a crack and hardens, it can make that crack even bigger.

Foundation problems are among the most expensive problems homeowners have to deal with.

Drain water from water pipes

Drain the water from your existing air conditioners. If your air conditioner has a water shut-off valve, close it. Also drain any pipes leading to outdoor water faucets, as well as any garden hoses you may have.

Irrigation systems must be purged with clean air to prevent water from accumulating and damaging pipes at sub-zero temperatures.

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Repairing cracked irrigation systems and pipelines is expensive. Properly preparing your home for winter will help avoid the need for pipeline repairs.

External pumps for ponds or other similar objects should also be cleared of water and placed in a warm place.

Turn up the heat a little

If you plan to leave the house for a long time, increase the temperature slightly.

Temperatures can be -15 Celsius one day and drop to -30 Celsius the next, so the extra warmth will help prevent pipes from bursting while you're away.

Even if you don't plan to move away, a little more heat will help you stay cozy and warm at home, provided there are no major problems or leaks with your boiler.

Check with your insurance company to find out what kind of policy you have. This is important because not all insurance policies cover everything. Knowing what is covered and what is not covered by your policy is critical. Staying away from home for an extended period of time without regularly checking your home can also sometimes void your insurance if pipes freeze or other winter weather-related problems occur.

Wrap water pipes with insulation

Your home should have quite a few pipes running near the outside walls, especially in the basement. Insulate the pipes using a special coupling, which can be purchased at your local department store. This is an inexpensive way to winterize your home before an expensive accident occurs that could cost you thousands of dollars.

Wrapping these pipes in insulation will go a long way to preventing freezing, and repairs can cost you a lot of money.

Know where the water shutoff is

Let's say a pipe freezes, causing water to flow into your basement. Now your basement is flooded and you need to know where to turn off the water quickly.

With this in mind, take some time to determine where the main water valve is located in your home.

Knowing where the main water shut-off valve is can save you a lot of mess and save you a lot of money.

Install a programmable thermostat

Programmable thermostats detect and adjust the temperature in your home accordingly. By installing it, you will be doing your wallet and the environment a favor.

Smart thermostats are incredibly convenient because they can be controlled from an app on your phone. This way, whether you're arriving or leaving, you'll have complete control over your home's temperature. Many people choose to lower the temperature while at work and then turn it up shortly before returning home from work.

Install a car starter

Consider installing a car starter if you don't already have one, especially if you park on the street. Or, if you park in a garage, you can always buy a block heater that will keep your car moderately warm while it's running.

There's nothing better than warming up an icy car before you get in it every morning. Winterizing your home and car in cold weather goes hand in hand.

Buy de-icer and sand

Stock up on sandbags to place along the paths.

Some jurisdictions have bylaws that require you to remove snow and ice from walkways and sidewalks along your property. Deicer helps melt hard ice that is otherwise difficult to remove.

Another great way to winterize your home and make it more comfortable for visitors is to invest in a proper ice scraper. This brings us to our next winter preparation tip.

Turn over the ceiling fan

Rotating ceiling fans clockwise will direct warm air downward and promote proper air circulation.

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It's an easy way to prepare your home for cold weather and can cut your heating costs by up to 10 percent in some cases!

Clean out your garage

Consider organizing your garage so you can easily park your car inside. Allow yourself to walk in comfort without the risk of slips and trips associated with wet shoes and slushy, cluttered floors.

A cluttered garage will also reduce the efficiency of any heating system you have installed.

Buy survival gear

You never know when an outdoor storm could cause electrical problems in your area. Buy some lighters and/or matches and candles so you can see in the dark if there is a power shortage.

You may also want to consider purchasing a backup generator as a power source if you feel it is necessary.

If you have an aquarium, you may need another source of electricity. Your fish won't be able to live very long without a pump to oxygenate the water in which they live.

Check your winter gear

Replace worn out shovels and snow brooms. Also, consider investing in an ice scraper to remove any nasty ice on your driveway/walkways.

Also, don't skimp on buying the best snow shovel if you can help it. The ergonomic design and better materials used in more expensive shovels are worth the extra cost and will help your back by making the job easier.

Consider creating an emergency "winter" car kit with a blanket, batteries, first aid kit and other essentials in case you get stuck in the cold.

Add important numbers to your contact list

Keep the phone numbers of your utility providers handy. Perhaps on the front page of the phone book or on the board next to the phone.

Stock up on food and water

Stock up on non-perishable food and water, as well as a first aid kit and blankets. Develop an evacuation plan in case of an emergency. You never know whether you'll need it or not!

Shake your inbox

Check the strength of your mailbox to ensure it is sturdy and won't become loose in the winter. This preventive maintenance is important before winter, snow can topple unsteady mailboxes, reports Fox2.

“Shaking your mailbox is an important way to avoid snow damage this winter,” said Dennis Kolar, managing director of the Oakland County Road Commission. “By preparing ahead of time, residents can ensure their mailboxes are stable and safe this winter.”

If the mailbox is damaged by snow, the county is not responsible. The county is only liable in cases where a snowplow driver actually hits a mailbox, not if there is a problem with plowed snow.

“It is the resident’s responsibility to ensure the security of their mailbox. Damage to poles and containers can often be prevented with proper routine maintenance,” Kolar said.

If your mailbox is loose, tighten the screws to stabilize it. If this doesn't work, you may need to replace the box or post if it has been damaged or the wood has rotted.

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