How to Winterize Your Home

  • Cold Calling

    With Halloween approaching and Thanksgiving not far behind, homeowners need to start preparing their houses for winter weather. After all, advance preparations can save money, preserve energy and increase safety as you transition into the winter months.To help you and your home weather the inevitable storms, MainStreet consulted the experts to find out what homeowners should do before the temperature drops drastically.   Photo Credit:  Kevin Dooley
    Clear downspouts and gutters.
  • Clear downspouts and gutters.

    Avoid basement flooding and deterioration of the foundation by cleaning gutter channels and clearing downspouts of debris. Additionally, any deteriorating/broken gutters or downspouts should be replaced before the weather gets too bad. “When winterizing your home, the exterior of your house is the most important,” Erik Reichelt, who runs Delaware’s extension of the handyman service House Doctors, says, explaining that a clogged, broken gutter can do significant damage to your roof, which is your first line of defense. Photo Credit: Freewine
    Protect your pipes.
  • Protect your pipes.

    Water lines are typically only six to eight inches below ground and, as such, are prone to freezing. “Frozen or burst pipes are among a homeowner's worst nightmares,” Reichelt warns. He suggests that homeowners add insulation to pipes in unheated areas, which reduces heat loss from hot water pipes, minimizes condensation on cold water pipes and subsequently prevents disasters. A burst pipe, Reichelt points out, could flood more than just your basement.   Photo Credit: Cha Gia Jose
    Check the Septic Tank.
  • Check the Septic Tank.

    Homeowners with septic tanks should think about pumping them before the cold winter weather causes the ground to freeze and snow covers your front yard. According to Reichelt, fixing a broken septic tank can cost homeowners between $200 and $300. However, he says “I’ve seen it double, if not more, when people need to have it fixed [in the winter months].” Generally speaking, septic tanks should be checked once every year and cleaned no less than once every three years. Photo Credit: princess_bleck
    Change your furnace filters.
  • Change your furnace filters.

    If the furnace filters are clogged, the heater’s blower motor works overtime, which can at the least cost you money or, worse, pose a safety hazard. Mike Faulconer, certified home inspector with  HomeTeam Inspection Service in Kansas City, suggests that homeowners change their own filters on a monthly basis.   You can buy the filters at most hardware stores or from online retailers. Amazon, for example, sells them for around $70 to $100, depending on the size of your furnace.   Photo Credit: G & A Satler
    Install programmable thermostats.
  • Install programmable thermostats.

    A programmable thermostat allows you to set specific temperatures for specific times of day. For example, you can program the heat to lower while you’re at work and then rise as five o’clock approaches. This will ensure that you return to a warm home without requiring that you heat it while you’re gone. “It’s one of the cheapest ways to reduce your utility bill,” Faulconer says, adding that the installation can reduce monthly payments by 20% to 25%. Moreover, most homeowners can install the thermostats on their own, reducing the cost of the installation to the $50 price of the hardware. Photo Credit: Mick Wright
    Insulate your attic.
  • Insulate your attic.

    Seventy percent of all heat lost escapes through the attic, Faulconer says. This is unfortunate, but insulating an attic is costly. Contractors can charge as much as $1000 for the project, depending on the size of the home. However, homeowners should consider it an investment because it can lower your utility bill significantly. According to Faulconer, most attics have three to four inches of insulation in their walls. Contractors use 12 inches of fiberglass or eight inches of cellulose to adequately trap the heat. Photo Credit:   mskogly
    Caulk your airways.
  • Caulk your airways.

    Faulconer explains that, on average, each home has six square feet of unintended air paths that are open to the outside. Fortunately, there are many small DIY fixes homeowners can use to cover up smaller airways. The obvious weapon of choice when it comes to filling small cracks is a caulking gun. To find cracks to caulk, Reichhelt suggests placing a dollar bill between the door and the jamb or the window sash and sill. With the door or window closed, attempt to remove the bill. If it slides out easily, you're losing energy. Photo Credit: aplumb
    Pad your light switches.
  • Pad your light switches.

    One entrance way for cold air lies behind lights switches and electrical outlets. Fortunately, these commonly overlooked air paths are easily insulated. Hardware stores sell foam insulating gaskets, such as this one which retails online for $4.95. According to Faulconer, the gaskets, which allows you to create a tight seal between the wall and the faceplate without altering the appearance of the socket, can reduce your utility bill by 10% to 15%. Photo Credit: krossbow
    Adjust your ceiling fans.
  • Adjust your ceiling fans.

    In the winter months, you should reset ceiling fans so that they rotate clockwise. You can then use them to circulate the hot air that has risen to the top of a room, which may eliminate your having to raise the thermostat a few notches. This in turn can save you a few bucks. Photo Credit: zoenet
    10 Risky Home Improvements
  • 10 Risky Home Improvements

    If you plan on selling your home, there are a few improvements you should specifically avoid. MainStreet breaks 10 of them down in this article about risky home improvements. Photo Credit:  robotchanter
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