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How to Winterize a House: Your Home Winterization ChecklistNovember 15th, 2022 by
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
As the chill of winter sets in, the warm days of summer can seem like a distant memory. Thicker blankets are pulled from the closet. The coffee maker works overtime. The heat finally gets turned on. It’s important to keep yourself warm and comfy indoors. But don’t forget about getting your house ready for winter, too. Cold weather can do a number on the different systems in your house. Keep everything running through the winter with a home winterization plan.
Keep reading to learn more!
What is Winterizing a House?
So what exactly does winterizing involve? In short, winterizing is a series of tasks to get your house ready for cold weather.
When you winterize your house, you’re ensuring that the cold weather stays outside. You’re also protecting your house from damage from cold temperatures and winter precipitation.
Why you need to winterize your home
There are three important reasons to winterize your house:
- Winterizing helps lower your energy use, which lowers your utility bills. You’ll save money!
- You’ll stay warm and comfortable all winter long. Having your furnace fail on the first really cold night of winter isn’t ideal. Neither is realizing that your chimney is cracked and letting cold air into the house. Winterizing means you’ll catch these issues ahead of time (and prevent them in the future).
- Your house will be more likely to make it through the cold without needing expensive emergency repairs. Unexpected problems, like frozen pipes or a failed furnace, can be expensive to fix. And those repairs usually can’t wait. By preparing ahead of time, you’ll avoid these emergencies.
Checklist for Winterizing Your House
Prepping your house for the winter will save you money, prevent unnecessary repairs, and protect your home from winter’s harsh weather.
Below are some specific tasks to prepare your house for the drop in temperature:
Save energy and money
1. Seal air leaks
Even the most efficient HVAC system can’t stand up to a poorly sealed home. Old windows and doors, vents, and crawl spaces can let heat escape from your home.
You may already notice where the cold spots are in your house. To be extra sure, use a lit candle (carefully) to identify drafty areas. The flame will flicker from any drafts.
Replacing old caulk or weather stripping is a solid quick fix to get you through the winter. If your windows and doors are quite old, however, start planning for energy-efficient replacements.
2. Check your insulation
One of the biggest culprits of heat loss is insufficient insulation. If your house is generally drafty or doesn’t hold a temperature well, have a pro take a look.
A professional can assess your house to see which areas might need more insulation. There are lots of options on the market when it comes to adding insulation. An insulation pro can guide you toward the best, most cost-effective choice for your house.
3. Weatherproof your windows
Sealing leaky and drafty windows is important. But adding storm windows can also help keep the cold air from coming indoors.
Go ahead and lock your windows. You probably won’t want to open them in the winter anyway. Locking them can eliminate space between the frame and the window. This helps keep the cold air outside.
4. Switch ceiling fans to turn clockwise
Changing the direction of your fan helps circulate warm air through the room. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the main part of the fan. Switch your fan to turn clockwise in the winter. This means that the blades will push the warm air downward into the room.
Prevent unnecessary repairs
5. Have a professional maintain your furnace
An HVAC professional should inspect your furnace before you turn it on for the winter.
During the inspection, the technician will check your system to make sure it’s running efficiently. They’ll also check for any abnormal sounds or smells coming from the system. Regular maintenance helps keep everything operating properly.
6. Have a professional inspect your chimney
Over time, creosote (a sticky combination of soot and ash) can build up in the chimney. Creosote buildup reduces the diameter of the flue, which equals less space for smoke to rise up through the chimney.
This buildup will make your home smoky when you use the fireplace. But what’s even more concerning is that creosote is extremely flammable. A thick layer of creosote can catch fire. Chimney fires are notoriously destructive.
A clean chimney allows smoke to escape freely, which increases the efficiency of your fireplace as a whole. And most importantly, a clean chimney is a safe chimney.
Protect your house from potential disasters
7. Prepare your pipes
Pipes cannot withstand freezing winter temperatures. To prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, completely drain and shut off the water to any outside pipes.
If there are any unheated areas of your home with exposed pipes, wrap the pipes in insulation to keep them warm during the winter.
8. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
During the winter, fires caused by heating equipment and wood-burning fireplaces are more of a concern. Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work. Just to be on the safe side, go ahead and change their batteries, too.
9. Clean your gutters
Clogged gutters restrict the flow of water. During the winter, rain and snow can create ice dams that further clog the gutters.
If your gutters are clogged, you’re risking water damage if the gutters leak down the side of your house or up under your roof. After fall, clear the gutters of all leaves and debris, and inspect them for any damage.
Winterizing your home can help prevent unexpected issues from popping up. You’ll be able to enjoy the season knowing that your home will withstand winter’s severe temperatures.