Winter can be a magical time. But when freezing temps arrive, many of your appliances will have to work overtime to keep up. This can cause your power usage to soar and lead to more wear and tear on your HVAC system, water heater, and pipes. Knowing how to weatherize your house for winter is essential for homeowners living in places that can experience wintry weather.
Here are 10 cold weather tips to help prepare your home.
1. Seal up any cracks or holes. When preparing for winter, one of the best cold weather tips for your home is seal, seal, seal. A great place to start is with your doors. If there are noticeable gaps between the bottom of your door and the door frame, install some weather-stripping door draft stoppers to help keep the cold air out. This may also help with your A/C bill in the summer.
Next, check the caulking around your windows. If you see any gaps or areas where the original caulk has worn away, reapply the exterior caulk. You can also purchase transparent, insulating shrink film to apply to the inside of your windows to keep the heat in.
2. Protect your pipes. Freezing pipes can be a nightmare. When preparing for cold weather, you’ll want to disconnect all of your outdoor hoses from the spigots, drain them, and store them either in a shed or in your garage. Then, secure each outdoor spigot with an insulated sleeve or foam faucet cover. This helps keep the spigot from freezing.
It's also important to insulate your pipes, so they don’t freeze and burst. Take special care to make sure the pipes along the house’s exterior are well-insulated since they’re closer to the freezing weather. When you know a cold snap is coming, make sure you put your faucets on a slow drip to keep the water circulating and open any cupboards under the sink to give warm air access to your pipes. Taking steps to prevent freezing pipes may save you money and days without running water.
You also may be wondering how to keep your well from freezing. Many DIY or hardware stores sell insulated well covers and well houses to protect your well from the elements.
3. Make sure your house is well-insulated from top to bottom. Attics can be notorious for lack of proper insulation. Ensure your attic, crawl spaces, floors, and walls have adequate insulation to keep those icy bursts out. Another cold weather precaution is to insulate your attached garage.
If your home has thin, single-paned windows, these may be contributing to heat loss. Consider investing in the double-paned variety that also has an ENERGY STAR certification to help make your energy usage more efficient. If this type of purchase is out of budget, you can invest in some insulated curtains to make sure winter stays outside where it belongs.
4. Clean out your gutters. Another helpful winter tip for homeowners is to make sure your gutters are free of debris. Excess gunk in your gutters can cause water to build up and create ice dams. They can damage your shingles and possibly push moisture into your ceilings and walls. You can also purchase a roof rake to use after a heavy snowfall to keep your roof clear.
5. Have a backup system in place for your heating pump. If you live in an area that doesn’t get too cold, you may have a heating pump to warm your house. Heating pumps are very efficient in mild winter weather conditions, but they stop being effective with below-freezing temps. Backup heating systems like a gas furnace or heat strips throughout your HVAC system may help in the event of a cold spell.
6. Upgrade to a smart thermostat. Programmable thermostats can make life so much easier. You can set it to automatically adjust to your preferred temperature. For example, you can keep the house cooler while you’re away at work and then warm it up 15 minutes before you arrive, so you can walk into a toasty house without paying a fortune. Many smart thermostats can be controlled from your phone and will allow you to set different temperatures in certain parts of the house.
According to Energy.gov, never allow your thermostat to drop below 50 degrees in the winter, even if you’re out of town, as this could cause your pipes to freeze. If you’re heading out of town for a while, learn how to prepare a vacant home for winter.
7. Weatherize your garage. Protect your garage from cold weather by ensuring your door is insulated correctly and keeping it shut as much as possible. After making sure everything is sealed, it’s a good idea to stock the garage with winter preparation tools like shovels, flashlights, extra batteries, and rock salt. If you run out of rock salt, learn how to melt ice without it.
8. Prepare your HVAC system and water heater. Your HVAC and your water heater are two of the star players for keeping your home running smoothly and comfortable in the winter. Making sure they’re in tip-top shape is a priority.
Here are some cold weather tips for preparing your HVAC:
- Get a tune-up. Before the freezing weather hits, schedule an HVAC tune-up. If you’re an American Home Shield member, your tune-up will be performed by a qualified contractor who will assess the home system and determine if any repairs are needed. (This service is discounted for ShieldSilver™ and ShieldGold™ members and free for ShieldPlatinum™ members!)
- Change the air filters. It’s best to change your air filters with each season change. This is also an excellent time to install fresh batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Cover your A/C condenser to protect against snow and ice. If you have a heat pump, it should never be covered. But the A/C condenser can be protected by a piece of board or even by attaching the lid of a trashcan with bungee cords. Just don’t wrap it—it can trap moisture.
- Invest in a heater warranty. American Home Shield has excellent warranty coverage for HVAC systems and water heaters. The ShieldPlatinum® home service plan even includes a fall HVAC system tune-up for free.
How to prepare your water heater:
- Avoid turning up the temperature. Energy.gov recommends setting household water heater temperatures to no lower than 120 degrees and no higher than 140 degrees. Avoid turning your water heater temperature up in the winter because doing so could put you and your family at risk of scalding.
- Use a water heater insulation blanket if you have an older model. If your water heater is new, extra insulation probably isn’t needed. But if you have an older model, using a water heater blanket may prevent your water heater from freezing and help your energy bill. Just make sure you get one that is fire resistant and follow the instructions carefully.
- Perform routine maintenance. Like all appliances, your water heater will benefit if you perform routine maintenance and make sure everything is running properly.
9. Be prepared for power outages due to snowstorms. If you live in a cold climate, having a backup generator and a propane space heater on hand can be a lifesaver during a power outage.
10. Let American Home Shield protect your home. Our home warranties cover breakdowns due to the wear and tear of parts of up to 23 key home systems and appliances, many of which you’ll use every day during freezing weather. If your home is protected with a home warranty, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your household will be up and running again, no matter how bitter Old Man Winter gets.
Now that you know how to prepare for freezing weather, check out more tips for the winter season, including how to prevent roof leaks and how to prepare your sprinkler system pipes.