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North Hills Monthly

Winter is Coming—Is Your Home Ready?

Sep 24, 2019 11:01PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Despite the fact that Game of Thrones is now over, winter is still coming. And that means that you need to get your home and yard prepared for the colder weather. 

It helps to have a checklist to keep track of all of the things that you need to do, and most home improvement store provide one online. Since every home is different, it helps to add the specific items that may be particular to your home; for example, if you have an oil-burning furnace, you might want to schedule a maintenance check and get a full tank of fuel delivered before snow and ice make getting up and down steep driveways more difficult.

Here’s a checklist, courtesy of Lowe’s, as well as some additional things to think about before the final leaves fall:

Protect Your Pipes

While the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts that most of Pennsylvania will be warmer than normal with above-normal precipitation, but below-normal snowfall this winter, it’s important to be prepared for the coldest periods, which it estimates to be in mid-January, and from late February into early March. 

When temperatures drop below freezing, unprotected pipes can freeze from a combination of exposure, wind chill and long periods of subfreezing weather. Seal cracks and openings in the walls, attic, basement or crawlspace and weather strip and caulk around crawlspace doors and basement windows.

Make sure your home is properly insulated, paying particular attention to areas where pipes are located. Insulate unprotected pipes and don't leave any gaps in the insulation. 

Weatherproof

Weather-stripping or installing storm doors and windows will prevent cold air from entering your home or heat from escaping it, which will reduce your power bills. It’s a simple solution to install a door sweep that just slides under your current door, and there are numerous options for just about every budget when it comes to weather-stripping. If you’ve got drafty windows or chilly air entering the house from under your doors, you won’t believe the difference this small investment will make in adding to the comfort and cost-efficiency of your home.

Block the Cold

You think weather-stripping makes a difference? Wait until you add more insulation! You won’t believe the difference it will make in your comfort level and your need to ‘up’ the thermostat. Make sure that you’re using the right R-value for the space you’re insulating; while you may think you’re saving money by going with a lower value, having the right product in the right place makes a huge difference. Having recently replaced cheaper, lower R-value insulation with the correct product, I can’t believe how much more comfortable my home has become. 

If you’re not sure what you should be using—for example, to prevent heat loss in your attic—talk to a home improvement store professional, or look for the charts in the insulation aisles that explain what level of R-value you need for particular rooms. Some home improvement or manufacturers’ websites, such as Lowe’s and Owens Corning, have online calculators that can help you figure out how much insulation you need.

Check your Fireplace

There’s nothing nicer than a roaring fire on a chilly evening, but that first fire of the season can sometimes provide some not-so-nice surprises. Animals may have built nests in your chimney over the spring and summer months, so it’s smart to have an annual inspection before it gets too cold. If you burn a lot of fires, you can also have creosote buildup, which can be extremely dangerous. While you can buy creosote-cleaning logs, this is still no substitute for having an expert take a look inside.

Check your Furnace

There’s nothing worse than turning on the thermostat that first freezing day—and nothing happens. Don’t wait until you’re competing with everyone else to get a heating company to come to your house—schedule an annual inspection now to make sure that everything is working right before you actually need it. If you’re using propane or oil, this is also a great time to fill your tank before prices go up.

Change Your Thermostat

If you haven’t switched out your thermostat to a programmable version, you may want to consider doing this, as it lets you customize your heating, so the system doesn't run when you don't need it. You might also look at “smart” thermostats that can be programmed by iPhone or androids; it’s estimated that smart thermostats can save up to 23 percent of energy usage annually compared to ordinary thermostats. 

Protect Your Plants

While your plants have probably had a wonderful summer outdoors, you need to bring them inside before temperatures dip below 45 degrees. I use the first frost as a measure, but for more delicate plants, you may not want to wait that long. This is a great time of the year to plant grass seed if you’ve got bare spots on your lawn, and to add mulch, which guards plants against colder temperatures and harsher weather.

Bring in the Outdoors

Bring in your outdoor furniture and grills, or use covers to protect them from the elements. If you have a propane grill, make sure to store the gas outside. If you’ve got outdoor power equipment, such as mowers and string trimmers, clean them and do whatever maintenance is required before storing them in a garage or shed. This is also a good time to check out winter equipment, such as snowblowers, to make sure that they are ready for the season.