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10 Things to do to Winterize your House

Posted 11-16-2009 at 03:08 AM by faucetman886

In Friday’s blog (11/13) I started talking about winterizing your home by inspecting and cleaning your hot water tanks. In researching other things that should be done I ran across a great article by Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate and have abridged some of his great ideas below and added some of my own.
To read the entire article along with some great links to other resources go to: http://realestate.msn.com/article.as...entid=13107899

Some of Mr. Solomon’s suggestions may seem foreign to those of us in the south but are well founded in the vast reading area of my audience so I’m citing all of them regardless of climate zone.
1. Clean those gutters
Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home's gutters -- by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse -- so that winter's rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams, in which water backs up, freezes and causes water to seep into the house. As you're hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house's foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage. The rule of thumb is that water should be at least 10 feet away from the house.
2. Block those leaks
One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall. First, find the leaks. On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick (try not to get lost in the 60’s) to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets. Use door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots, gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home's outer walls, where cold air often enters. Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing.
3. Insulate
Don't clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, you should add insulation if you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don't have enough. A ceiling joist is at most 10 or 11 inches so if you should have at least enough insulation to the depth of your joists. A related tip: If you're layering insulation atop other insulation, don't use the kind that has "kraft face" finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts as a vapor barrier and therefore can cause moisture problems in the insulation.
4. Check the furnace
Turn your furnace on now, to make sure it's even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional. It's a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125. Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly (check them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. Toss out the dirty fiberglass filters; reusable electrostatic or electronic filters can be washed.
5. Get your ducts in a row
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That's a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. Ducts aren't always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn't stand up to the job over time). Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.
6. Face your windows
Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows, these should be replaced but new double pane windows are pricey. Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that's affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. (It isn’t pretty but it can be removed in the spring)
7. Don't forget the chimney
Ideally, spring is the time to sweep your chimney, but don't put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, a chimney should at least be inspected before use each year looking damage to the mortar and to the metal damper. Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen to keep out foreign objects (birds, tennis balls) as well as rain that can mix with the ash and eat away at the fireplace's walls. Woodstoves are a different and they should be swept more than once a year. One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney's damper closed when the fireplace isn't in use. For the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn't in use.
8. Reverse that fan
By reversing your ceiling fan’s direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recalculate. As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise.
9. Wrap those pipes
A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before freezing nights hit. Make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve) or install freeze proof bibs, and that the lines are drained. Drain and stow away your garden hoses. Next, go looking for other pipes that aren't insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces and pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you're really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.
10. Finally, check those alarms
Now is a great time to check the operation and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Test them, older ones in particular, with a small bit of actual smoke (although the way I cook, mine get tested constantly), and not just by pressing the "test" button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, has not expired and still works. Also, as I mentioned in Friday’s blog, the danger of malfunctioning fuel fired heating units and hot water heaters pose a major risk for carbon monoxide poisoning so invest in a carbon-monoxide detector. Every home should have at least one.
These are just a few ideas as to the many things that you can do to get ready for winter, not including what my neighbors have done, which is to close up the house and move to Florida. So if you have some to add to the list click on the “comment” button below and tell us about them or drop me an email.
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