winterize article

How to Winterize Your Home

Last Saturday, we welcomed the official start of fall. It’s time for football, changing leaves, school, and everything pumpkin spiced. For homeowners, fall is a time of preparation. Winter’s cold temperatures and extreme weather can wreak havoc on a home’s most vital systems: from freezing pipes to a groaning, snow-laden roof. In the next few months, your home’s ability to withstand the elements will be tested.

Why We’re Asking:

The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more true in the home improvement business. Trying to fix a problem that has already run its course can be a nightmare, especially in winter. Imagine needing a new roof in February or dealing with a busted furnace over the holidays. Winter is when your home is most necessary and most vulnerable. We want to find out how homeowners can ensure they’ll make it to spring without any disasters, so we’re turning to our panel of home improvement experts.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

How Should Homeowners Winterize Their Home?

What are the most important winterization steps?
How does winterization differ based on geographic region where the cold months present themselves in different ways?
What are the most overlooked winterization projects?
What home improvement projects are best suited for the fall?
What home systems are most vulnerable?

It’s getting chilly out there, so check back soon to find out the best ways to protect your home from the cold and wet.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Pablo Solomon 09/24/12

    Despite the stereotype that Texas is always hot, we do have 4 seasons here–summer-late summer–an ice storm–early summer.
    Although winter here is iffy and interspersed with wonderful warm sunny days, the few cold days can be really cold. The problem is that those really cold days can be in late November or late March. It is really crazy. From November to April the given record hot and record cold for a given date can be as hot as in the high 90s and as cold as below zero. Some years we will go from hot to cold to hot again in a week. So must be ready for anything and also ready to do things on short notice.
    My best tips are related to practicing green methods. I save my Styrofoam cups from the summer and have them ready to put over the outside water facets. This is an easy recycle that works very well.
    Another thing that actually works is to put an old plastic or whatever box in the middle of your compost pile. When cold weather is on its way, put your potted plants in the box and recover with composting materials. The composting organic material gives off just enough heat and provides enough insulation to protect your plants.
    I look forward to hearing what my fellow designers do to winterize. I am always looking for new ideas.
    Thanks—Pablo

  • Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter Corp. 09/24/12

    The plumbing system is very susceptible to winter issues, especially if your home is in a colder region, like the Midwest or Northeast. Winterizing home plumbing includes some of the more dreaded outdoor chores like cleaning the gutters.

    However, some simple water heater maintenance and other little tricks can actually save homeowners money throughout the season.

    Not to mention, frozen pipes can be one of the most costly and overall messy winter home disasters, so proper seasonal plumbing maintenance is extremely important in this regard. See more Roto-Rooter recommended tips at http://www.rotorooter.com/plumbing-basics/seasonal-tips/fall/.

  • Steve Labbe @ Paradigm Plumbing and Heating 09/26/12

    The most important Winterization steps in my eyes are the steps that protect one of your most prized passions, your home. I like to look at doors, windows and insulation first. Companies have inferred cameras that show you where you are losing heat out of your home. These companies that do this are worth the cost it takes to keep the money in your pocket.

    Depending on where you live you may want to think about if you have sun light and use shades to either reflect the sun rise into your home or use blinds to keep the cold air out. When you have blinds make sure they do not block the baseboard heating. If they cover the baseboard you will not have the proper convection and produce less heat from your forced hot water baseboards.

    One of the most overlooked winterization projects that are over looked can be your garage doors. I see people leave the garage doors open which allows the heat to come into the home easier. Close your garage doors and save money. The worst is when people heat the garage area with doors that are not winter doors and allow the heat to escape out. A good project is to replace those old doors.

    Cleaning boilers and furnaces are nice projects that are best suited for the fall. It gets your systems ready for the winter months ahead. If you have the money to invest replacing burners, boilers and or furnaces will also keep money in your pocket. Yes it is an investment but at 1% return in the bank it is better to have high efficiency heating equipment saving you money every month.

    Water pipe and heat pipes are always something we need to worry about. These systems can be most vulnerable. If you lose heat, the faster you can get the heat back on the better. The temps can get low with wind chill factors, so having a trusted professional is the best way to prepare your home for cold weather. Remember the heating system is the heart of your home. Keeping your heart going can decide the fate of your home. Thank you for allowing us to give you these tips. We love people and love helping. Your Friendly Plumbing, HVAC Team at Paradigm.

  • Grand View Builders 09/27/12

    Although we may not have the harshest winter in the nation, the change in climate that comes with the winter months does lead to important winterization steps. One of the tasks that is most suited to fall is insulating your pipes to prepare for the colder months ahead. There is nothing worse than having a pipe burst on a winter night and having to deal with freezing water!

    Get pre-slit pipe foam (available at most hardware stores) cut to size and fasten in place with duct tape. A few more tips below will help to get your home ready for Jack Frost!

    • Seal it up! – 10-30 percent of heated air escapes in the average duct system. Therefore it could be beneficial to hire a professional to inspect for any problems. You should also add a draft snake to the bottom of your door – a rolled bath towel does just fine! Lastly, use caulking and weather striping to close corners where different materials meet.
    • Winterize your water lines – Drain any water hoses and air conditioner pipes and make sure you don’t have excess water pooled in equipment. If your a/c has a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off.
    • Run your fans in reverse – Your fan is set to run counterclockwise and produce a cool breeze. Make sure to switch it to run clockwise and ensure that air pooled near the ceiling is pooled back into your living space.

    The most overlooked winterization project is actually remembering that you can receive Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency. The federal government will reimburse you for 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500 for highly efficient insulation.

  • Ronnie @ Alliance to Save Energy 09/27/12

    * Plug up air leaks to the outside with caulking and weather stripping and adequately insulate for your climate to cut heating (and summer cooling) costs up to 20%.
    * Leaks, holes, and bad connections in heating and cooling ducts can waste as much as 20% of the air moving through the system – and hundreds of dollars a year. Also, a well-sealed duct system may allow downsizing to a smaller, less costly system.
    * If your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR qualified furnace, which is 15% more efficient than a conventional one, or an ENERGY STAR qualified boiler, which is 5% more efficient than a new standard model.
    * Keep furnace filters clean. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months, and change it if it looks dirty – or at least every three months. In addition to increasing energy costs, a dirty filter can damage your HVAC equipment.
    * Properly maintain your HVAC system with a semi-annual or yearly tune-up that can improve efficiency and comfort.
    * Replace your old windows. High-performance ENERGY STAR-labeled windows can cut heating costs by as much as 25% compared to older, inefficient windows.
    * Put up heavy curtains and other window treatments to insulate windows even more. Keep them open during the day on west- and south-facing windows to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to keep that heat inside.

  • Cassy Aoyagi @ FormLA Landscaping 09/27/12

    I see landscaping as one of the most overlooked ways to prepare a home for winter. Effective landscaping can reduce home heating and lighting costs and, particularly in LA, save homes from slides and floods during the winter rainy season. I recommend these nationally-applicable actions:

    -DIY Clean out all gutters and make repairs where necessary
    -Check/adjust rain sensors on irrigation systems and reduce irrigation to reflect cooling temperatures and additional rainfall
    -Prune both conifers and deciduous trees to protect homes, cars and walkways
    -Remove invasive plants and infectious material which would otherwise have the chance to establish themselves
    -Plant conifers to break seasonal winds approaching the home to save home heating costs
    -Replace conifers with deciduous trees to the south to allow home-heating (and lighting!) sunshine to reach windows
    -With a Pro Evaluate slopes and the trajectory of water on your property, guide water flow away from your home with bioswales, dry riverbeds, and/or re-directing to infiltration pits
    -Consider swapping pavement for permeable hardscapes that slow the flow of water and reduce runoff
    -Plant climate-compatible foliage with deep roots on slopes to secure them, and consider more profound retention strategies including retaining walls for steeper slopes (For us lucky Angelenos!)
    -Double check the infrastructure of outdoor firepits, fire features and other heaters to ensure the livability of outdoor rooms as temperatures drop

  • Jason Todd 09/27/12

    No matter what season is up next, it’s best to be prepared. Winter certainly affects some more than others, and for those that dread another winter, and wonder if the roof will last as the ice dams return, it’s time to take action now. Ice dams are the poster child for home performance problems. They are obvious issues, and there are all sorts of options to “fix” them as an article in the Wall Street Journal talked about. Fixing the problem, and not just the symptom, is really what needs to happen. Our solution for this customer, featured in the article, was to add insulation AND air sealing to the home.

    Regardless of the season or the climate, starting with a Home Energy Assessment will give you a plan of action that makes sense. It will help you provide an “ounce of prevention” instead of having to come up with a “pound of cure” later. As a plan of action it also will help you prioritize.

    We all have limited resources and time, and as the seasons fly by there’s nothing better than the peace of mind that we can settle in and enjoy the comforts of home. That’s how winter should be!

  • Nancy Dalton 09/27/12

    Beyond the usual re-caulking of windows and looking for drafts I would recommend walking around your home, under the deck and around to those parts that you just don’t walk by very often. And for the areas you walk by all the time stop and take a close look at trim that may have separated or have gaps; foliage that has grown too close to the house or signs of vermin. Always check your roof and gutters too.
    I just came from a home where we are re-finishing the top cap on three different decks. Each cap has a sided parapet wall below. As I was poking and feeling around the top cap, I realized there had been water infiltration into the wall below and the coated deck was covering more rot. As I stepped into the corner area my foot “sponged” down. Not a good sign. Unfortunately this client let this un-repaired area go too long, but it’s a good reminder to really asses the outside of your home before heading into another raining, snowing season. There is time to get ready for the season that’s toughest on your home.

  • Sarah Finnie Robinson @ Practically Green 09/28/12

    Here’s a brand new playlist of 15 actions you can take to winterize your home:

    1. Install storm windows
    2. Insulate and seal ductwork
    3. Install insulated window treatments
    4. Use a draft guard in windows or doors
    5. Add insulation to your pipes
    6. Upgrade your heating system to a high-efficiency model
    7. Upgrade your windows to dual-pane with Low-E
    8. Rely on passive solar for heat
    9. Insulate your water heater
    10. Weatherstrip your windows
    11. Install insulating window shutters
    12. Add insulation to your walls
    13. Add insulation to your roof
    14. Add insulation to your basement
    15. Install a programmable thermostat

    http://www.practicallygreen.com/playlists/29/actions

    We call it “Brace for the Cold!” Feel free to try it out and share this. If you have an action to add to the list, please submit it to Practically Green at info {at} practicallygreen {dot} com

    Thank you!

  • Sam Lazarus @ ServiceMaster by Best 09/28/12

    Some home improvement projects are best suited for the fall:

    • Make room in your garage to park your vehicles this winter. Organize and put away your gardening supplies, bring out snow shovels for when needed.
    • Be prepared by purchasing a few bags of ice melt.
    • It is a great time to donate some of the junk you have collected that is cluttering your garage so you can park inside.
    • Clean gutters and downspouts of debris and leaves. Be careful when using a ladder and water to hose down the gutters. Keeping clean gutters will keep snow and ice dams from forming and causing water damage to the interior of the home.
    • Drain garden hoses and disconnect from outside spigots. This prevents the spigots from freezing. Install insulation covers over them which are easily available from a local hardware store.
    • Wash and clean exterior windows and screens.
    • Clean and store patio furniture, umbrellas, and children’s summer toys. Discard broken or damaged items that you know you will not use the following spring or summer.
    • Check chimney and have them cleaned professionally if necessary. A clean and properly maintained chimney will prevent possible smoke damage to your home.
    • Firewood purchased by the cord instead of the occasional trip to the store.
    • Check your attic; make sure you have at least 6” – 8” of insulation. Lack of insulation causes heat loss as it gets colder and possible frozen pipes in an extreme winter.

  • Britni Myers @ Frost & Sullivan 09/28/12

    For Homes:
    · Insulate attics, ceilings, walls and floors to control heat loss.
    · Use weatherstrips around doors and windows to block cold air from
    entering.
    · Install a green roof for added insulation.
    · Change air filters in furnaces and air conditioners to maintain
    proper air flow.
    · Use a programmable thermostat to shut-off your heater during hours
    when you are regularly away from your home, such as for work or school.
    · Install geothermal heat pumps.

    For Buildings:
    · Conduct an energy analysis to see where energy efficiency
    improvements can help to reduce energy consumption.
    · Air sealing is needed to keep the interior of the building from the
    low temperatures outside.
    · Check insulation to minimize heat flow out of the building in the
    winter.
    · Insulate water heaters and supply pipes.
    · Replace furnace and heat pump filters regularly. Dirty filters
    restrict airflow and increase energy demand.
    · Maintain the heating and ventilation system tuning. Keep the furnace
    cleaned, lubricated and correctly adjusted to reduce energy use.
    · To ensure that as much warm air as possible is delivered through the
    central system, check the ductwork and fix any leaks.
    · Install or replace weather-stripping around windows and doors.
    · Use a programmable thermostat to easily adjust the settings and
    regulate the temperature when the space is unoccupied to avoid unnecessary
    heating costs.
    · Remove solar screens, blinds or awnings on the south and west facing
    windows to help increase heat gain during the winter months.
    · Replace old fluorescent lights with more efficient lighting products
    and electronic ballasts.
    · Replace incandescent or fluorescent exit signs with LED exit signs.
    · Install lighting controls to turn lights on or off depending on
    occupancy or time of day.
    · Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible to keep cold air
    out.

    Keep in mind other energy efficiency measures to be taken all year round:
    · Plug appliances and electronic in power strips, which can
    simultaneously be shut off before you leave the house.
    · Install a smart meter, if offered within your utility service area,
    and monitor your energy usage. Check with your utility service provider if
    they have a demand response or time-of-use pricing program that you can
    participate in.
    · Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact
    fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs.

  • Janelle Ancillotti @ Seneca Home Staging 09/28/12

    Homeowners who have their home listed for sale during the winter months have special challenges to consider. From a Home Stager’s perspective, it is always critical to look at the home with “buyer’s eyes”–take a good look at the property inside and out really try to see what potential buyers will notice about the home. If the home has been neglected or repairs put off, buyers will certainly notice them more during the harsh winters in Central New York.

    Attention to lighting and warmth are imperative when showing a home for sale in the winter. Sellers should make sure all the lights in the home are turned on even during the day. They should also make sure the temperature is at least set at a comfortable level if not warmer than normal so buyers feel at home and take their time viewing the property. You don’t want buyers to be walking around shivering and wanting to leave the property as soon as possible.

    There are many ways to add warmth to the decor during the winter months that will be neutral and attract many potential buyers.. Throws, pillows, candles, and other accessories will serve to give buyers an emotional connection to the home and make them want to put in an offer.

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