House covered in snow

Preparing My House for Winter

Winter is Coming.

November rolls in, daylight savings around the corner, and it’s time to make sure that your home is ready for winter.  This month, we have the big winter checklist to prepare your home for the cold months ahead.  Winterizing your house, regardless of whether or not you actively live there, is important.  It can prevent damage, increase energy efficiency, and generally make living in New England winters more comfortable.

  1. Water and ice management:

☐ Detach any hoses from exterior faucets.  Drain and store for winter to prevent damage.

☐ Locate external faucets.  Shut off water at the valve that feeds the external faucet.  Once drained, leave the faucet open for the season to reduce pressure in the pipes.  Optionally cover the faucet with an insulated cover (costs about $5).

☐ Clear out any debris from gutters that might block the flow of water to prevent ice build up that cracks your gutters.

☐ If necessary, attach downspout tubing to reroute the flow of water from your gutters away from walkways or areas where water can pool and form ice slicks.

☐ Get a bag of ice melt or rock salt now before the first storm.

☐ Insulate any exterior piping.

☐ Drain your sprinkler system (if you have one).  Shut off the water line that feeds the sprinkler and then open the drain valve in the valve box.  Open the backflow preventer to drain it.  Downstream of the backflow preventer, pump no greater than 60 psi of air into the piping to force water out of the sprinkler system and out of the drain valve.  If you don’t know how to do this, call someone.

  1. Inspections:

☐ Clean and inspect your chimney prior to the first use.  Ensure that any creosote build-up has been taken care of to avoid fire hazards.  Chimney sweeps book up fast – make sure you schedule an appointment early.

☐ Turn on your furnace and test your thermostat.  Make sure that the furnace fires properly and is clean.  Install a fresh filter and change it every two months during the winter season (clogged and dirty filters reduce efficiency).  If you have an electrostatic filter, you should clean it every month.  Make sure all your heat registers are pushing out heat.

☐ Examine your snow removal equipment. Snow blowers should be checked for any visible defects or issues.  Disconnect the spark plug to ensure it does not start, and then examine the auger paddles for cracks, wear, or other defects.  Behind each paddle, check the shear pin to ensure it’s still there.  Broken or missing shear pins should be replaced with one recommended by the manufacturer to avoid damage to the blower gear box.  Check the shave plate to make sure it is flush with the ground.  Examine any of the belts for tears, cracks, or brittleness and replace them if these are present.  Worn or damaged shave plates should be replaced – this is the part that scrapes the snow off your driveway.  Make sure shovels aren’t worn or have cracked handles.

☐ Check your roof for any broken or missing shingles.  Have them repaired and replaced as needed.  Clear any debris from your roof and trim back any branches that overhang the roof to prevent damage.

  1. Insulate and cover:

☐ If you have any walls (especially exterior walls) that have poor insulation, consider sealing electrical outlets.  Outlets that are not installed properly can have gaps around the outlet housing that leak air.  You can seal these gaps with insulating foam or by purchasing “socket sealers” that can be installed around the face plate of outlets and switches.

☐ Check exterior doors and windows for cracks and poor sealing to the outside. Windows can be caulked to seal out cold air on the exterior, in addition to adding weather stripping or a full plastic sheet covering on the interior. Add weather stripping to any door that may need it to seal the drafts.

☐ Ensure that you have an insulating cover for your attic hatch.  If your attic does not have insulation at all, you may want to consider getting batt insulation and laying it in the floor joists to insulate the rest of the house.  You will lose heat through the ceiling of your top floor into the attic

☐ If you have outdoor plants and bushes, you may want to consider installing burlap wrapping to prevent frost buildup, or a rigid cover to prevent snow and ice buildup.

Not everything on this list will need to be done every year.  Installing batted insulation in the attic, for example, may only need to be done once.  Keeping up with the yearly tasks though will ensure that you’re not caught with a problem when it’s already freezing out.  No one wants their heat to shut down in the middle of a blizzard.

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