November 01, 2009

Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Practical tips that will help you stay ahead of the season

Before you settle into the cozy warmth of your home this winter, use this checklist to troubleshoot any potential problems.

INDOORS

  • Have your heating system serviced now, before the busy winter season arrives. A gas heater or oil system should be maintained annually, at the start of the heating season.
  • If your attic or basement is unfinished, check the insulation. Hot air that escapes from an attic can lead to a cycle of snow and ice melting and refreezing on your roof, which can cause damage. A basement that gets too cold can cause pipes to freeze and burst.
  • Consider hiring a professional home energy auditor to come into your home and recommend ways to boost your energy efficiency. Some utility companies have programs that pay for all or part of the audit, so contact yours to see what’s available in your area.
  • Look for cracks around windows, doors, electrical outlets and switches — especially on exterior walls — and recessed ceiling lights in insulated ceilings. These small openings can add up to as much as 30% of fuel waste in a home, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. To locate drafts, hold a tissue or candle near potential spots and then caulk as needed.

OUTDOORS

  • Check your roof for any damaged or loose shingles, and cracks in the mortar around your chimney. If you spot a problem, call a roofer for an evaluation.
  • Hire a professional chimney-cleaning company to clean out debris, soot and other residue and to look for any cracks that may need to be repaired.
  • Keep your gutters clear so that water can properly drain away from the house; this protects against the freezing and thawing that can damage the walls, foundation and the gutter itself.
  • Trim trees and remove branches that hang too close to the house or electrical wires, which can pose a hazard during storms.

For more tips on how to get your house ready for winter, go to energystar.gov or aceee.org (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy).

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