Today’s chilly Chicago temps reminded me that winter is literally around the corner! Yes, I’ve bought the kids new snowpants and boots and have all the gloves and hats organized in the closet for them, but I haven’t done a thing to prepare my home. Neglecting your home’s needs as winter approaches can have devastating results! So here are some of the best tips I’ve come across to winterize your home:
- Get your chimney inspected. Before you start building those roaring fires, have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney. Thousands of fires each winter originate in chimneys. A chimney sweep can check the structure of your flue and remove any combustibles or obstructions in your chimney. For more information on finding a chimney sweep, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website at csia.org.
- Call an HVAC professional to inspect and clean your furnace. The last thing you want is to have a faulty furnace when the temperature starts to plummet. A furnace inspection can cost $100 or more, but the energy savings and your family’s safety is well worth the investment. You might get the bad news that you need to replace the entire furnace. If that’s the case, take advantage of federal tax credits for new furnaces, which cover 30% of the cost, up to $1,500. Even better, if you have an American Home Shield Home Warranty, it may cover the entire cost of the replacement! And make sure to routinely replace your filter throughout the year.
- Have the HVAC guy clean and inspect heating ducts. While the HVAC man is at your house inspecting your furnace, have him do the same to your heating ducts. Studies have shown that up to 60% of heated air escapes from ducts before making it to the vents. That’s a lot of money leaking out of your pocket. The HVAC guy can check for any leaks in your air duct system and then take steps to seal them.
- Winterize the A/C. You’re probably not going to be using your air conditioner during the winter, so taking some steps to protect it during this time can extend the life of your machine. Winterizing your A/C is easy. Drain any pipes or hoses coming from your air conditioner. You don’t want them freezing during the winter months. Also make sure to vacuum out any pools of water you have in the A/C’s drain pan.
- Clean out gutters and prevent the formation of potential ice dams by removing any debris. Ice dams result in water backing up and freezing in your gutters which can then cause water to seep into your house.
- Drain air conditioner pipes and shut off the AC water valve. If you’ve never experienced a burst pipe during a winter freeze (I have – trust me, it’s NOT FUN!) now would not be the time to start. Shutting off the A/C water valve and making sure the pipes are drained will save you from many unnecessary headaches this winter.
- Reverse ceiling fans. Most people don’t know that you can use your fans during the winter to keep your house warm. On every ceiling fan there’s a switch that allows you to reverse the direction of the blades. Switch it so your ceiling fan rotates clockwise. That will push warm air down and force it to recirculate throughout the room. Don’t forget to make the switch again when it starts to warm up!
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Winter sees an uptick in the number of home fires and cases of carbon monoxide poisoning because people are running their furnaces and boilers overtime in order to keep warm. To keep your family safe, check the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change them if needed.
- If you leave on vacation, leave the heat on at least 55 degrees.
- Prepare an emergency kit of candles, batteries, non-perishable food items, first aid, matches/lighters, and water. Ideally, this kit should have enough supplies for 72 hours.
- Wear a sweater! One of the easiest ways to lower your energy bill is to simply put on a sweater while you’re in the house. A heavy sweater adds about 4 degrees of warmth to your body. If you set your thermostat to 68 degrees and wear a sweater, your abode will feel like a balmy 72. Nice!