Ten Tips to Winter-Proof Your Home
Winter is upon us and you are probably feeling the effects of long, cold days. A cool draft seeps through windows and doors, there’s slush in the front foyer, eavestroughs filled with ice and water, and your heat and hydro bills are beginning to creep up. So what can you do to keep your home neat, cozy, and protected this winter? Although it does seem appealing, we won’t suggest curling up in a blanket and hibernating until spring. Here are our top 10 suggestions to winter-proof your home.
1. Conduct an Energy Audit
Seek out the assistance of a professional to perform an inspection of your home’s energy use. A specialist can pinpoint specific areas of focus where improvements can be made that will help reduce your home’s energy costs. Some organizations offer free in-home evaluations or incentives such as the Home Winterproofing Program from Enbridge. (https://www.enbridgegas.com/homes/manage-energy/rebates-incentive-programs/winterproofing/)
2. Program the Thermostat
Are you walking around the house in a t-shirt throughout the winter? A change of just a couple degrees to your home’s thermostat can have a noticeable impact on heating and air conditioning costs. Through the winter months, lower your thermostat temperature to around 20oC. A programmable thermostat that offers time scheduled settings can allow you to lower the temperature to around 18oC and reduce heating costs while you are away from home; some are even programmable from a smartphone or tablet app.
3. Check the Furnace and Air Filter
Dirty and clogged furnace filters can cause the furnace to work overtime pushing hot air through and clogging the mechanical components. Make sure to inspect and replace your furnace filter regularly. Not only will proper air flow reduce heating strain, but it will reduce the amount of dust and dirt being emitted into your home through furnace vents. Consider having an HVAC professional perform a maintenance check on your furnace or have the air ducts cleaned periodically as well.
4. Fill in the Gaps
Seal the frame around windows with silicone caulking and install weather stripping around door frames to ensure a proper seal when coming in from the cold. Inspect your home’s foundation for any cracks or gaps. Use an expandable foam caulking to fill in these gaps so that cool drafts and pesky rodents looking for a warm home can’t get in.
5. Upgrade the Windows
Sometimes it is not just the seals that allow cool drafts into the home. Double and triple pane windows provide more insulation from outside elements than a simple single pane. Low-emissive window glass treated with invisible metallic coating cuts down UV rays for a double bonus during the sunny summer months. If the budget allows, consider upgrading to energy efficient windows, however, if replacement isn’t in the budget, a less costly option would be to install a removable polyurethane plastic shrink film inside the windows to block out drafts through the winter months.
6. Add Insulation
Reduced drafts, more stable air and water temperature, and reduced sound travel…all are benefits of proper and sufficient insulation. Hot air rises, so make sure your attic is well insulated with at least 15 cm of insulation to keep heat from escaping and heating bills from skyrocketing, literally through the roof. Adding insulation wraps around water pipes and a thermal blanket around the water heater can retain water temperature heat which will reduce your water heater use and tap run-time waiting for warm water.
7. Don’t Forget the Chimney
Heat can escape easily through a chimney flue so make sure it is kept closed for heat to stay inside. Hire a chimney sweep or invest in a quality wire sweep to clean any soot and build-up from the chimney. While you’re at it, check for any cracks or broken bricks in the chimney where small animals can enter (unless you feel like re-enacting the squirrel-in-the-house scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie).
8. Keep the Slush Outside
A rough textured entry mat can help keep the winter slush and sand off of your boots before entering the home. Place boots on a plastic boot tray at the door to catch any melted snow for easy clean-up.
9. Keep Gutters Clear
Remove any leaves and debris from eavestroughs and gutters to avoid any water blockage. Gutters that fill up with water and ice are more likely to cause water damage to walls or roof separation from ice expansion. Heat tape acts as an electric heater for your eavestroughs to keep water from freezing. Run the heat tape along the edge of the roof or bottom of gutters and simply plug in. While it may add a little extra to electricity costs, it could save you from requiring eavestrough repairs in the spring.
10. Protect the Patio
Store away or cover up patio furniture to keep it from rusting or being damaged from the effects of heavy, wet snow. Periodically shovel snow off of the deck as accumulation can cause excessive weight strain over long periods of time.
Winter snow and cold can wreak havoc if your home is not properly equipped and prepared. One key recommendation is to invest in a backup generator. Should a power outage occur, a generator can ensure that your home remains heated and the sump pump operable to prevent a pipe from freezing and flooding. Take action now and don’t let old man winter get you singing the blues this season!