How to Prepare Your Home For Winter
It’s getting cold outside, but you don’t have to be cold inside. This time of year is perfect for preparing your home for winter. By taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that your home will stay warm and your heating bills will stay low this season. Check out these tips!
Set Your Thermostat to Savings
One degree on your thermostat can be equal to one (or more) percent on your heating bill, so set your thermostat to a comfortable, but low temperature to save a little extra cash. By doing this, you could save up to 10 percent on your bill in a year. You can save even more by setting the temperature a few degrees lower when you will be out of the house or when you will be asleep.
Programmable thermostats allow you to make these adjustments easily, even when you aren’t at home. A programmable system enables you to create a pre-set schedule for your heater, automatically adjusting to the temperature of your preference at the time you select. These settings can be manually changed without affecting the rest of the schedule you have saved, so if you planned on going out and decided to stay in for the evening you can still be warm and toasty. When you do go out, your system returns the temperature to normal before you arrive at home.
Though some believe that it takes more energy to warm a space back up if the thermostat is turned down during the times no one is home, this is a misconception. In actuality, the longer your thermostat is set to a lower temperature, the slower the heat loss.
Replace Your Air Filter
Replacing your air filter regularly is a great way to prevent your HVAC unit overheating. Though air filters are easily forgotten, changing them often could save up to 10 percent every year and extend the life of your unit. Changing out air filters is important because the use of a dirty filter can increase air pollution in your home and can cause issues that prevent your heating and cooling unit from performing adequately.
The time to change your air filter can vary, as it is dependent oh things like the size of the filter, whether or not you have pets in your home, if you are a smoker or if you leave windows and doors open often. As a general rule, however, you should change your filter every three months.
The air filter is located right next to your furnace or air handler. There may be a removable cover on the filter, but the filter inside and will slide out.Filter come in all different sizes, but the most common width is one inch. You can check the size of your filter by reading the print on its side, or by measuring if it is not labelled.
Don't Forget Your Furnace
Scheduling a routine maintenance check for your furnace is a good idea as you move closer to the season when you most rely on it. This allows you to detect and solve and problems before the weather changes.
Maintenance can help to save you money by prolonging the life of your system. By preventing a malfunction when you need your furnace most, a check-up for your furnace can ensure that you'll be comfortable all winter long.
Maintenance includes checking electrical connections, inspecting and cleaning the condensate drain and lubricating moving parts. New heating and air conditioning units will require regular maintenance, too, so it's important to take care of them just as you would an older unit.
This procedure can detect a carbon monoxide leak, which may often go unnoticed due to the odorless, colorless nature of the gas. Carbon monoxide exposure can be very serious, causing headaches, nausea, or even death. Because this can be so dangerous, it is recommended that you install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home.
Check Seals Around Windows and Doors
Despite your efforts to heat your home in a cost-effective way, a drafty door or window will lower temperatures and raise the bills. Keep your heat in your home by visually checking the seals around your doors and windows for air leaks. You can also check the exterior seals by walking around your home to make sure the caulking is still intact and that there are no visible gaps or cracks. In addition to windows and doors, areas where the siding or brick meets the foundation should be checked. If the caulk requires replacement, do so as necessary, but only around stationary components. Caulk should not be applied over mildew, mold, or moisture. Caulk usually takes around 24 hours to cure, and sometimes needs to be applied twice as it shrinks when it dries. If maintained properly, it can remain durable for ten years or more.
If you're looking to solve problems on the inside of your home, there are solutions for that, too. One easy and effective window treatment for the inside the home consists of a clear plastic window covering. This covering is mounted to the frame of the window, stretched out, and sealed off with tape for a quick and easy fix.
If you're losing heat in areas with moving components, Weatherstripping is a great option. The weatherstripping should still allow for movement, so your windows and doors open easily. Choose a specific product for each location and choose a material that suits it. For example, metal, vinyl, felt or foam. Each type has its benefits, but it is important to use what is most appropriate for your project in particular. Metal is durable and is generally used as reinforcement of other types of weatherstripping. Vinyl is more expensive, but is resistant to moisture. Felt is cheaper, but isn't weatherproof. Foam is also cheaper, but is not the most durable.
Protect Your Pipes
Freezing temperatures can cause unprotected water lines to freeze, creating a big mess and costly damage if they burst. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways you can protect your pipes and prevent a catastrophe. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not ice expanding in the pipe that causes it to burst, it’s the pressure that builds up between the faucet and the frozen point. When the pressure builds up enough, the pipes can burst, and thousands of gallons of water could pour from the pipe before the leak is even noticed.
In order to prevent a pipe burst, there are a few steps you can take. First, insulate pipes in unheated areas like crawl spaces, the attic and the garage. To insulate pipes in these areas, wrap them in newspaper or cover them with foam insulating sleeves.
If your water lines run through your garage or the exterior wall that connects to it, closing your garage door on cold days adds extra protection from the cold and the wind.
On days or nights when the temperature will be especially low, leave the cabinet doors under your sinks open and let water drip from the faucets. Though it may seem crazy, this allows warm air to circulate around the pipes, preventing freezing. The dripping water prevents the build-up of pressure in the lines.
If you’ll be away from home for an extended period of time, you shouldn't set your thermostat lower than 55 degrees. You can also turn off your main water supply and open each faucet to drain water from the pipes.
For additional protection, hire a professional plumber to install heat tape or a water pipe heater. These apply heat directly to your water lines to help prevent freezing. A plumber can also re-route your supply lines and water pipes away from unheated areas of your home, like the garage and exterior walls.
What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze
When you discover a frozen pipe, shut-off the main valve for your water. This limits the amount of water that could leak if the pipe breaks. The next step is to call a professional plumber to help you thaw the water lines safely. You should be cautious of water leaking from the thawing pipes near electrical wiring and appliances, as water and electricity is a dangerous mix.
Do not attempt to thaw your pipes with items such as an open flame, blow torch, or heat lamp. These could cause a fire, electrocution, or even an explosion from a build-up of steam pressure. If a water pipe does burst, call a professional plumbing service as soon as possible.
Winterize Your Sprinkler System
The winterization process removes water from your lines and equipment. This is an essential element of sprinkler system maintenance. Skipping this step can result in broken or cracked pipes, valves, pumps, sprinklers, fittings and costly repairs.
Just because your sprinkler system runs underground, that doesn't make it immune to freezing. It's important to remove water from those underground lines because, when the ground freezes, water in the lines will also freeze and expand, causing damage to your system. The process of freezing, thawing and refreezing puts pressure on pipes, valves and other parts of the system, until eventually, they break.
Different methods of winterization are available for different types of sprinklers. Because of potential risk factors involved, we recommend that you let a professional handle this process.