Preparing yourself for winter is a pretty straightforward process. All you need is a warm coat, a hat and some gloves and you’re good to go.
But preparing your house for winter weather is a whole different story.
There are many ways in which cold air can seep into your home that not only cause discomfort, but also send your heating bills through the roof. Your home heating and water systems may also contain flaws that reduce heating effectiveness and increase energy costs.
Luckily, you can get a handle on most of these issues before they become a major headache by following a getting house ready for winter checklist like the one below.
Preventive maintenance is key to prepping your home for cold weather and these valuable tips will help you withstand winter’s frosty bite.
1. Install a Door Sweep
Cold winter drafts are notorious for sneaking into your home through the space under your exterior doors. Before it gets too frigid out, seal off your front door and any others that lead to the outside with an inexpensive door sweep.
A door sweep is a flexible piece of rubber that attaches to the bottom of the door and closes any air gaps. It only takes a screwdriver and a few minutes to install, but works wonders at keeping cold air out.
2. Install Weatherstripping Around Doors and Windows
Another common problem with exterior doors is not having an air tight seal around the edges of the frame. The same thing goes for the bottom and top of window jams.
If the seal isn’t tight, cold air can easily seep in.
The easiest way to check for leaks around your doors and windows is by moving a lit candle around the frames. If there’s draft, the flame will sway towards your direction. If you don’t have a candle, you can also run your hand around the edges and feel for cold air that way. Either approach will be most revealing when there’s a cold wind outside.
If you notice that air is coming in around the door or window frame, then a cheap pack of weatherstripping is all you’ll need to make the frame air tight. Since the gap size for each leak will vary, weatherstripping comes in a variety of different thicknesses so you can easily find the one that’s the best fit.
3. Seal Household Cracks and Gaps
Doors and windows are not the only places that winter chills can find their way into your home.
Any crack, gap or opening around vents, siding, chimneys, plumbing, electrical, the foundation, basement, etc. are also culprits for losing heat.
Take an evening or weekend to inspect each of those areas around your home. With a tube of caulk and an expanding foam spray in hand, you can fix these leaky areas right on the spot.
4. Seal Air Leaks Leading to the Attic
For many of us the attic is a place that is out of sight and out of mind. It’s especially not something we think about during the winter when we’re turning up the heat.
But the truth is that ceiling leaks that lead to an unfinished attic can be costing you a lot of money – up to 30% (or $300 annually) of wasted heating expenditures, to be exact.
To make sure that your home stays as toasty as possible this winter season, it’s crucial that you seal all cracks and gaps in the ceiling that lead to the attic.
From below, make a note where anything that goes through the ceiling connected to the attic is located. This includes light fixtures, fans, electrical outlets, piping, etc.
Then, go up into your attic and pull back the insulation where you found these spots. Seal small gaps using an acrylic latex or silicone caulk and larger cracks with an expanding foam spray.
For the attic access hatch, install foam weatherstripping around the opening to ensure an air tight seal in this spot.
5. Close the Chimney Damper
Do you have a chimney? If so, when was the last time you checked to see if the damper was closed or not?
A lot of precious heat can be lost through an open flue in the chimney without you ever knowing it.
To keep the warmth indoors, make sure that the damper is shut after every use of the fireplace once the fire has cooled down.
6. Consider Using an Air Purifier
Tips 1 through 5 are practical ways to seal up your home and keep it warmer all winter long.
However, once your house becomes air tight and cozy the air inside gets trapped and doesn’t circulate as well. This results in stale, stuffy air that becomes more polluted over time and can make you feel sick.
To get clean, fresh air back inside your home all you have to do is add a portable air purifier. This unique device draws air into the unit, removes any contaminates, then blows clean air back into the room for you to breathe.
Air purifiers are so good an cleaning the air that they can remove up to 99.97% of impurities from the air around you.
You can find out more about air purifiers here or discover other ways they can help get rid of pollutants and allergens inside your home. If you’d rather just jump right in and start comparing air purifier products, we have a section dedicated to that too.
7. Install a Programmable Thermostat
If you’re manually adjusting the temperature on your thermostat to get relief from the frosty winter air, you’re in for a big surprise.
A simple upgrade that can save you up to $180 each year in energy costs is to replace your existing thermostat with a programmable one.
A programmable thermostat can automatically lower and raise the temperature in your house throughout the day and while you’re away.
A common use for this nifty device is to turn the heating system down low while you’re at work and then have it crank back up again right before you get home. That way it’s nice and warm when you arrive.
Additionally, programming the thermostat to lower the heat when you’re sleeping and rise again in the morning is another popular way to save money and keep warm throughout the winter season.
8. Seal Heating Ducts
In homes with forced-air heating and cooling, ducts are used to transfer conditioned air throughout the various rooms. Unfortunately, 20-30% of heated air is lost through leaks and holes in the ducts and poor duct connections.
This common problem essentially leads to higher heating bills and the inability to keep the home at a comfortable temperature, no matter what the thermostat is set on.
While you won’t be able to see or reach every duct in your heating system, sealing the exposed ones will still make a noticeable difference.
Perform a visual inspection of the ducts that are available and seal any gaps, holes or loose connections with mastic sealant or metal tape to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient during the cold winter.
9. Service the Furnace and Replace the Filter
A dirty furnace is less efficient and will increase your heating bills. You can easily improve your furnace’s efficiency by having it professionally serviced at least every two years. For older furnaces, an annual servicing is advised.
However, not every aspect of furnace maintenance requires a professional hand. In fact, you can do a lot to keep it running efficiently by inspecting the furnace filter on a monthly basis. If you hold it up to the light and and you can’t see through it, then it’s time to have it replaced.
Taking this dirty filter to your local hardware store will make it easier to find the right size replacement.
Enjoying these tips? Once you’re done reading, check out our Home Improvement Resolutions for the New Year.
10. Insulate the Hot Water Heater
According to Energy.gov, not having a properly insulated hot water heater tank can result in a 25-45% loss in standby heat, as well as an increase of 7-16% in water heating costs.
If your hot water heater is not new then you’re most likely suffering these effects.
Fortunately, you can fix things by insulating the hot water heater tank with a special blanket (available online or at most home improvement stores). The money you save should pay for itself in about a year.
These hot water heater blankets are easy to install and just wrap around the tank.
Note: This tip only applies to hot water heater tanks. If you have a tankless (on-demand) water heater, then you don’t have to worry about insulating it.
11. Insulate the Hot Water Pipes
The hot water pipes that come out of your water heater or steam boiler radiate a lot of heat. Insulating these hot pipes can reduce heat loss and raise your water temperature 2-4°F . This allows you to you to turn down the temperature setting on the water heater to conserve more energy.
Having hotter water inside the pipes also means that you won’t have to wait as long for hot water when turning on a faucet or shower head, thus also reducing your water usage (and bill) too.
A simple project like this only requires a roll of pre-formed pipe insulation and black acrylic tape, both available at your local hardware store.
For an electric water heater, insulate as much of the hot water piping as possible, especially the first 3 f.t. of pipe that exits the water heater. A lot of heat is lost in his area. Use the tape to secure the form every foot to prevent it from slipping.
It’s also a good idea to insulate the last 3 f.t. or piping that returns back into the water heater, because heat can escape in both directions.
Gas heater pipes must be wrapped differently in order to prevent a potential fire. Some form fitting insulation is flammable, which makes it a serious fire hazard.
Energy Saver recommends that when you’re wrapping gas heater pipes to keep the insulation at least 6 inches from the flue. If the piping run is within 8 inches of the flue, the safest thing you can do is use fiberglass pipe wrap without a facing. Also make sure that it’s at least 1 inch thick.
For securing this type of wrapping to the pipes, you can use either wire or aluminum foil tape, which are non-flammable materials.
12. Adjust the Ceiling Fans for Winter
Have you ever noticed that ceiling fans run counterclockwise to produce cool air inside a room? Did you know that you can also reverse the direction of the blades with a flip of a switch?
If this is news to you, you’ll also be happy to find out that running your ceiling fan blades backwards can help heat up a room.
Ceiling fans that run clockwise will lift cold air up and push warm air down. Look for the small toggle switch on the fan body to make this adjustment. Then, run the fan on its lowest setting to enjoy added warmth.
13. Make Use of Window Coverings
You’d be surprised at how something as simple as closing the curtains, drapes or blinds can provide much needed insulation from the cold winter air.
Keep your window coverings drawn throughout the winter and you’ll notice warmer air inside the house.
If you don’t have any window coverings, now may be the best time to get some.
This winter you can make your house a little more comfortable and significantly reduce your utility bills by adopting the tips outlined in this getting house ready for winter checklist.
Preparing your house for winter weather doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. You can handle most things on this list all by yourself. For those areas around the house you may not feel comfortable addressing, remember that you can always find a professional to help where you need it.