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Winter vs. Your House. Who’s winning?

Even though this has been a relatively mild winter so far, we all know that the deep freeze is coming. It’s never too late to get the house ready for the cold and if you haven’t already done so, the certain knowledge that February will be colder than January this year might be just the incentive needed to get you motivated.

We’ve listed a few simple things you can do to address leaks and drafts that will save you some money and keep you warm.

Windows and doors are a significant cause of high heating bills and wasted energy. Check for any drafts around windows and doors and seal them with the use of caulking or weather stripping. You’ll want to replace any old or cracked caulking as well as tattered weather stripping that’s been worn from opening and closing doors and windows during the warmer months.

The outside of the house, while not generally a source of energy loss, can end up costing you money unnecessarily precautions. These preventative and proactive steps can help you avoid expensive damage from ice and snow:

  • Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles and replace them before they turn into a leak.

  • Check the gutters for blockages. Water from a snowfall can quickly turn into blocks of ice if there’s no way for it to escape.

  • Make sure that the downspouts carry the water a good five feet from the house and foundation to prevent water damage and flooding.

  • Check that the downspouts and gutters are properly fastened and won’t be pulled off the house from the weight of snow and ice.

  • Shut off your exterior faucets and drain water from the pipes and sprinklers to protect them from bursts.

  • Cover your outdoor faucets to avoid water and ice damage.

  • Remove your hoses and drain them. If you can, store them in a warm spot to prevent cracking, prolong their life, and preserve their shape.

  • Trim tree and shrub branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-blown branches from damaging the house or causing an electrical problem.

That brings us to your HVAC system. There’s nothing worse than having a problem with your heat in the middle of winter. The last thing you want after a few hours of shoveling snow is to walk into a cold house.

Heating experts, including us, recommend that you have your system checked in the warmer months to avoid the flood of requests contractors get in the fall and after the first cold snap. At the risk of sounding alarmist, unchecked or faulty equipment can not only cost you money through higher heating bills but can also become dangerous. There are a number of things that can go wrong such as house fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, flooding if the blow off valves don’t work, just to name a few. Needless to say, we recommend yearly checkups of your HVAC system.

There are, of course, some additional things you can do on your own to prepare for the cold weather.

  • If you have a fireplace, check it for drafts. If there’s a draft despite the damper being closed, you may have a warped, rusted, or faulty mechanism. Consider getting a Chimney balloon to seal the flue, assuming you’re not using the fireplace.

  • Clean and replace the air filters in your furnace to ensure efficiency and air quality.

  • If you have a hot air system, check for exposed ducts in the attic and basement for leaks and seal them as needed.

  • Consider replacing your old thermostat with a programmable one to save on heating cost.

  • Make sure that ceiling fans are switched to the reverse position. During the colder months when you’re heating the house, the fans should generally be turning clockwise, blowing warm down towards the floor.

Doing a little proactive maintenance like the tasks we’ve listed can prevent headaches and help you feel at ease in the comfort of a cozy and warm home. We can’t stress enough however, that nothing beats a yearly HVAC checkup by a professional to help you feel safe.

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