The dark winter months present unique challenges to our homes. Even in a normally temperate climate such as Dallas - Fort Worth, extended periods of cold temperatures and significant accumulations of snow and ice are possible. If your home isn't properly winterized, you could end up with frozen pipes and other damage that will result in expensive repair bills.
In this article, we'll examine important steps you can take to prepare your home for the winter season.
The winter season brings cold weather and potentially freezing temperatures to our homes each year. If you're not prepared, a harsh winter can result in higher heating bills, burst pipes, cold drafts, and other inconveniences, both major and minor.
To keep your home warm and working properly when the temperatures dip, it's important to properly winterize your home for the winter season.
It's not too late to prepare your home for the worst that winter brings. In this article, we'll examine how you can prepare your home for the season, including tips for winterizing your indoor and outdoor plumbing, preparing your heating system, planning for backup power, inspecting your physical plant, and more.
One of the most common home emergencies in the winter is damage to your pipes caused by freezing temperatures. Fortunately, some common-sense and inexpensive precautions can prevent you from having to deal with the consequences of frozen pipes.
In most cases, a warm home will prevent your indoor pipes from freezing, but there are probably some locations in your home that may be vulnerable if the temperature outside really drops.
Pipes located in uninsulated and unheated crawl spaces or unheated basements below your home are susceptible to freezing during cold snaps. Follow these steps to decrease your crawl space vulnerability:
What about inside your home? During extreme cold, pipes located in the outside walls of your home can freeze and burst, creating a mess and necessitating a major cleanup. When the mercury is forecast to drop during the winter season, take these precautions:
While avoiding frozen pipes and leaks inside your home is important, it's much more likely that you'll encounter damage to plumbing fixtures that are located outside of your home. One of the smartest moves you can make when you winterize your home is to successfully winterize outdoor pipes, faucets, and irrigation systems.
Start by removing garden hoses from outside faucets. Drain them well and put them away for the season. Even if they don't have water in them, cold temperatures can cause damage. When spring comes you don't want to have to replace a garden hose before you can water the garden!
Most outdoor faucets should have a shut-off valve inside the home. Turn off this valve, then open the outdoor faucet to let the water drain out. When the water stops, turn the faucet off. For extra protection, purchase a faucet cover at your local home improvement or hardware store.
Irrigation systems are an expensive home addition that needs to be protected. Shut off the water to your system and turn off the timer. Then drain the remaining water from the system and cover any exposed sprinkler heads.
When the cold weather comes, maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home is a large priority. If your furnace or HVAC system isn't working at its best, you could experience some uncomfortable days, or worse, lose heat entirely. These tips will help keep your heating system working at its best.
The worst time to get to know your local HVAC team is when your system has failed. Schedule regular maintenance for your system and you'll keep your heating system running smoother, longer, and more efficiently. This will save money both by keeping the furnace or heat pump from drawing more power than it needs to as well as preventing a complete system failure that requires repair or replacement.
A dirty filter will affect the air quality in your home as well as the efficiency and longevity of your heating system. With proper filter replacement, you will enjoy a more healthy environment, a lower energy or heating bill, and longer-lasting equipment.
For the cleanest air in your home, consider adding a UV filter. Learn more about them here.
Today's programmable thermostats can save you money on energy bills and make your home more comfortable. A programmable thermostat can be easy to use, especially devices that work in conjunction with smartphone apps.
If extreme weather or a disaster causes a power outage, waiting on your local power company to restore service would not only be frustrating, but potentially life-threatening. One smart way to prepare is to have a backup power supply ready to use.
There are several routes you can follow in putting a backup power supply system together for your home. In this section, we'll examine your options. For a more in-depth look, check out this buying guide.
With a whole-house generator connected to your home, power outages are much less of a worry. Sometimes called backup generators, they're sized to power all of your home's electrical needs and will come on automatically when the power goes out.
These generators are powered by natural gas or by a large propane tank, so you won't have to worry about acquiring and storing gasoline or refilling the tank.
Portable generators are versatile. You can use them for your camping trip, tailgating, and for emergencies. However, they do have drawbacks such as a limited electrical capacity and fuel supply.
In a pinch, a portable generator is useful for keeping a few lights, appliances, and space heaters on, but probably won't provide the power you need to keep your heat pump or furnace operating. When using portable generators, it's important to keep the exhaust well away from the home and to use carbon monoxide detectors.
These battery storage units are becoming increasingly popular for backup and supplemental power, but their capacity is limited. In order to make use of them, they will need to be recharged through solar panels or other power sources. Currently, they're more expensive than conventional generators.
One of the most important ways to winterize your home is to ensure that the bad weather will stay on the outside. Winterizing your home will prevent ice and water damage as well as keep it a few degrees warmer in your home. Let's start at the top of your home and work our way down.
The roof on your home provides the first line of defense against winter storms. A roof inspection is a smart idea, and it's something you can do yourself. For an in-depth look at inspecting your roof, check out this handy guide.
In summary, any of these problems are a red flag and demand further attention:
Missing or broken shingles can affect the integrity of your roof. If you see any missing, have your roof inspected and repaired.
Get up into your attic or carefully inspect your upper-story ceilings for signs of water damage. Once water enters your home, it can quickly start doing serious damage. This is especially true in the winter months when snow and ice can build up and small leaks can't dry out quickly.
Mold or mildew
Mold or mildew on your roof shingles is a sign that water isn’t draining properly. During the cold winter months, water buildup can freeze and create ice dams that force water under the shingles and into the under layers. Contact us to schedule an in-depth roofing inspection if you suspect mold or mildew forming.
If your gutters don't drain properly, ice and snow can back up on your roof, causing the snow to melt underneath the shingles and leak into your home. Additionally, gutters that don't drain can accumulate ice during ice storms and heavy snowfalls and pull away from the roof. Clean your gutters before winter and make sure they're securely attached.
Poorly insulated and poorly fitted windows and doors can take a big bite out of your heating budget since they're responsible for much of our heating and cooling costs. When you winterize your home, you need to pay close attention so you don't see your energy bills skyrocket. Follow these steps to avoid heat loss.
Inspect your windows
Inspect the caulk and weatherstripping surrounding your windows. If it's cracking or peeling away, or if there are gaps, your windows are not properly insulated. A good solution is to recaulk or add weatherstripping. Even small gaps can result in high energy bills and an uncomfortable house.
Even if you don't detect major problems, an extra layer of insulation can help. Add extra weather stripping and use draft killers like a door sweep at the bottom of entryway doors.
If you have storm windows sitting in the shed, get them out and install them before winter settles in. Don't have storm windows? Consider using plastic film insulation to cover drafty windows. These inexpensive and easy-to-install additions can make a difference in keeping the warmth in and the cold air out.
Storm doors are another excellent way to keep cozy during a cold snap. You can buy storm doors at your local home improvement store or have them installed professionally.
If your home has window wells to let light into basement windows, be sure to cover these before cold temperatures settle in. Cold air descends into low spots, so these window wells are a natural spot for cold air to settle into. Cover these window wells during the cold winter months and your basement will stay warmer.
Is it time to replace your windows?
While you can help eliminate drafts by sealing up your old windows and installing storm windows, upgrading your windows are a better way to go. Newer window models are much more energy-efficient than older models and will help keep heat loss down.
When you're in your home, your appliances shouldn't have any issues with the cold, but if you'll be away for the holidays and you're expecting cold temperatures there are a few steps you can take to protect your investments from freezing up during a power failure.
Preparing your water heater
Turn off the water supply to your home, then turn off the power or gas (depending on the fuel source). Connect a garden hose to the drain at the bottom and drain the water out. When the tank is empty, open several faucets in your home to empty the water lines.
Preparing your washing machine
Turn off the water supply leading to the washer. Then disconnect the hoses from the water supply and drain out any water in the hoses. Tilt the front of the machine back to drain any residual water in the pumps.
We've covered a lot of ground, but properly winterizing your home requires that you check out a few other important items.
If you have a fireplace that you plan to use all winter long, it must be cleaned professionally. Burning wood will cause tar and creosote to build up in the chimney flue, which can cause a potentially dangerous fire. A professional chimney sweep will inspect and prepare your chimney for use during the winter.
These aren't just for the hot summer months. Reverse their direction for the winter so they push warm air down into the room and away from the ceiling. Consider installing them if you don't have ceiling fans already.
Cover or store outdoor furniture to protect it from the elements or to stop it from blowing away during a winter storm. Plus, prune back overhanging branches and have your trees inspected before the winter. There's never a good time to have a tree fall on your home, but during the winter would be even worse.
As we've seen, there are a lot of ways to prepare your home for winter. Do you need a roof inspection? Considering new windows? Need a tune-up for your HVAC system? Interested in finding out how to get a backup generator for your home?
Contact us, our service professionals are happy to answer your questions about these upgrades. Whether it's a small job or a major home improvement project, we have well-trained and professional staff who are ready to take on the job.
If you're in the Dallas Fort Worth area Contact us for all your plumbing, HVAC, roofing, and electrical needs. Remember, estimates are always free!