New Homeowner's Guide to Winterizing

insulated pipes

As winter starts to approach and the cold weather arrives, there are a few home maintenance things you should do to prepare. Winterizing certain parts of your home will keep you comfortable and help you save money on bills when winter finally hits. Most of these winterization tasks can be done by any homeowner with minimal DIY skills and they’re worthwhile the time spent on them.

Insulate Doors & Windows

Insulating your doors and windows are an important step to ensuring comfort in your home during the cold winter days. Not only that but they can also save you money on energy costs.

Issabel Williams, a handyman from Fantastic Services, says, “Poorly insulated doors and windows are serious energy wasters. Sealing the drafty windows/doors with caulk or weather strips will keep the home safe and warm.” Although these tasks may seem a little daunting they’re worth the effort Williams notes.

Taking care of your doors and ensuring no air is getting through by either installing weatherstripping or replacing old worn-out one is key to keeping your home energy efficient. “If there’s a blowing door, inspect the weather stripping for apparent signs of damage. Wear and tear or misplaced parts should encourage you to replace the deteriorated weatherstripping with new wood flange, vinyl, or wrapped foam one,” she says.

caulking insulated window

Winterize Your Furnace

The furnace is an essential component of your home to keep it warm and comfortable for your family during the cold winter months. Simple tasks such as cleaning/replacing your filter, removing debris from the interior, and cleaning out the vents can go a long way to keep it working efficiently. While you should still routinely be performing these tasks all year round, it’s especially important to do before winter arrives.

Keep Your Pipes Safe

One of the most common causes of water damage during the winter is burst pipes that we’re frozen. Fixing damage from burst pipes is not cheap by any means so it’s best to take precautions so that it doesn’t happen in the first place.

Insulating your pipes is the easiest way to keep them from freezing but that's not the only way.

“Water in pipes starts to freeze at around 20 degrees F. The best way to keep pipes from getting frozen is to seal up your house,” says Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. “A hairline crack in an outside wall near a water pipe can lead to frozen pipes. Patch cracks in siding to keep out winter winds,” she adds.

hairline crack in wall

Matt Pronger, a Chicago plumber from Roto-Rooter suggests insulating pipes in crawl spaces so they don’t freeze. He also says, “Wrap heat cables and heat tape around pipes. People need to be cautious with the heat cables and make sure to take them down during the warmer months.”

Inspect Your Roof

You’ll want to check that your roof is in proper shape and working properly. The last thing you want to do is fix it or realize there is a leak when it’s freezing outside.

According to Todd Miller, president of Isaiah Industries, ice build up on roofs is one of the top risks for homes in cold climates. Ice build-up on a roof can lead to roof damage and water leaks into homes. “Make sure the roof is free from tree leaves and other debris that would impede the flow of water or the sliding of snow from the roof,” Miller says.

He also suggests adding snow guards, “Snow guards can be used higher on the roof to help prevent the snow from compacting as tightly. Compacted snow tends to eventually become ice.”

clean gutters and roof

Clean Your Gutters

Apart from making sure that everything is working properly with your roof, you also want to inspect that your gutter system is suitable for the winter temperatures.

If your gutters are clogged or get clogged, then rainwater that is leftover will find its way to your exterior walls which can lead to mold and other damage says John Bodrozic from Home Zada. “In very cold areas of the country, this water freezes and becomes an ice dam, which causes gutters to break and subsequent roof damage,” he adds.

Adding heat cables along the gutters and downspouts can also help prevent ice dams Miller notes.

Install A Programmable Thermostat

smart thermostat near wooden staircase

Using the latest technology to keep your home efficient and warm is an investment that can quickly pay itself. When you aren’t home, your home probably isn’t being very efficient about the energy it’s using which is just money going to waste. A smart programmable thermostat that can adjust the heating in your home when you aren’t there can reduce your energy bills significantly.

Williams suggests installing the thermostat in a room that is used the most. “The rule of thumb is to install it on a wall, away from any sources of heat. Otherwise, there’s a risk of fooling the thermostat that results in inefficient use of energy, discomfort, and potentially higher utility bills.”

As an added benefit a programmable thermostat can also help prevent expensive plumbing repairs by preventing broken pipes Williams notes.

Winterize Your Appliances Too

A common mistake new homeowners tend to make when preparing their home for the winter is forgetting about their appliances. There are several tasks you should do so that your dryers, ceiling fans, and refrigerators are being as efficient as possible.

Dryers aren’t the cheapest appliance, so if you’re spending money on it you want it to remain as efficient as possible. Cleaning dryer vents can help with this and it can also prevent potential fires.

Bodrozic suggests you should be cleaning out your dryer vent to get rid of lint, which is a highly flammable material. It’s responsible for thousands of home fires every year and can also prevent your dryer from working as efficiently when drying your clothes which will lead to higher utility bills.

In regards to refrigerators Pronger says, “Set your refrigerator at 36 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder than this will waste energy.”

hand adjusting freezer temperature

Pronger also notes that since heat rises up you should reverse your ceiling fans’ direction to help produce a gentle draft which will cause the heat to be pushed down.

Don’t Forget About Your Yard

One of the most common mistakes new homeowners make when preparing their home for the winter is forgetting about their yards and/or gardens. There are a few things you should do to prevent things from going wrong in your yard.

Rodriguez-Zaba suggests, “Disconnect garden hoses from faucets and drain them before storing in the garage. Protect the spigots with insulated outdoor covers.”

"Aerate and overseed turf to make sure you'll have a great looking lawn next year," says Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal. "Before winter is the absolute best time of year to do this as the temperatures are cool enough for the seed to germinate and get established for the following year."

Clayton also advises removing any dead annuals from your landscape beds since nothing looks worse than dead annuals in a baron winter landscape.