What was a gentle nip in the air has turned much colder as temperatures plunge toward soup and hot chocolate weather. After following EBSCO Research’s seasonal home maintenance checklists, you’re ready to relax and hibernate through the long winter. Even in the chill of December, January, and February, though, a good homeowner must be vigilant to protect the family hearth. The following checklist of indoor maintenance activities should be the focus of your winter season.

Ventilation, Plumbing, and Electrical

With constantly closed windows, less natural lighting, and more time with the whole family indoors, the ventilation, plumbing, and electrical systems in the house will get more of a workout during the winter months than other times of the year. A few quick checks and some preventative measures will keep your house comfortable and lessen the possibility of a crucial home system going on the fritz right before a big holiday dinner or important football game.

  • Keep the attic no more than five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. This will prevent ice dams, which can damage the roof.

  • Perform the usual quarterly cleaning or replacement of the home air filters.

  • Do a visual inspection of the electrical outlets; cracked faceplates should be replaced. Check for any noise or sparks that might warrant calling an electrician.

  • Examine all electrical cords. If worn or if plugs or cords feel warm to the touch, replace them immediately.

  • Make sure space heaters are functional and have no visible damage. Be sure they are off before going to bed or leaving the house.

  • Keep your home heated to a minimum of 65 degrees in the winter. Rooms at temperatures lower than 65 degrees risk freezing the pipes inside the walls.

  • Insulate pipes that pass through unheated areas, such as a garage or an unfinished basement.

  • Periodically run a small amount of water through plumbing fixtures that are not frequently used, such as a laundry room sink or spare bathroom sink, tub, or shower stall.

Bathroom and Kitchen

  • Do a visual inspection of all bathrooms and the basement for mold accumulation.

  • Check toilets for leaks in the tank.

  • Examine all faucets for signs of dripping; change washers as needed, and make note of any washers that must be frequently changed—this may indicate the faucet needs repair.

  • Clean refrigerator and freezer condenser coils, and empty and clean drip trays.

  • When the temperature drops below freezing, open the taps of a sink to a trickle to keep water running in the pipes. Also open kitchen and bathroom sink cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.

Around the House

  • Examine windows and doors for ice accumulation or cold air leaks. Apply weather stripping to temporarily solve any problems, and make a note to repair or replace in the spring.

  • Check gauges on fire extinguishers and replace or have serviced if needed.

  • Clean the lint from the clothes dryer exhaust and the space under the dryer to avoid a fire hazard.

  • Inspect washing machine hoses for wear and replace as needed.

  • Clean the home humidifier two to three times during the winter season.

  • Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Be sure to vacuum smoke detectors—dust or cobwebs can prevent them from functioning correctly.

Holiday Decorating Safety

  • Check artificial trees for a statement of fire resistance before purchasing.

  • When buying a live tree, be sure to check for freshness; a fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard. Check out our blog on caring for Christmas trees for more tips.

  • Place any tree out of the flow of home traffic and away from doorways and heat sources, such as radiators, space heaters, or fireplaces.

  • Check each set of holiday lights—new or old—for frayed wires or loose connections. Discard any damaged sets.

  • Do not use more than three sets of standard lights per extension cord.

  • Never use lights on a metallic Christmas tree.

  • Do not light candles on or near the tree or any evergreen décor.

  • Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant materials in tree trimming or decorating around a hearth.

  • Never burn evergreens in a fireplace; their high resin content increases creosote deposits in the chimney.

The Best Laid Plans

  • Create a winter storm plan. Accumulate supplies—in addition to the FEMA-approved list, consider adding extra blankets, a supply of fuel, and snow and ice removal supplies—and store them in an easily accessible location. Make sure household members are familiar with the winter storm plan and know what to do in case of an emergency.

  • Check fire escape routes, door and window locks and hardware, and lighting around the outside of the house; ensure that your family is practicing good security habits during the holiday season.

  • If you plan on being away for an extended period during the winter, be sure to ask a friend or neighbor to check the home periodically, and leave a list of emergency numbers in case of a household problem.

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Sources: AARP; Clemson University; FEMA; Howard University; Insurance Information Institute; Realtor.com; State Farm Insurance; University of Illinois; USAA Educational Foundation; US Consumer Product Safety Commission; Weather.com.

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