Winterize Your Home

November 29, 2020

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Winter storms caused $2.1 billion in insured losses in 2019.” By heeding the following suggestions now to winterize your home, you may avoid costly and time-consuming remedies later, enjoy a safe and warm winter, and conserve energy consumption while saving on your electric bill.

Protect Your Pipes

  • Drain your outside hose spigots if you live where pipes can freeze. Insulate pipes that could be susceptible to freezing. When freezing temperatures are forecasted, keep a stream of water running in a few faucets to prevent freezing and bursting.
  • Drain garden hoses and store them inside. Also shut off outdoor water valves and insulate faucets in cold weather. Any water left in exterior pipes and faucets can freeze and expand, breaking the pipes.
  • Consider installing an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This measure will protect against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can prevent them from bursting. Act now to learn how to shut off the water and know where your pipes are located before an emergency.
  • By insulating your hot-water pipes, you’ll reduce heat loss and save energy and money. Insulation will help keep water hot inside pipes, so your water heater won’t have to work so hard. Also, you won’t have to waste as much time or water waiting for hot water to flow out of the faucet or showerhead.
  • If you vacate your house for an extended period this winter, turn the water off completely and consider draining the plumbing system to keep pipes from freezing. Also, have a friend or neighbor check on your home regularly to look for any issues and let you know if a problem is detected.

Weatherproof Your Home

  • Weatherstripping or installing storm doors and windows will prevent cold air from entering your home or heat from escaping it, which will reduce your power bills.
  • Check your fireplace for animal nests or creosote buildup that can be hazardous. Have an annual inspection before building your first fire of the season. Also, soot and other debris build up in the chimney. Call a chimney sweep to thoroughly clean the chimney before your first winter use. You should also vacuum or sweep out any accumulated ash from the firebox.
  • Caulk around windows and use foam outlet protectors to prevent cold air from entering your home. However, the majority of heat loss typically occurs via openings in the attic. Check to make sure that you have sufficient insulation.
  • Adjust your thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy reports you can save as much as 1 percent on your energy bill for every degree you lower your home’s temperature during the winter. Set your thermostat for at least 65 degrees and make sure your home is well-insulated.
  •  Install a programmable thermostat and save money by keeping the temperature adjusted when you’re not at home.
  • Place draft guards by doors in drafty rooms to prevent heat loss.
  • To help keep chilly air from leaking in through window cracks, use thermal lined curtains. They’ll help keep your home warm and lower your heating bill. For windows that don’t get direct sunlight, keep curtains closed to keep out cold air and to keep in warm air.
  • Install window insulation film that can keep up to 70 percent of heat from leaking out of the windows.
  • For maximum heat retention, pack fiberglass insulation around basement doors, windows in unused rooms, attic floors, and window air conditioning units.
  • Fill with caulk any remaining gaps in siding, windows, or doors. For extra drafty windows and doors, caulk the inside too, pulling off moldings to fill all gaps in the insulation. 

Protect Your Plants and Outdoor Equipment

  • Bring plants and flowering trees inside before the first cold snap. Typically, you should bring your plants in before temperatures dip below 45 degrees.
  • Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can damage outdoor furniture and grills. If possible, store them in the garage or basement. If you have a gas grill with a propane tank, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank first. It must be stored outside. If you don’t have storage space for your items, purchase covers to protect them from the elements. You also need to maintain your grill and cover it before putting it away for the season.
  • Clean and maintain outdoor power tools such as mowers and string trimmers prior to storing. If you have a snow blower, inspect it before the first snowfall.
  • Examine your pool cover for damage and replace it if needed.
  • Weather-strip your garage door. Make sure the seal between your garage door and the ground is tight to prevent drafts and keep out small animals.
  • Inspect your driveway for cracks. Clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer.
  • Keep driveways and sidewalks clear of ice and snow and repair any faulty steps and handrails.

Save on Your Energy Bills

  • Call your local power company to see if energy saving assessments are offered. It’s often a free service where a representative will identify specific changes to make your home more energy efficient and save you money. LED light bulbs and water heater blankets can also make a difference.

Service Your HVAC System

  • Your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system will function more efficiently with a clean filter. A dirty filter with trapped lint, pollen and dust obstructs airflow and makes your HVAC system run longer to heat your home. You may need to replace filters at least every three months.
  • Adjust your ceiling fans to move in a clockwise direction so they push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor. 

Check Your Roof and Gutters

  • Inspect your roof. Look for broken, frayed, curled or missing shingles; clogged valleys; damaged flashing; or deterioration.
  • Clear leaves, pine needles, dirt, and other accumulated debris from the roof.
  • Cut back overhanging branches to prevent damage to shingles and gutters.
  • To prevent clogging, inspect and clean the gutters of leaves and other debris. Having clean gutters will also allow melting snow to drain properly.
  • Install snow guards.
  • Check the attic and ceilings for staining from water leakage. While you’re up there, make sure the attic is properly ventilated to prevent mold and mildew.
  • If you live in an area that is prone to snow, keep a snow roof rake handy.
  • Make sure that water can flow freely through your gutters now to help prevent icicles and ice dams from forming later. 

Flush Your Water Heater

  • Particles and sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out the material and keep your heater functioning at its best. 

Test Your Detectors

  • Residential fires are more common in winter, so it is important that all of your smoke detectors work. Check them monthly and replace batteries as needed. You should also consider installing a carbon monoxide detector to avoid inadvertently trapping this toxic gas in your home.

Most homeowners insurance policies cover damages due to extreme winter weather, but make sure you speak with your independent agent to answer any questions you have about your specific homeowners, condo, or renters insurance policy. Keep a record of all your winterizing activities and your insurance policies at You’ll then be prepared to take on weather-related challenges that come blowing your way this winter.

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