Clothing stores have already swapped out their fall pullovers for winter parkas. Starbucks has already switched out its seasonal Pumpkin Spice latte for its Peppermint Mocha. But what about you? Have you made all the necessary adjustments to prepare for winter?
The definitive winter to-do list is here:
Donate and Organize
It’s time to trade your warm weather ware in for the winter clothes you’ve kept tucked away in attic storage. You’re going to need the extra space in your closet, as bulky winter items take up twice as much room as those thin, lightweight threads. It’s a great time of the year to clean out your closet, donate to Goodwill and get organized.
Upgrade Your Climate Control
Now that you have easy access to your winter clothes, hopefully, you won’t have to wear them inside the house. The time to give your home the stamp-of-approval for heat efficiency is before temperatures dip into freezing, not after. Here’s where to begin:
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that “heat loss from inefficient windows can account for 10-25% of your homes heating bills.” Do a visual inspection:
- Check the weather-stripping around and under windows with a lighter. If the flame moves, there’s a draft
- Age: 15-30 years old is the general lifespan of good-quality windows
- Foggy glass: This is caused by “seal failure”, which allows moisture to enter between the panes of double pane windows.
- Rot, deterioration, paint chipping
- Water leaking inside during rainfall, and dead insects on the sill
If you plan to replace your windows, there’s one industry standard that won’t let you down: the double-pane, Low-E glass, vacuum-sealed argon fill window with the blue, Energy Star sticker. Find a pro to help here.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Heating accounts for more than half of a home’s total energy costs. Optimally, the system should receive a bi-annual audit, ideally right before the start of the most extreme seasons, winter and summer. Any basic maintenance agreement includes this service, which comprises a 13-, 19-, or 26-point inspections of your entire furnace, air conditioning unit, and any added parts, including an air filter change. Need someone? Here’s who to call.
Consider a “Smart” unit, as many conventional thermostats are routinely off by four or five degrees. Smart ‘stats have dead-on precision, and can be pre-programmed to the most efficient temperature for specific times of day/days of the week. Most HVAC pros can install one for you if you’re not a DIYer.
Before you roast those chestnuts over an open fire, ask yourself: When’s the last time you had your chimney cleaned? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) advocates a professional sweeping at least once a year.
D.I.Y. chimney cleaning is not recommended, as adequate creosote elimination requires state-of-the art equipment, brushes, and video inspection to locate hidden parts of a contaminated flue. If you need to get your chimney cleaned, read a few reviews and call someone on the “nice” list.
If you go up into the attic of an older home (15 years +), chances are you’ll discover a kind of fiberglass “batt” insulation, which is rolled out in sheets. Modern thermal technology has exposed a great flaw in this product – it settles flat over the years to lose its insulative integrity. The solution?
Blown-in insulation used in conjunction with spray-foam. The combination provides an air-tight seal around vents, windows, ducts, eaves, and on. An added benefit of foam insulation? It’s impermeable to water, which helps keep crawlspaces and basements dry and mildew-free. Read more here.
Also, consider installing an insulated garage door. Per one study, a new energy efficient garage door can reduce energy loss through the garage by up 71% and keep garage temperatures 10-20 degrees warmer on a cold winter day (Cost: $1000). Find a reliable insulation company here.
Check Your Plumbing System
Two words: burst pipes!
There’s a reason that the number one cause of property damage claims seen by insurance companies is water. The simplest way to check the condition of your pipes is with a simple water pressure gauge ($10). A healthy range is 55-75psi. Anything outside of that range should be assessed by a licensed professional.
Also, submit your appliances to the same thorough leak-check!
And finally, if you’re planning on flying south this winter for vacation, install one of several moisture-alert devices on the market today, such as a water leak alarm. There are also leak sensors that hook up to your mobile devices (like the Wally system), that send status updates as texts and emails.
Do a Security Check
Winter is the most popular time for families to go on vacation. Make sure that while you’re away, your home remains protected. One recommendation is a home automated security system, which offer these invaluable benefits:
- Cameras set to record after window or door catches are triggered
- Alarmed door locks, which can be opened or closed remotely
- Sensors which measure the performance of all electronic devices and send regular progress reports and/or alerts to your phone and laptop upon incident; immediately shutting off water valves or oven burners should a threat be detected.
- Financial perks! On average, people with home automation receive home insurance savings up to 20%.
Don’t forget! Before winter begins, do a fire safety drill with your family so they know all escape routes and emergency procedures.
Good luck, and happy holidays!