Before winter strikes in Virginia, most of us tuck away our summer clothes and bring out the sweaters, coats, and scarves that will keep our bodies cozy when there's a chill in the air. But how many of us take similar steps to prepare our homes for winter weather? Readying your home for winter, also known as "winterizing," will not only help you and your family to stay snug and warm while saving money on energy bills, but it may also protect your home from damage that can lead to costly repairs.
In the winterization process, take your region's climate into consideration. After all, a home in Southern California will not require the same degree of winterization as one in Montana. Here are 10 smart ways to prepare your home for cold, snow, ice, and other signs of winter:
- Clean Gutters Clogged gutters can cause blocked water to freeze and seep into your house. Make sure that all downspouts carry water away, not toward, your home's foundation. Water should spill out 10 feet from the house.
- Seal Leaks Recessed lighting, window and doorframes, and electrical outlets all tend to be drafty areas. Seal them up with caulk or tacky rope on your home's interior, and with weather-resistant caulk on its exterior. Install outlet gaskets on outlets that share your home's exterior walls.
- Insulate Your attic requires 12 inches of insulation. When adding new insulation, make sure it does not have paper backing, which can cause moisture problems.
- Examine the Furnace Turn on your furnace to make sure it works properly. Change its filter, and continue to do so once a month throughout the winter season. Clean filters improve airflow and efficiency, and can help to prevent fires.
- Repair and Vacuum Ducts Check ductwork for pinched areas or gaps, which can prevent the flow of heated air. Use metal-backed tape, not duct tape, to make repairs; it stands up better over time. Vacuum your ducts every few years to remove pet hair, dust, and other debris that may cause respiratory problems.
- Install Storm Windows Or, if they aren't in your budget this winter, consider a very effective alternative: a window insulator kit. Such kits consist of plastic sheeting that is applied to interior windows and may be removed in the spring. At just $4 per window, this is an affordable option.
- Inspect the Chimney Have a professional chimney sweep give your chimney a good once over and check it for debris. Cleaning the chimney prevents ash from building up and turning to lye, which rots the mortar and metal damper.
- Reverse Ceiling Fans Setting your ceiling fans to turn in the opposite direction will push warm air down and help it to circulate. A ceiling fan viewed from below should turn clockwise in the winter.
- Wrap Pipes Freezing nights can result a costly misfortune: burst pipes. Prevent them by insulating with foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. Make sure to shut off the water to your hose bibs via a turnoff valve in your home.
- Check Alarms Since you're checking on so many other aspects of your home, you might as well make sure your smoke alarms are all functioning, and replace the batteries as needed. Verify that you have a functioning fire extinguisher as well. The winter season is full of warm nights by the fire and plenty of cooking, so it's smart to keep accidental blazes at bay.
Talk to your Virginia insurance agent about any other winterization steps they recommend and make sure you're home insurance coverage is appropriate.