After a beautiful fall, I thinks it’s safe to say that winter might actually be here now, even if not officially. While it was little more than a week ago that I was working outside in just a t-shirt, now my wife simply can’t get warm inside, under a blanket, with a hoodie on (she’s naturally cold, I’m not that cheap with the thermostat). While I happen to enjoy most of winter, there are a few things that could really ruin it. Conversely, there a few things that can make it a lot more bearable as well.
While winter is what we get to deal with for living here, there are a few ways that you can make sure your home is ready for winter. Even if you rent rather than own your home, you can still take care of most of these items and discuss the rest with your landlord. In short, do it now before you hit a crisis or it’s simply too cold to take care of.
So without further ado, here are 7 points for you to check before we get too deep into winter:
Window/Door Leaks –
As much as I like winter, the cold belongs outside and the warm belongs inside. If you have poor door or window seals, those two could be reversed. Ok, so you aren’t going to warm up the outside, but it will definitely be cooler inside. Working particularly well on a windier day, go around to your doors and windows with a tissue held just by the corner. (A candle flame works even better, but then there’s the safety issue.) When the tissue moves, you have cold air entering your home.
Upon finding those air leaks, you have a couple of options depending on the location. For doors that need to be opened, better weather stripping or a sweep at the bottom of the door can make a difference. For windows, better weather stripping or placing plastic over the windows will help keep the cold air out. And just in case, make sure they are actually closed all of the way (true story, won’t go there).
Attic Insulation –
You’ll probably need a very technical piece of equipment for this one – a ladder. Just like we put a hat or hood on to keep our selves warm, the attic insulation can be a primary cure for a cold house. Think back to elementary school science class. Cold air is more dense and so falls to the lowest point. Following the same rules of physics, heat _____________ . That’s right, heat rises. Attic insulation is the stocking cap that keeps that heat in your home.
You can certainly find someone to put more insulation in for you, but it can easily be done by yourself as well. You can buy bats of insulation to simply roll out or you can use loose blow-in insulation. Often times, if you buy a certain amount of insulation, the store will loan you the machine to blow it in for free. Saving money on heat and equipment rental – NICE!
Furnace Condition –
This is probably one you will have to call someone in whether you own or rent your home. Call an expert. Aside from not heating the house well, a poorly functioning furnace can release carbon monoxide into your home. I could go into a lot more detail, but I’ll just assure you carbon monoxide is called “The Silent Killer” for good reason and leave it at that.
Call a professional. Follow their recommendations. ‘Nuff said.
Clean Gutters –
I know, snow doesn’t really go down the gutters. But when it melts to water it will….. or should. If your gutters are clogged, however, the water will go one of two places. It will either go over the top of your gutters to fall right next to the foundation of your house putting it that much closer to your basement, or it will back up on the roof and refreeze exacerbating an ice dam that can force water under your shingles and again into your home.
Get them cleaned out early. If icing is really an issue, you can even get some electrical cord-type contraptions that will keep the roof a little warmer and keep the ice from backing up. But if you have a particularly steep or high roof, aren’t steady on your feet, or just aren’t comfortable up there, get someone else to help with the gutters. You won’t care about the ice building up if you are in long-term rehab due to a fall.
Ice Melt –
If it’s icy, someone is going to fall. So unless you don’t like that person, you are going to want to put down some ice melt. By the way, if they do go down and get hurt, your homeowner’s insurance covers their medical bills after you pay the deductible. But I guess that’s karma if you left the ice just for them.
It never fails that you cannot find a single bag of ice melt in town once the meteorologists predict the first ice storm. Instead, just buy a little bag ahead of time so that you are ready and don’t have to cross the ice just to get some ice melt. Forget karma, that’s irony.
Hose Disconnect –
So there was this one time that my wife thought I was running the utility sink downstairs when in fact I was outside doing some spring cleaning with the hose. The noise in the basement was water cascading down some shelves after it leaked from a cracked pipe right inside of the faucet. Spring cleaning ended up involving carpet cleaners and a newly sheet rocked basement ceiling.
Now I will say I had my hose disconnected, but it still happened. You can greatly reduce your chances of your outside spigots freezing and cracking if you simply disconnect the hoses outside so that the water can drain out. This is perhaps the easiest item to fix on this list.
So there you have it. Seven easy checks to make sure your home is ready for winter.
Just in case you don’t get through this list and need to figure out how to pay the higher heat bill, insurance deductible, or remodeling costs, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help you work through a budget. It probably won’t be quite as easy as just unhooking your hoses, but at least you won’t be doing it alone. You can schedule an appointment online or by calling us at 605-330-2700.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalimages.net