Home Winterizing Tips For The Northeast

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Home maintenance tasks should be done each season to prevent energy loss, and water or structural damage around the home.

Here’s how to get started with the most important tasks Northeast homeowners will need to follow.

1. Clean out the rain gutters to protect the roof

Debris in the rain gutters is an invitation to disaster. Debris can freeze and force water up under the roof shingles causing damage to the eves and roofing material. Even covered rain gutters need to be inspected. They can be plugged with finer organic debris and grit from roof shingles.

2. It’s time for lawn and garden furniture to move inside

Gather up garden furniture, tools, hoses and other portable items for storage in the garage, shed or under cover for the winter. Items that are susceptible to rust should be oiled before storing. Gas power lawnmowers should be drained of gas or run the mower until the tank is empty. Two-cycle mowers and chainsaws are especially prone to building up varnish in the tank and reed valves during the winter season. Gas powered equipment that will be used over the winter should have a stabilizer added to a gas can for later use.

3. Call the chimneysweep for a yearly fireplace inspection

Not all chimneys need to be swept each year. But, they should be inspected for damage and debris. Chimneys tops should be fitted with a screen to keep out foreign objects. It is a good idea to have the firebox inspected for safety as well. Keep out cold winter air by closing fireplace dampers when the fireplace is not in use.

4. Furnace and water heaters need a tune-up

Contact a furnace technician and schedule a thorough check-up. The technician should inspect the filters, furnace exhaust, ductwork, blower motor, belts and fuel connectors. Filters should be changed each month during the cold weather seasons. Consider upgrading the old-style traditional fiberglass filters with new electrostatic filters which are 40 to 70 percent more efficient at capturing dust and debris. Or, upgrade to HEPA filters, which capture up to 99 percent of debris in the air including mold, bacteria, pollen and viruses.

5. Air filters and humidifiers

If your home uses a portable humidifier in winter to compensate for the drying effects of heating, start the cold weather season with fresh wicks. Wicks are the small filters that absorb moisture from the humidifier reservoir. An internal fan then distributes the moisture into the air. Check the air filters too, if your humidifier contains them. The owner’s manual is a good source of information on how to change a filter. Replace wicks after two to three months during continued operation. Clean the humidifier every few weeks, during winter months, to keep it free of mold, bacteria and mineral deposits. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Put up storm windows

Now with cold weather approaching, it’s the time to take down the window screens and put up the storm windows. Storm windows will provide an extra layer of insulation and warmth for the home. They are particularly helpful if the house has older, single-pane glass windows that are leaky or drafty.

7. Stop air leaks

One of the easiest ways to winterize the home is to block obvious air leaks around the house. Inspect both the inside and outside of the house. Experts suggest the average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall.

Begin by locating the air leaks. On a windy day, walk around from room-to-room holding a lit incense stick to the most common draft causes: recessed lighting, window frames, door frames, electrical outlets. Caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to the drafty spots. Outlet gaskets are easy to install in electrical outlets that share a home's exterior walls, where cold air often enters. Door sweeps will close spaces under exterior doors, or use a rolled up bath towel.

Seal leaks outside with a weather-resistant caulk. For bricked areas, use a masonry sealer, which will last longer during winter freezing and thawing. Even small cracks should be sealed to discourage insects from entering the home.

8. Interior fans

Reversing interior ceiling fans is an easy task that most people don't think about. Reversing the fan’s direction from summer operation will allow the fan to push warm air downward and force it to recirculate.

6 more winterizing jobs you can do yourself

There are many DIY winterizing tasks around the home that can add up to big energy savings and prevent costly repairs. By investing a few hours getting ready for winter they can also mean big savings over hiring a handy man or technician.

  1. Disconnect all garden hoses, drain the air conditioning and irrigation systems.
  2. Reprogram the thermostats for cold weather operation.
  3. Cover exterior air conditioning units with a sheet of plywood or fitted cover.
  4. Check all batteries in smoke detectors, carbon-monoxide detectors and other alarms.
  5. Check fire extinguishers to be certain they are fully charged.
  6. Turn down the water heater from 140 degrees will save 6-10% on the heating bill.
Last Updated: October 28, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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