As a homeowner or renter, you know that cooler temperatures bring changes to your home and, consequently, your heating bill. Learn how to winterize your house to protect it from the elements and trim your winter heating costs.
The best time to start winterizing is before winter weather arrives. A broken furnace or freezing pipes are doubly daunting when you're dealing with cold or snow. While winterizing your home can help prevent some of these cold weather hazards, the right home insurance policy can protect your home year-round. Certain home insurance policies may even cover damages from the weight of ice or snow and the freezing of household systems.
Take these steps to prepare the inside and outside of your home for a warm and comfortable winter season. As an added benefit, many of these home winterization changes can help you save energy and reduce your winter heating bill. We’ve created a home winterization checklist and visual guide to help make prepping your house simpler.
Winterize your home sooner rather than later to avoid doing outdoor work in cold weather. While it seems like a lot of work to prepare your house for winter, taking the right measures ahead of time can save you a lot of stress and money later on.
Even if you don’t live in an area prone to freezing temperatures, the occasional cold front can threaten your pipe systems. Exposed pipes — like those in your attic or garage — are especially at risk and may require special insulation. You can purchase “pipe sleeves” or even use newspaper for a short term fix to help prevent pipes from freezing or bursting. Other less-eco-friendly solutions include allowing water to drip during cold snaps or heating uninsulated areas.
Cracks around windows and doors can allow warm air to escape and cooler air to enter your home. Luckily, there are a few ways to reduce the amount of cool air that enters via your windows. You can either purchase energy-efficient window coverings or drapes to reduce the draft or install insulating films to your window frames. Also try sealing windows and doors with caulking or weather-proof strips to prevent leaks. Larger investments include installing double-pane windows to increase energy efficiency.
Schedule a roof inspection ahead of time or safely check it out yourself to look for any problem areas. Missing shingles or clogged gutters may leave you vulnerable to damage during winter weather months from leaks or the weight of snow.
If you plan on stringing up holiday lights outdoors, look into using energy-efficient LED lights to help reduce your energy bill. LED lights are longer-lasting, safer and more durable than regular incandescent glass bulbs, meaning they should withstand the elements better. Consider using these lights indoors on your holiday tree or as recess lighting in your home.
Winterize your sprinkler system by shutting off the water supply before freezing temperatures arrive. Drain the pipes to help prevent them from freezing during cold snaps. Disconnect any outside hoses from the spout and shut off water to those sources. If you have a pool or outdoor water feature, take steps to drain and protect them as well.
If temperatures drop below 45 degrees, bring small plants indoors. For larger plants and trees, take extra steps to protect them during cooler weather. Wrap tree trunks with protective paper wrapping to prevent freezing and add mulch around plants to help regulate the temperature. For light freezes, cover outdoor plants with blankets overnight to protect them. Just be sure to remove blankets first thing in the morning to prevent condensation build-up.
Protect your outdoor furniture and appliances by moving them into your garage or basement, if possible. Clean and disconnect your gas grills before moving them inside so that they are stored safely. This should also help prevent wildlife from nesting inside your appliances. If storing furniture and grills inside isn’t an option, purchase covers to protect them outdoors.
Before you pull out the box of holiday decorations, take some time to make simple changes inside your home to prepare for winter weather. Many of these changes will also reduce your energy bill and cut costs in surprising ways.
Schedule your furnace or heating system to be serviced before the winter season. Replace your filter monthly to reduce energy costs and keep your system running smoothly. Consider installing a new programmable thermostat to allow you to adjust or schedule temperatures and save on your energy bill.
A simple way to reduce heating costs and energy use is to let your ceiling fans do the work. In winter months, set them to rotate in a clockwise direction to spread warm air near the ceiling down into the room.
During the day, let the sunshine and heat in from doors and windows on the south side of your house. This is a natural way to heat your home using daylight, meaning your heating system won’t have to work as hard. At night, close the blinds or curtains to limit any draft that may come through.
This may be bad news for people who prefer warmer temperatures indoors, but keeping it cooler in your home during the winter months can trim your heating costs. Adjusting the thermostat down by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours — while you’re at work, for instance — can save around 10% on your heating and cooling bills annually. While you’re at home, try to decrease the temperature to a point where you and your family are comfortable and rely on blankets for extra warmth.
Fireplaces provide another route for cool air to get inside your home. For safety, have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned before you start using them regularly. When you aren’t using your fireplace, keep the damper closed to keep warm air from escaping. Install glass doors around the fireplace opening to reduce heat loss and keep cool air out. You may also want to caulk around the hearth to seal up any leaks.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your energy bill is lowering the temperature on your water heater. In fact, water heating accounts for 18% of your home’s energy use. Lower the temperature or use a water heater blanket to reduce your energy bill.
Prepare for any winter weather emergencies by stocking up on snow shovels, batteries, cases of water and non-perishable food. Candles and flashlights are also good items to keep on hand in case you need to use them.