The polar vortex is come and gone – but not forgotten. The damage may be done, but there are months left in the winter to suffer through. Winterizing your home, even at this late date, will save you money and can prevent costly damage.
Here are a few things you can do now to protect your home from damage caused by freezing temperatures and winter storms.
1. Protect your pipes
Home insurance companies know that the biggest risk to your home during the colder months lies in frozen pipes. Water sits in pipes ready to rush through the open faucets. The water in pipes that lie in walls that exposed to the outside cold, the most obvious being those that lead to outdoor hoses and spigots, is particularly susceptible to freezing during cold weather.
If that water freezes, it expands and breaks the pipes, and when it thaws, you have a major leak on your hands. To prevent the damage in advance, shut off the valves controlling the water to those pipes and, then, drain them and leave any hose connections open. You can also cover the outdoor spigots with commonly available styrofoam protectors. Finally, you should insulate pipes that run through uninsulated spaces like basements or crawlspaces with fiberglass wrap or pre-molded sleeves.
2. Replace furnace filters
During the winter, it’s a good idea to change furnace filters throughout the house. Clogged or dirty filters will reduce airflow and make your heater work harder than necessary. The best and most thorough of furnace filters cost more, but the cost savings and improved air quality are worth the investment.
3. Check the furnace
While you are changing your furnace filters, you should consider securing a maintenance agreement that cleans and tunes the furnace at least twice a year including once before the winter. With forced air heat, the ducts will lose heat if they are not well insulated and connected. The maintenance provider will seal gaps, vacuum out the dust, and insulate the ducts running through uninsulated spaces.
4. Program your thermostat
Install and program a state-of-the-art thermostat. Lowering your thermostat by one degree can save you up to 3% on your heating bill. Lowering the hot water heater from the standard 140°F to 120°F will save you up to 10% of your heating bill. In the long run, you may also consider installing a tankless water heater or solar heat.
5. Block the drafts
Caulking and weatherstripping indoors and out are short-term solutions to ward off the winter cold. But, consider the return on investment in new or replacement storm windows and doors, pet doors and electrical outlets. Door sweeps attach to exterior doors to close the gaps between door and frame. Outlet gaskets insulate electrical outlets.
6. Insulate, insulate, insulate
Roles of insulation can be purchased at any big box hardware center. In areas that experience cold winters, homeowners should install at least 12-inches of insulation in the attic. This not only helps keep your house warm. It can also prevent the formation of ice dams that cause roof damage. The good news? Laying insulation is a project you can do yourself. Boosting your insulation may also make you eligible for Federal tax breaks.
7. Clean the gutters
When rain gutters fill with leaves and debris, they block water flow and create conditions that could cause freezing. When the water freezes and blocks the drains, additional water backs up to damage roofs and walls.
8. Remove snow
After a big snowfall (or any snowfall in Texas!), consider clearing some of the snow from your roof to lessen the amount of weight that your home must support. You can do this yourself using a simple broom or you can hire a snow removal service to clear your driveway and sidewalks as well as your roof.
Many of the measures outlined here are simple to implement but can make a big difference when a winter storm hits. And remember, if the worst happens and your home suffers damage despite your best efforts, contact your home insurance provider to file a claim.