Whether you're a fan of winter or simply accept it as a four-month period of perpetual chills, as a property owner, it's important to prepare your home for the cold weather months each year. Here are seven key steps to winterizing your home you don't want to skimp on. You may be able to tackle most of these yourself, but some may require the help of a professional.
1. Clean out your gutters
Having clear gutters is imperative as we head into winter. If water can't flow freely, you could run into trouble when a snowstorm hits. The ideal time to clean out your gutters is right when the trees surrounding your property are newly bare, since not only are your gutters likely to be filled with leaves and other debris, but you won't have to repeat the process several weeks later.
Gutter cleaning isn't particularly difficult, but it can be hazardous, requiring you to climb (and stay on) a ladder. If you're not keen on that idea, hire a gutter cleaning service. It'll cost you more, but your safety comes first.
2. Insulate your pipes
Insulating your hot water pipes will help water flow freely through your home and potentially save on utility costs. Pipe insulation comes in two basic forms: foam sleeves you can slip onto pipes and insulated wraps you wind around pipes. The work may be a bit tedious, but it isn't particularly difficult. However, if you have hard-to-reach piping you want insulated, you may want to call a plumber to help.
3. Clean out your fireplace and chimney
Soot buildup in your fireplace can be dangerous, so before winter kicks into gear, be sure to thoroughly clean it along with your chimney. You can do this job yourself, but it could get messy, and it needs to be done right to avoid a fire hazard, so calling a contractor may be your best bet.
4. Install a programmable thermostat
With a programmable thermostat, you can customize your heat settings so you're not wasting energy while sleeping or out of the house. If you're reasonably handy, you can install a programmable thermostat yourself, but if you're worried about disconnecting your old unit and putting your new one in correctly, it could pay to call an electrician.
5. Shut down your sprinkler system
You rely on your sprinkler system to keep your landscaping lush, so properly draining it before winter is extremely important. If you don't, excess water left in your system could freeze when the temperature drops, causing damage. Though it's possible to shut down your sprinklers yourself, you may want to hire a service to ensure the job is done thoroughly.
6. Insulate your windows
If your windows aren't energy-efficient, you'll not only spend more on heating during winter, but you'll risk being less comfortable. The good news is that there are several do-it-yourself options for insulating windows. First, you can buy low-cost insulation film and place it over your windows to prevent heat loss. Next, you can seal your windows with weather-stripping tape. Finally, you can fill gaps with caulk to prevent warm air from escaping.
7. Replace your heating system's filter
A clogged, dirty filter will restrict airflow and make your heating system run less efficiently. Replacing your system's filter will help ensure your system runs optimally. It's also a good idea to have your heating system professionally inspected before you need to use it. That way, any problems can be addressed before temperatures plummet.
The bottom line
The more thorough you are in preparing your home for winter, the less you'll have to worry about energy waste, uncomfortable drafts, and unanticipated damage. These steps will help you coast through winter as a homeowner -- and help you avoid potential stress along the way.