Cooler temperatures, gusty winds, and changing leaves mean a beautiful October is in full bloom. Which can only lead in one direction: winter.
Last winter, western Michigan saw a very atypical season, where the number of days with a high temperature below 20 degrees far surpassed the decade of winters before — and all before February.
Only time will tell if this winter brings the same, but one thing’s certain year after year: in between the apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes, and leaf piling, fall is the opportune time to get proactive in preparing for winter in and around your home.
A winter preparation checklist
Before everyone packs up the yard tools and heads back indoors, we urge you to consider this list of winter preparation steps:
- Prevent icicles and ice dams. Those shiny icicles are both dangerous and costly. Icicles are a sure sign of air leaks and inadequate insulation, and can lead to ice dams that backup and cause water to flow into your home. There are a host of steps you can take to prevent icicles and ice dams, but it’s also worth investing in a home energy audit to see where existing leaks lie and are hurting you most.
- Inspect the roof. Climb on up, or inspect it closely with binoculars. What you’re looking for: loose or missing shingles, leaks around skylights or vents, and flashing on the chimney. You’ll want to seal any joints and replace loose shingles where water could likely penetrate.
- Gutter cleanout. Trust us, it’s worth the time. Cleaning out leaves, branches, and any other debris stored up in your gutters keeps them clear to drain water in the wet season. Also check your downspout — is it safely diverted away from the house, at least 3-4 feet? And finally, add support or replace any droopy gutters that are at risk of being knocked down by heavy snow.
- Outdoor plumbing. Turn off and drain exterior faucets to avoid stored water freezing, expanding, and causing pipes to burst — a costly venture you can avoid. For older homes without frost-proof faucets, turn off the shut-off valve inside. Lastly, detach hoses and store them inside to prevent cracks and prolong their life.
- Stow the mow + prep the snowblower. Swap the outdoor tools. Add to the longevity of your mower by cleaning off mud, leaves, and grass, then stowing away in a dry place. It’s the snowblower’s turn in the limelight. Change the oil and replace spark plug on snowblower, and make it easily accessible.
- Check outdoor lights + handrails. It won’t be long before we leave for and come home from work in the dark. Now’s the time to check your outdoor lights and make sure all handrails are sturdy for the dark, icy mornings and nights ahead.
- 1. HVAC tune up. Your HVAC system is your best friend when it comes to keeping your home comfortable this winter. Let’s make sure it’s in good working order. Hire a technician to do an annual check (fall’s a good time!) In the meantime, here are a few things you can tackle: change the air filter in your furnace, replace the evaporator pad in your whole-house humidifier, remove window air conditioners or cover them with insulated liners, and check outlets and switch plates for potential air leaks. If you don’t already have one, consider installing a programmable thermostat to save on overall energy use.
- Insulate. Testing your HVAC system will likely lead to identifying where heat loss is occurring in your home. The best thing you can do? Insulate to
keep the weather outdoors. Whether it’s the attic, exterior wall, floor, or crawlspace, insulation pairs with air sealing to keep you cozy inside.
- Reverse your ceiling fans. Make your ceiling fans work all year round. In the winter, reverse the blades to run clockwise in order to blow warm air down into the room.
- Repair leaks around windows and doors. Last month, we talked about stopping drafts to save cash. Your windows and doors are likely culprits for those pesky drafts. This fall, inspect your windows and doors for loose or missing weatherstripping, under-door drafts, and cracks in wood frames. Replace screens with storm doors and windows. Caulk, weatherstripping, and under-door guards provide relief from drafts, but it might be time to consider energy-efficient windows for a long-term solution.
- Test the sump pump; flush the water heater. Put on your bathing suit (okay, that’s not necessary), and pour several gallons of water into the sump pump to see if it kicks on. Then it’s time to flush the water heater to remove any build up in there and keep it functioning efficiently.
- Do a chimney sweep. Prior to chimney use, you’ll want to make sure the chimney is clean and in good working order. This will prevent chimney fires, and stop carbon monoxide from creeping into your home. Not planning on lighting any fires this winter? Invest in a chimney balloon to plug the chimney and avoid unnecessary heat loss.
While the list could go on, if you’ve successfully checked the majority of these items off, you’re in great shape for an energy-efficient, comfortable winter. Believe us — the work done now will pay off shortly.
The benefits of being proactive
Putting the above measures in place reduces energy spend, prevents future housing issues that could cost thousands of dollars (think roof), and leads to a more comfortable winter for your family. Oh – and acting now prevents you from being in line on the coldest day of the year.
Your last task: make sure your shovels are ready for another season of lifting, and the snowbrush is in the trunk. (We’re banking on the notion that the more prepared we are, the less likely we are to need it. We can dream, right?) And if you’d rather leave winter prep to a pro, never hesitate to drop us a line.