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November 30, 2016 | home-renovations

Beat the Heat? Now Beat the Cold: Our Winterizing Your Home Checklist

Are you ready to winter-proof your home? Even in a warm state like Texas, winterizing your home is a critical way to protect your investment. All it takes is one burst pipe or one clogged fireplace to cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. Before the temperature takes a turn for the worse, follow the steps on our ‘Winterizing Your Home’ checklist and get your house in tip-top shape for those harsh winter months. We’ve even added a few video tutorials to help make your preparation even easier.

  • Empty Your Sprinkler Lines. Using an air compressor and a quick-connect coupling, you can tackle this project on your own as long as you do it a zone at a time.
  • Shut Off Your Outdoor Water. Disconnect and store your garden hoses after draining the water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • Clean Out Your Gutters. Scoop the debris from your gutters into a garbage bag using a hand trowel and rinse toward the downspout (the pipe that brings water from the roof to the ground) with a high-pressure hose nozzle. Later, clear the downspouts themselves with a hose or auger.
  • Check Your Heating System. At a minimum, you’ll want to clean or replace your furnace’s filter; clean the blower, ducts, and vents; and make sure your fan and thermostat are both working. Filters should be changed monthly during the colder season to ensure maximum air is passing through. If any sections of ductwork have vibrated apart, reattach them with sheet metal screws and then seal joints using aluminum tape.
  • Switch to a Programmable Thermostat. These devices cost between $20 and $50 and will automatically lower the temperature of your home at night and while you’re at work. Note that every degree you lower your thermostat over the winter months can save 1% to 3% off your heating bill.
  • Maintain Your Water Heater. Your unit should be flushed twice a year to clean sediment and scale from the bottom (your manual or online tutorials can provide walk-through instructions). Adding a $20–50 jacket and pipe insulation can save you 4% to 9% in annual heating costs. Many experts also recommend dialing down the setting from the standard 140°F to 120°F, the “warm” setting.
  • Check Weather Stripping. Light a candle or incense and observe the direction of the smoke. To prevent drafts, your doors and windows should have intact foam-based weather stripping that provides an excellent seal across all edges.
  • Check Window Glazing. Many older windows are held in place with glazing that can crack or break. Clean out loose glazing, dust, and debris, and apply one or two beads of silicone caulk to seal the glass against incoming air.
  • Winterize Your Windows. Provide extra insulation with storm windows or the installation of shrink-wrap plastic in the inside.
  • Replace Your Batteries. Replace the batteries in all your smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Clean Your Fireplace. Before opening the flue, spread coffee grounds on the ashes to minimize potentially toxic dust. Lay down a tarp and don a respirator and rubber gloves and scoop the ashes into a pail. A circular metal chimney brush can be attached to your vacuum to remove creosote, and then bricks can be washed with warm water and TSP, vinegar water or a soot eraser. Spread the ashes on your flower beds.
  • Inspect Your Chimney. Check for obstructions and ensure a cap is in place. Repairs are in order if the brick or mortar is crumbling; otherwise, clean your chimney when creosote is a one-quarter inch or thicker. You can probably accomplish the cleaning yourself with a long pole, a metal scraping tool and stiff brush that attaches, a vacuum, and a respirator. Still, a certified chimney sweep will make it easier with professional-grade equipment.
  • Wrap Your Outdoor Pipes. Pipes in outer walls, crawlspaces, or attics may also be susceptible to freezing. Surround them with correctly sized insulation tubes made of polyethylene or fiberglass, starting with heat tape for an extra layer of protection. Make sure surrounding holes or cracks are filled with spray foam insulation and caulking. Keeping a faucet dripping when frigid weather strikes can also circumvent frozen pipes.
  • Prepare to Protect Plants. Container-grown plants and tropical or semi-tropical plants can be damaged even if temps don’t drop below freezing. When cold is in the forecast, transfer movable plants indoors, onto a covered patio, or near the base of a large tree. Beds can be watered and draped with a layer of burlap or plastic film. Rocks, boards, bricks, or soil should hold down edges, keeping the wind out and allowing heat retention. Mulch can also help protect lower stems and roots from cold.
  • Trim Tree Branches. Even in relatively balmy Texas, frozen temps and winter winds can wreak havoc by knocking branches onto vehicles and homes. Trim down exposed tree branches to avoid costly damage.
  • Check for Roof Damage. Texas weather is notoriously hard on roofs, and the best time to find out about weaknesses is before the cold hits. Identify and fix damage to shingles or tiles; missing shingles or tiles; cracked caulk; loose flashing; or shifted siding or brickwork.
  • Reverse Your Ceiling Fans. Most have a simple switch on the motor that switches the direction to clockwise, so warm air near the ceiling is pushed down.
  • Get Your Holiday Decorations. There’s nothing wrong with putting up your outside lights while it’s comfortably warm, especially if you refrain from turning them on until the holiday season is closer. At the very least, it’s a good idea to get your decorations out of storage early.

And if you’re worried that you cannot afford to give your home the winterization once-over it deserves, there government programs that can help. Lower-income Texans who need help financing their home winterization might check out the Weatherization Assistance Program offered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The program uses federal funds to reduce the energy cost burden for such residents through home energy audits followed by services like caulking; weather-stripping; ceiling, wall, and floor insulation; hole patching; ductwork and the tune-up, and repair or replacement of energy-inefficient heating and cooling systems.

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