“Winter is coming” – a phrase familiar to any Game of Thrones fan – is one of warning and constant vigilance. Although we don’t live in the fantasy world of Westeros where winter lasts for years at a time, it’s still essential to be aware of the hazards cold weather brings to your home. We’ve put together a list of guidelines that will help you cut heating costs and get your house ready for the next snowstorm.
Protect your pipes
To avoid water damage, take preventative measures such as checking for cracks and leaks. Insulate exposed pipes in your attic, garage and crawlspaces with pipe foam from a hardware store.
Change furnace filters
Dirty air filters restrict airflow and waste energy, resulting in higher gas and electric bills. Disposable filters should be changed at the beginning of the heating season.
Seal windows and doors
Drafts and air leaks increase heating costs, so seal windows and doors with weather stripping and door draft guards. You can also add a buffer against cold drafts by picking up a window insulation kit at your local hardware store. It’s an easy DIY project that gives an extra boost to your home’s ability to hold heat. For any remaining gaps in windows, doors and siding, just caulk it. Particularly effective for outdoor gaps.
Clean out the gutters
To prevent ice from gathering and blocking downspouts, remove debris so melting snow and water can flow freely. Invest in installing gutter guards to prevent debris from entering and interfering with water flow.
Run ceiling fans in reverse
What, you say! Yes, indeed. Ceiling fans can also be useful during the winter months as many have a switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Fans moving in a clockwise direction push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor, making the room warmer instead of cooler. Warmer room, lower energy costs. A true win-win.
Program the thermostat
If it’s in your budget, a programmable thermostat helps reduce your energy expenses. Or if you have a really good memory, you can do it manually. Lower your thermostat in the evening, when you’re asleep, and during the day when you’re at work. Reducing the temperature by one degree can reduce your energy bill between 1 and 3 percent.
Remove window air conditioner
Leaving your air conditioner in the window during winter seems harmless, but leaving units exposed to snow, ice, sleet or even freezing rain can cause problems. The water on the coils can freeze and hinder the air conditioner’s energy efficiency. Additionally, you’re letting heat escape outdoors right through gaps in the window. If you don’t take the unit out for winter, close the vents and cover them up to avoid cold air from blowing through.
Inspect the furnace and chimney
Chimneys may be clogged with soot and dirt, have cracks from missing mortar or nests from birds and squirrels. It’s always a good idea to have chimneys and fireplaces inspected and cleaned to ensure there are no risks. And, if you’re not using your fireplace this winter, purchase a chimney balloon to block airflow so heat doesn’t escape, nor does air enter the house.
Take care of the yard
Walk around the house to check the foundation for cracks so small critters can’t tunnel in. Keep tree branches away from the house and windows as they can break and damage your home during icy conditions. And if you like to put up light displays for the holiday season, inspect wires that may be frayed to avoid any electrical fire hazards.
Be ready for an emergency
Take a moment to prepare your family for emergencies if you get snowed in or lose power. Have the following items ready:
- Bottled water
- Nonperishable food
- First-Aid kit
- Backup battery to protect your computer
This article originally published on December 19, 2017, but was revised on January 29, 2020.