Winter weather stinks. In particular, Mother Nature hits the Capital District hard. From frigid temperatures to significant snowfall, homeowners must prepare their homes for the onslaught. For example, many homeowners find peace of mind with standby generators.
A home backup generator protects your home by offering a constant flow of electricity during severe storms that create elongated power outages. In fact, many generators run on natural gas or liquid propane (LP) fuel and sit outside your home (like a central air conditioning unit).
Additionally, standby generators deliver power directly to your home’s electrical system, backing up your entire home or just the most essential items.
However, generators work in emergencies and power outages. As a result, how can homeowners help protect their home on a daily basis? To help, we rounded up some winter weather tips from industry experts and share these simple solutions.
Annual Furnace (& Heating) Inspection
As Benjamin Franklin observed a long time ago, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We advise everyone heed this advice and find a reliable, local HVAC contractor that offers an affordable maintenance plan. Additionally, State Farm supports an annual inspection!
“Since your heating system will probably be running constantly throughout the winter, you should have it inspected annually to help if run efficiently and prevent CO2 from entering your home. Also remember to change out your HVAC filters every month.”
DIY Air Seal Inspection
After your annual inspection, the next step is air seal your home. Take a few hours and walk around your home looking for gaps or feeling for drafts. Money Talks News describes how to apply caulk and spray foam to seal those gaps!
“Grab a tube of caulk, a can of spray foam gap-sealer, a pencil and notepad. Tour your home, inside and out, including the basement, to find and fill cracks and gaps in siding, windows and foundation. Note locations of problems you can’t fix right away. Use caulk for small cracks and the foam sealer for bigger gaps. Inside the home use a candle flame or digital thermometer to find where cold air is entering. Pay attention to door frames, windows, skylights, chimneys and vents. Also check openings around appliance vents, electrical and plumbing fixtures and furnace ducts and check the top of basement walls where the foundation meets wood.”
Add Insulation (Where Applicable)
Following the air sealing work, next add insulation. Why? Insulation without air sealing simply covers gaps. Therefore, proper winter weather home protection requires a certain order for the most effective results. Pretty Handy Girl shares how to add insulation!
“If your insulation has fallen but is still in good condition, all you need to do is wedge an insulation support between the rafters or floor joists. Don’t crush the insulation. The fluffier it is, the better the insulating factor. If you are missing batts of insulation or need to replace pieces that are in bad shape, start by measuring the length of the space. Cut the batt to size. Make sure your utility knife is sharp and make multiple cuts until you have cut all the way through the insulation. Fit the insulation in the space. Use the staple gun to secure the paper wings to rafters in the attic. In the crawlspace, use insulation supports to hold the insulation against the subfloor.
What are you waiting for? A snow storm? Get moving and make sure your home is warm and energy efficient this season.”
Routinely Replace Furnace Filters
Part of standard winter weather home maintenance means replace furnace filters. Typically, during your furnace and heating inspection, the technician ensure the filter is ready to go for the winter. However, furnace filters only last about a month, so remember to replace routinely and keep your heating system working efficiently!
“Dirty furnace filters reduce furnace efficiency and push up heating bills. They also shorten the life of a furnace. Check and replace the furnace filter monthly in winter or every three months while the system is in operation. Your owner’s manual will tell you where it’s located. Hold the filter up to the light: If you can’t see light through it, you need a new one. Pleated filters work best because they trap more dirt particles.”
Stock Up for Potential Storms
Inevitably, a winter storm will strike and cause some power outages. Hopefully, damage and electrical outages will remain limited, but homeowners must take steps to be prepared. Liberty Mutual shares some must include items in your emergency kit!
“When winter storms hit, they often come with power outages. To ensure you and your family are prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you this winter, you will want to have an emergency kit ready. Explore this one for ideas of what to put in it, and consider having these cold-weather specific items on hand as well:
- A working, fully charged fire extinguisher.
- An alternative heat source such as a generator, wood-burning stove, or fireplace.
- Sand, ice melt, and a shovel if where you live is prone to ice and snow (avoid using kitty litter, as it doesn’t provide good traction and can make a mess).”
Make Shoveling Easy
We all know winter in the Capital District means snow. Lots of snow. An important winter weather solution that makes your life easier is marking your driveway. Consumer Reports notes that shoveling stinks, so take advantage of a simple solution that makes shoveling easier!
“After a heavy snowfall, it can be tough to see where driveways, flower beds, or walkways end and your lawn begins. Use fiberglass snow poles or driveway markers every several feet to line the edges of these areas. That helps provide a clear path whether you’re blowing or shoveling snow yourself or you hire a professional plow driver.”
Avoid Ice Dams
Winterization remains a common winter weather tip and part of weatherization means avoiding ice dams. Nationwide explains the conditions that lead to ice dams and how to protect your home from these damaging incidents!
“For an ice dam to form, 3 things must be present: snow on the roof, higher portions of the roof’s external surface must be above 32°F and lower surfaces must be below 32°F. When these factors are in play, snow will melt and the water will flow down the roof and eventually freeze – forming an ice dam. Poor ventilation and temperature control in the attic can also cause ice dams. Excessive warm air in the attic can cause the snow on the roof to melt regardless of the temperature outside. Recessed lighting, skylights, complex roof designs and heating ducts in the attic can all increase the chances of an ice dam developing.”
Clean Your Gutters
Related to ice dams, cleaning your gutters (ideally prior to winter) helps keep your roof and home safe. USA Today explains the underlying issues of clogged gutters and why homeowners should clean their gutters to help avoid water damage!
“If you can’t get on a ladder yourself, hire someone. Wait until all the leaves are down, then do it once (unless, of course, they’re already overflowing when it rains). So many water-in-the-basement problems are because of clogged gutters.”
Check Batteries in Smoke Detectors & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Winter weather keeps people inside. And due to the increase in secondary home heating appliances (like space heaters), the risks of fire are elevated. Family Handyman explains the dangers that arise during the winter!
“According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heating is the cause of 27 percent of structure fires during the winter months. So make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working in your home. And it’s best to have smoke alarms in every room of your home, including hallways. Be sure that home maintenance includes checking the batteries in all alarms once a month is always on your home maintenance checklist.”
Prepare the Fireplace
Another reason we recommend replacing the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector is this popular alternative heating source. Yes, sitting by the fireplace is a wonderful winter activity, however, prepare your fireplace before the winter hits. HomeAdvisor explains the safety reasons for an annual inspection!
“If you heat your home with a fireplace, it is very important to check to flue. Ensuring that the area is free of creosote and soot can decrease the chances of a fire occurring. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should also be checked before using the fireplace for the first time. You should also check for drafts in your fireplace. If you can feel cold air even when the damper is closed, you probably have an air leak. You can seal the area by using a chimney balloon, or call a professional. Fireplace repairs should be done properly so that the risk of fire is not increased.”
Review Your Home Habits
A simple solution to keep your heating costs down requires no additional work. Simply take stock of your habits and where you and your family spend your time. DIY Network explains how adjusting the temps based on your activities helps cut your costs!
“Which rooms are you spending your time in? If you have a second or third heating and cooling zone in your home, remember that they don’t all have to be set equally. Lower it in the rooms you don’t frequent, and shut doors to help keep the warmth where you need it most instead of allowing it disperse through unused space.”
Install a Programmable Thermostat
In addition to reviewing your home habits, consider installing a programmable thermostat. SolvIt Home Services explains the benefits of programmable thermostats and how they help reduce energy costs (throughout the year)!
“Typically, programmable thermostats offer pre-programmed settings, which help regulate temperatures. Ideally, homeowners leverage these settings throughout the year (and during the day or night) for improved home comfort. Plus, programmable thermostats help reduce energy costs.”
Reverse Ceiling Fans
Another simple solution that remains under-the-radar is your ceiling fans. As we all know, hot air rises. During the summer, fans push hot air up. As a result, reverse the ceiling fan direction and push hot air down during the winter. Improvements Catalog share the details!
“Preparing your home for winter includes reversing your ceiling fans, which is easy to do. Just flip the reverse switch so that the fan’s blades turn clockwise after you turned on your heat. An updraft will occur and push down the hot air that rose to the top of your room. If your house has high ceilings, you may be able to turn down your thermostat a degree or two which may help you to reduce your energy bill.”
Adding insulation throughout your home is a well known winterization solution. However, also consider insulating your hot water pipes as well. Why? Money Talks News explains how pipe insulation works!
“Insulate the hot-water pipes in your basement or crawl space by snapping foam sleeves on them. You’ll find pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible foam pipe insulation at hardware stores. Make a note of your pipes’ diameters and lengths, and bring the measurements when you shop.
Exposed pipes waste heat by cooling the water as it runs through them. Be sure to include pipes between the hot-water tank and wall. Also insulate cold-water pipes for the first 3 feet after they enter the house.”
Another elementary school science finding remains relevant during the winter. Water expands when it freezes. As a result, during the weatherization phase, ensure your outdoor water supply remains clear of water. HGTV notes some rationale for this winter weather tip!
“Drain the water from your outdoor faucets and garden hoses and arrange to have any in-ground sprinkler pipes blown out. Roll up the garden hoses and store them inside. Identify any “problem” pipes that are prone to freezing in the house and consider using heat tape to keep them warm during extremely cold weather. If the worst happens, ensure everyone in the family knows how to turn off the water at the source. This will minimize leaking when and if a pipe bursts.”
Protect Utility-Related Water Damage
Related to preparing your plumbing system, freezing pipes could result in burst pipes. And if any water pipes burst, then water damage creates an unnecessary cost and headache for any homeowner. Travelers explains how to protect your home from water damage during the winter!
“Freezing temperatures can be especially damaging to your home’s water piping. Make sure your pipes are adequately prepared to withstand a cold snap and remember to take extra precautions if you are going to be leaving your home, including shutting off your water. Check for water leaks and fix problems immediately; wrap water piping in UL-Listed heat tape and insulate if it is exposed in unheated areas such as garages, crawl spaces or attics. Use only thermostatically-controlled heat tape if your water piping is plastic, and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.”
Check Your Sump Pump
In the event a water-related issue occurred, then sump pumps help address the issue. Therefore, check your sump pump (routinely). Kiplinger explains how to check and test your sump pump!
“Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should do this every few months, but especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one.
For more complete instructions for testing and maintenance, check your owner’s manual. Most sump pumps last about ten years, according to Chubb Personal Insurance.”
In addition to colder temperatures, winter also means less sunlight. As a result, the last thing anyone wants is an electrical issue (especially unrelated to a winter storm). Therefore, an electrical inspection offers a simple solution that helps ensure your home remains safe!
“With the winter months bringing cold weather and days that stay dark for a longer time, the last thing you want is your electrical system to fail. Before that cold weather sets in, make sure to schedule an electrical maintenance tune-up. Check the main service panel for sparking, and inspect the breaker wires for bad insulation and any discoloration. Use a multi-meter to test power flow through the electrical circuits. Check things like extension cords and wall sockets as well as your heating systems. While doing this, test your ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) too. All you need to do is press the test button and use the multi-meter to determine if there’s any power flowing through it.”
All of these winter weather solutions treat observable effects of cold temps and potential snow storms. So, how does a homeowner treat underlying causes of home discomfort and safety? Inhabitat explains the rationale behind a home energy audit!
“Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we should mention that the best way to get your home operating at its maximum efficiency is to hire a professional BPI certified energy rater to evaluate your spaces. This person will conduct what’s called an “energy audit” and he or she will test your home for energy losses and safety issues, and generate a detailed report highlighting what your home’s issues are. With a report in hand you can easily target and prioritize exactly what you need to do, and what you can afford to do.”
Looking for the best winter weather solutions? Consider working with A.Johnson.
For over 30 years, we continue to provide professional residential and commercial plumbing, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning services (HVAC) at affordable prices to the Capital District. At A.Johnson, we’re so confident our whole-home solutions and comprehensive approach will increase your comfort and save you money; we guarantee our results!