It’s starting to get cold outside, and as the falling leaves turn into falling snow, it’s time to make sure that your home is ready for winter. Just as you put winter tires on your car and break the thickest coat you own out of your closet to get through the coldest parts of the season, you want to make sure that your home is ready to handle new stresses caused by the elements.
Before the snow starts to fall, use this checklist to make sure your home gets through the season without any damage.
#1 Check Your Windows
There’s nothing like a draft on a cold winter’s day to make you feel the chill. Drafty windows not only make your home uncomfortable, but they waste heat and energy as the leaks in your home’s “envelope” make it harder for your HVAC system to keep up.
When you work with a custom home builder, you can get Energy Star windows and doors that provide extra protection from the elements and help seal up your home against drafts. They make it easier to keep your home comfortable all year round. The average lifespan of residential windows is around 15 to 30 years, lasting beyond 20 with good maintenance, but it never hurts to check for leaks.
There are a few ways you can check for air leaks on your own without having to call a professional. One way involves simply looking for damaged glazing – the stuff that keeps each pane of glass in place. You can also check the weather stripping around windows and doors.
You can identify subtler problems by burning a stick of incense. Start by closing all windows and doors and turning off combustion appliances (furnace, water heater, etc.). Next, turn on the kitchen and bathroom vents, creating negative pressure. With a lit stick of incense, observe the smoke around windows and doors. If everything remains properly sealed, the smoke should be undisturbed, but a leak will cause the smoke to travel inwards as outside air is sucked inside. It’s a neat trick for identifying those hard-to-see leaks!
If there are leaks, they can be fixed by replacing weather stripping and caulking gaps.
#2 Clean Leaves Out of the Gutters
Not cleaning your gutters can lead to long-lasting damage to your roof and the rest of your home – not to mention that the neighbours tend to notice when plants start to grow out of the eaves! Even just skipping one year can have some unpleasant side effects, including:
- Leaking gutters: leaks can easily be found and fixed during a routine inspection but can cause extensive damage, including mold, rot, and ultimately the gutter falling off.
- Leaks in the roof: your gutters are responsible for water drainage, but when they’re clogged, they cause backups that accumulate on the roof and wind up seeping through or causing ice and snow build-up in the cold weather.
- Leaking basement: with many gutter systems draining at the bottom exterior of most homes, excess water collecting around the basement could leak in.
All autumn long, leaves and debris accumulate in your gutters. Get them inspected and fixed up before water trapped in them freezes.
#3 Get Your Plumbing Ready
On those sub-zero nights (or rather, since we’re in Canada, those 20-below nights), pipes run the risk of freezing. While not all frozen pipes burst, if one does, you’ll have a major cleanup ahead of you, and you’ll need to shut off the main water valve in your home until you can get the issue fixed. It’s a headache and can even lead to an insurance claim.
To avoid frozen and burst pipes altogether, follow this plumbing prep checklist:
- Get the outdoor plumbing ready by draining faucets and hoses, disconnecting hoses, and blow out in-ground sprinklers.
- Use heat tape for any pipes that are prone to freezing.
- Make sure everyone who lives there knows how to turn off the main valve in case there is a burst. Acting quickly can mitigate the damage.
#4 HVAC Maintenance
While Niagara is known for its surprisingly temperate climate compared to the rest of the country, let’s face it – it’s still Canada. It gets cold and it snows, and you’re going to want to stay cozy all season long. When you get one of our move in ready homes, you get a state-of-the-art, energy efficient HVAC system that includes features like Energy Recovery Ventilators that bring in more fresh air while moderating humidity and reducing energy costs.
To make sure that your HVAC system doesn’t experience undue wear and tear, you can have your HVAC system inspected in the fall and spring. A lot of homeowners don’t want to go through the expense of so many inspections, so there are a few things you can do on your own to reduce wear-and-tear:
- Change the air filters frequently – at least every month and possibly more if you’re a pet owner. Get a duct cleaning service to clean all the ductwork at least once a year. Pet fur, dust, and dirt accumulating in the system cause your furnace to run less efficiently. Don’t forget to change it at the start of the season too.
- Turn your furnace on several times before you really need it. It always helps to test things out before you really need it. You don’t want things to stop working in the middle of a deep freeze.
- Cover your outdoor AC unit if you have one. On a dry day in the fall, clean up all the debris in and around the AC unit from leaves and twigs that inevitably come down in a late autumn storm with the garden hose. Once it’s fully dry, cut the power and cover with a waterproof covering.
If you own a bungalow townhome in one of our Blythwood Homes communities, the Corporation may take care of some of the outdoor maintenance that comes with the season. It can be a huge relief!
A few simple winter maintenance steps at the start of the season can keep your home and appliances running smoothly for longer. Plus, it can help keep you cozy all winter long.