Your Home’s Winter Checklist

Nov 28 2016

Minnesota’s winters are known to be quite harsh. Give your home a proper walk-through with this winter checklist to make sure it’s prepared to take on winter with you. By being proactive during this time you can lower your energy bills, increase the efficiency of your home’s HVAC systems, and even make your property safer. Know where to look for places you could be losing heat, and learn what you can do to keep the heat in and the cold out.

Windows and Doors

One of the more common places your home can lose heat is through cracks in your windows or doors. In fact, you could be losing 16% of your home’s heat. If you feel cold when next to a window, it may be a sign that there are a few things you should do this winter to keep the warm air in.

  • Check all the weatherstripping around windows and door frames for leaks to prevent heat loss. If it looks bent or cracked or you can see light peeking through when the door is closed, replace it.
  • Replace all screen doors with storm doors. A storm door is an extra door, usually a glass door that is installed as a second door outside your front door. If you have a screen storm door, you may want to consider replacing it with a glass one to combat Minnesota’s cold winters.
  • Replace all window screens with storm windows. Much like a storm door, a storm window is an extra pane of glass that is installed outside your currently installed windows. If you don’t want to invest in storm windows, a quick fix is to use a DIY window insulation kit.
  • Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity and keep cold breezes out. If you notice mold in your window frames, it’s best to leave it to a professional so it doesn’t grow back.
  • Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping. You can detect drafts more than just by staying close to the window. Light passing through a crack in the window frame is also a good sign you have a draft.
  • Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.

A man applying a storm window over his window.

HVAC System, Chimney, and Fireplace

  • Have your fireplace and chimney inspected once a year. This can help prevent an accidental fireplace fire and make sure your chimney is properly ventilating your home after you’ve used the fireplace.
  • Check your fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a chimney balloon into the flue to seal the area tightly, as well.
  • Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality. This should be done once every few months. If not, your furnace may be working harder than it has to in order to provide warm air throughout your home.
  • Clean your whole-house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad. This should be done annually. You can check your system’s instruction manual to learn how to do it for your specific system.
  • Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators. This increases heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
  • Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. If you don’t remember the last time you replaced the batteries in your smoke detector, it may be beneficial to replace them even if they aren’t out of charge to keep your smoke alarm working all season long.
  • Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners to prevent drafts.
  • If you have an older thermostat, replace it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs. Some thermostats offer different settings, like automatically changing the temperature during the day or night, making it much easier to save money on your energy bill.
  • Make sure fans are switched to run reverse or clockwise. This will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.
  • Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and use a sealant to plug up any leaks. You can also use this opportunity to check the insulation in your attic too.

Water Heaters and Other Appliances

Don’t get caught without hot water this season. There are a few things you should be doing with your water heater to make sure you won’t find yourself without hot water in the middle of winter.

  • Flush your hot water heater tank to remove sediment. Not only does this keep your water heater working better longer, it can also keep your water cleaner too.
  • Check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order. Water pressure that’s too low or too high may be a sign that something’s wrong with the valve.
  • Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.
  • Gutters, Roof, and Drains

    Not preparing your roof for the colder weather can mean a leaky roof, which can later lead to massive water damage and mold.

    • Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles. Make sure to replace as necessary before you get stuck with a leaky roof.
    • Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
    • Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house.
    • Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
    • Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.
    • Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.
    • Check for ice dams. An ice dam is more likely to form on your roof if the temperature fluctuates from warm to cold rapidly. You can learn more about how ice dams form on your roof and how you can prevent them. If you do see an ice dam forming on your roof, leave it to a professional to remove it.

    Big icicles hanging from a roof that could be an indication of an ice dam.

    On the Road

    Your car should be prepared for winter too, not just your home. Here are a few quick things to check and prepare for your car.

    • Check your car’s antifreeze. Antifreeze keeps your car running smoothly, regardless of whether it’s extremely cold or extremely hot. In fact, you should check your car’s antifreeze at least twice a year: once in the summer and once in the winter.
    • Get your vehicle’s battery tested. The cold weather may affect your car’s battery, so check your battery and all the connections to make sure your car properly starts all season long.
    • Remember to keep the gas tank near full to avoid freezing water in the fuel line. It’s also important to keep your tank at least half full so you’re prepared in case of an emergency.
    • Check tires and spare tire for proper inflation. Your tire pressure may fluctuate throughout the season because of the temperature change, so check your tires all winter long.
    • Pack a winter emergency kit in your car. This is different than preparing an emergency kit for your home.

    Once completing this checklist your home should be prepared for winter. If you want more tips on what you can have in your home during a bad winter storm, check out our post on how to protect your home from harsh winter storms.

    Need Help?

    If you found that you are too late and have experienced some issues around the house give us a call! We can help with any water damage or mold as a result of a particularly nasty winter storm. Rapid Restoration offers 24-hour emergency services, plus we can do it all, from mediation to reconstruction to make sure your home stays winter-proof all season long. Contact us at 612-999-1806.

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