31 TIPS AND TRICKS FOR WINTERIZING YOUR HOME
As the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall, it’s time to start winterizing your home for the months ahead. By walking through this list each year, you can proactively make sure everything is kept in tip-top shape, helping to decrease future repairs and save you money on your energy bill.
Here are our top 31 tips for winterizing your home inside and out, and a helpful visual for remembering them all.
INSULATE YOUR HOUSE AGAINST THE COLD WEATHER
1. FILL IN ANY CRACKS AND HOLES WITH CAULKING
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, small holes and cracks throughout your house could be responsible for up to 25% of your heat loss.
Start outside and check for gaps and holes in the siding and around doors, windows, faucets, electrical outlets, and vents by running your hand along these areas to feel for temperature changes. Completely clean out any cracks and holes before filling them with a caulk gun and caulking (about $25 from your local hardware store).
2. REPLACE THE WEATHER STRIPPING ON WINDOWS AND DOORS
To make sure your doors and windows are airtight, start by tightening the hinges and door knobs. Then, close the door and check if there is any light showing through the edges (you’ll need to do this during daylight hours), running your hands along them to feel for cold spots. If there are any areas with light or drafts, purchase felt, foam tape or v-strip weather stripping to seal them off and save on your heating bill.
You’ll want to cut the weather stripping to size and install it along the top, bottom, and sides of the door or window. You can also use a door sweep on the bottom to help lock out the cold. To make sure it’s airtight, put a piece of paper in the door and close it. It should be difficult or impossible to remove.
3. INSULATE YOUR WINDOWS WITH SHRINK WRAP
For older homes, insulating accessible windows with shrink wrap or bubble wrap is an inexpensive DIY. You can purchase a kit that will fit your window from a home improvement store or online and follow a tutorial like this one from Home Repair Tutor.
To begin, remove the wand from any blinds, secure the shrink wrap around the window with double-sided tape and run a hairdryer over it to seal. If you need to cut a hole for the wand of the blinds, make a square with clear tape first and then cut the hole to avoid tearing. Install the wand hook through the square and you will still be able to use your blinds throughout the winter!
4. INSTALL STORM DOORS AND WINDOWS
A storm door is an added layer of insulation and security for your home. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to let some light in without opening your doors. Look for options that are Energy Star-certified and ask about federal tax credits that may be available to help cover the costs.
5. SEAL OFF AN UNFINISHED BASEMENT
If you have a basement that is unfinished or currently being remodeled, it can be one of the main sources of lost heat. Spend a little extra time making sure that all the windows and external doors have been sealed off with plastic wrap, that heat registers are closed and that pipes are protected from freezing.
6. ADD INSULATION TO THE ATTIC AND CRAWLSPACES
The EPA estimates that homeowners who add insulation to their attics and floors save an average of 11% on their energy costs. They recommend at least 12-inches of insulation in the attic for best results. If your home falls short, you can add another layer. This will also help reduce the chance of ice dams forming on your roof and causing serious damage in the future. Just avoid insulation that has a paper backing, as that can cause unwanted moisture.
Additionally, insulate the floors and ceilings of crawlspaces and the ceiling cavities of unfinished basements in order to keep cold air from coming through the floors.
CHECK YOUR HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEMS
7. HAVE THE HEATING DUCTS SERVICED
Keeping your heating system in good repair is a proactive way to save money on emergency calls and system failures in the future. It increases efficiency, allowing you to turn your thermostat to a lower temp while still staying warm.
Pre-winter maintenance should include a thorough duct cleaning and repairs on any seams, which can both be done by an experienced professional. If you are fixing ducts on your own, you can use a metal foil tape to reinforce corners and edges.
8. CHANGE YOUR HVAC FURNACE FILTER
Experts recommend replacing the filters at least every three months and having annual inspections with a certified technician. Both of these will increase the efficiency of your furnace, filter particles out of the air better and help keep your furnace from overworking itself and breaking down when you need it most. Additionally, close the heating vents on floor and ceiling registers in the rooms you don’t use to ensure that all warm air is being filtered to high-traffic areas.
9. COVER YOUR CENTRAL AIR AND REMOVE WINDOW AIR CONDITIONERS
To winterize your air conditioning unit, it’s important to thoroughly drain all the pipes or hoses, vacuum water out of the drainage pans and clean the cooling coils. Remember that any water or condensation will soon be ice! To prevent damage to the system and cover it for winter months, forgo plastic and use a breathable material.
For homeowners and renters with window AC units, removing them for the winter will prevent drafts around the windows.
10. SWEEP THE CHIMNEY
Fireplaces are a great feature to have for those cold nights inside with family and friends. After several months of not being used, it’s important to have a professional sweep the chimney. This will remove any debris that is a potential fire hazard and ensures that smoke is properly filtered out of your home. Some signs that you may need to sweep your chimney are loud cracking noises, a build-up of dense smoke or an intense, hot smell.
If you have a gas fireplace, you can have it serviced with your furnace. Consider adding a fan option that helps circulate the heat better and provide extra warmth in colder months.
11. GET SMART WITH YOUR THERMOSTAT
You probably heard of turning down (or off) the heat while you are gone for the day, but if you dread coming home to a cold house and then waiting for it to heat up, it’s time to switch to a programmable thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that homeowners can save 10% on heating and cooling each year simply by programming their thermostat to be 10-15 degrees cooler for eight hours each day.
12. CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF YOUR CEILING FANS
You can use your ceiling fans to maximize airflow in your home. Warm air naturally rises, so if you set your ceiling fans to rotate in a clockwise direction it will help push the heat down.
When your fan is off, look for a little black switch on the motor housing and flip it in the opposite direction. For vertical fans, down means downward airflow. For horizontal fans, left will create downward airflow.
PREVENT YOUR PIPES FROM FREEZING
13. DRAIN EXTERIOR FAUCETS AND SPRINKLERS
Burst pipes, caused by water freezing and expanding in them, are one of the more common problems that can happen when temperatures drop. If you have any pipes or faucets that lead outside, make sure you shut off the water and remove any hoses or sprinklers. Then, open up faucets to allow them to thoroughly drain. During the winter months, keep the faucet on to prevent any water from being held inside and store hoses in the garage or a garden shed to help prevent cracking.
14. WRAP COLD PIPES WITH INSULATION
If you are living in your home during the winter, most of your water pipes won’t need special attention. However, it’s a good idea to check your attic and basement for pipes that may be more susceptible to freezing. You can wrap these pipes in an insulation sleeve or heating tape to protect them. Just be sure to follow the safety recommendations from the U.S. CPSC in order to make sure you are using certified tape and aren’t creating fire hazards.
15. MAINTENANCE YOUR SUMP PUMP
If your home has a basement, it may have a sump pump that needs to be winterized for colder months. Sump pumps can be tricky and repairs are costly, so we recommend having a professional check your system and prepare it for winter.
16. TURN DOWN THE WATER HEATER AND COVER IT WITH A HEATING BLANKET
For every 10-degree reduction on your water heater temperature, you can save 3%-5% on your water heating bill, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Most people don’t notice the difference between 130 degrees and 120 degrees, and the savings can really add up!
If you keep your water heater in a cold corner or basement, you can also insulate it with a heating blanket to increase efficiency.
17. ADJUST THE MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE SETTINGS ON THE SHOWER FAUCET
Most single handle bath and shower faucets are equipped with a rotational limit stop (RLS) that controls water temperature and keeps you from being scalded when someone flushes a toilet or uses a sink elsewhere in the house. When the temperatures dip you might feel tempted to turn up the water heater (an expense, as we mentioned in the previous point) but you can simply change your temperature limit on your faucets, instead.
To increase or decrease the temperature limit, use an allen wrench to take off the faucet handle or the cover. You will see a plastic circular valve with teeth, which stops the faucet from turning. You can change the valve and turn on the water to test water heat. Adjust to your preferred temperature and then replace the faucet for warmer winter showers.
CLEAN UP YOUR LAWN AND GARDEN
18. CLEAN YOUR GUTTERS AND INSTALL DE-ICER CABLES
After all the leaves are done falling, it’s important to clear out your gutters from any dirt and debris that may have built up over the summer months. The added weight can crack the gutters and, if water spills over the edge, it can cause damage to windows and siding. Add downspout extensions in order to direct water and ice away from the foundation of your house and consider attaching de-icer cables to areas where ice damming may occur, like roof valleys, roof eaves, gutters and downspouts.
19. REPLACE ANY MISSING OR BROKEN SHINGLES
Patching damaged or missing shingles can save you hundreds of dollars on your heating bill and even more when it comes to avoiding future roof damage. You should regularly check your roof for damage and make repairs throughout the year – not just when you are getting ready for winter. However, if you end up putting holiday lights on your house before the snow falls, it’s a great opportunity to check the shingles and gutters while you already have a step ladder!
20. PRUNE TREES AND LARGE PLANTS
If you have landscaping or a garden, it’s important to make sure all plants and trees have been properly pruned and trimmed. To help prepare plants for with winter, talk to your local landscaping company or nursery for care instructions. According to national averages, a dead tree could cost you up to $1,500 to remove!
21. PROTECT GROWING PLANTS AND GARDENS WITH MULCH
While well-established trees can weather the cold, a sapling or rose garden needs a little extra help. Put mulch over and around plants to serve as a protective barrier between them and the snow. For small trees and bushes, you can put stakes around them and wrap burlap around the stakes to create a wind and weather shield.
22. STOCK UP ON QUALITY DRIVEWAY DE-ICER
De-icer and salt are the standard go-tos for melting slick driveways and sidewalks. When picking a product, it’s important to talk to a salesperson and make sure you are buying a quality de-icer that won’t damage concrete and asphalt surfaces. After the ice has melted, sweep up any remaining granules to prevent slipping hazards and decrease the chance of driveway damage.
If you need a quick hack for stranded cars, kitty litter, sand and fireplace ash will get traction for tires, but won’t help melt the ice.
23. CLEAN THE YARD AND BRING IN ANY TOOLS AND TOYS
Forgotten toys, garden tools, and hoses will be hidden once it starts snowing and can accidentally be stepped on while you and the kids are walking or playing. Drain and store hoses, hang garden tools and tear down trampolines. Give everything a designated home in your garage or tool shed so that you know everything has been picked up.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
24. CHECK YOUR SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Winter and gas appliances bring the increased risk of fire, so swap out batteries and test both devices regularly. Although some device manufacturers say they will last ten years, you should replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every five to seven years to ensure they are working properly.
25. INVEST IN A STANDBY GENERATOR
For those who are familiar with Colorado winters, you know it’s possible to be without electricity after a big storm. When that happens, a backup generator can save you up to $300 a day on re-buying groceries and paying for a hotel room.
Additionally, a study by Remodeling Magazine shows that homeowners who have a standby generator will recoup 52.7% of the initial cost when they sell their home.
USE DIY HACKS TO STAY WARM AND KEEP THE HOUSE CLEAN
26. PURCHASE A HUMIDIFIER FOR YOUR MAIN ROOMS
A humidifier will replace moisture that is lost during dry winter months, which helps keep your skin soft, prevents wood furniture and decor from drying out and retains some of the heat from your furnace, allowing you to run it at a lower temperature. Studies also show that, by maintaining a humidity level of at least 43%, you can reduce the chance of airborne viruses spreading.
When it comes to buying a humidifier, you have two options: a portable one or a whole-house system. Portable humidifiers can easily be moved from room to room and stored away when not in use, while a whole-house humidifier provides a noiseless option that never needs to be re-filled and costs very little to run.
27. PREPARE FOR SNOWY CLOTHES AND BOOTS
Many of us love playing in the snow or hitting the slopes for a day of fun, but the mixture of snow and salt that gets on shoes can wreak havoc on carpets and floors. You can a mesh shoe or laundry storage holder near your entryway, back door or in the garage in order to hold mittens, scarves, and hats. The mesh will let them breathe and dry out, instead of lying in a pile on the floor. For carpets or tile, use a small tarp or heavy-duty rug for wet boots and pants.
28. PREP YOUR HOME FOR YOUR WINTER VACATION
If you sneak away for a warm vacation during the winter, it’s important to do a few extra steps before you leave in order to avoid cracked pipes and other damages to your home. Instead of completely shutting off your heat, decrease the thermostat to around 58-degrees and double check that all pipes are properly insulated from the winter cold. If you have pipes or faucets in an external a wall, open any adjacent cabinets doors to help the circulation of heat and turn faucets on just enough that they drip several times per minute in order to keep slow movement in the pipes.
29. REARRANGE YOUR FURNITURE
Once temperatures dip and you rely more on your heater, fireplace or wood burning stove for warmth, you can maximize areas where people will spend the most time. Pull chairs and couches away from drafty windows and doors. Make sure all heater vents aren’t being blocked and keep them open and clean for maximum airflow. Adding rugs to common areas will also warm up cold floors and retain more heat.
30. OPEN CURTAINS ON THE SOUTH AND WEST SIDES BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR WORK
A simple way to naturally heat your home on sunny days is to make sure you open your blinds and curtains. Do this before you leave in the morning and close them once you return from work (and your programmable thermostat starts to heat up the house again) to get a little extra warmth. Plus, if you have pets that stay home during the day, they’ll love basking in the warm sunshine on a cold winter day!
You can also purchase curtains with insulated backing that will add an extra layer of warmth when they are closed.
31. DIY A DRAFT SNAKE FOR THE BOTTOM OF DOORS
Rather than rolling old towels up and placing them in front of your door, you can sew a draft snake in a fun print or color to match your home. Before sewing up the end, add sand or kitty litter to help add some weight and keep it in place.
With these tips, you are ready to start winterizing your home for the colder months. When figuring out where to start, focus on sealing drafts and making sure your heating systems are running properly, then look at some of the other details to maximize your savings.
If you are looking to sell your home or want to buy a new one in the Colorado Springs area this winter, make sure you work with a local Realtor who can help you make sure the home has been winterized properly and can check for common telltale signs of trouble once the snow melts.
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