Winter season brings a unique set of problems for the homeowner. Many of these problems can be avoided through preparation and maintenance performed in the fall prior to the onset of cold winds and freezing temperatures. Other maintenance items are best performed during the cold winter months. A list of ten items falling into the above categories and that I routinely perform in my home is listed below.
Pre-Winter Projects and Repairs:
Project 1 – Check and Repair Insulation
Annually, just prior to the onset of winter I make one trip to the crawlspace of my house to inspect the blanket insulation between the floor joists. It has been my experience to find that time, moisture and little varmints living under the house (mice) take their toll on this insulation causing it to sag or fall creating a completely uninsulated section of flooring through which drafts can pass into the house.
As these are found it is a simple step to replace and rewire the insulation. I also take this opportunity to replace insulation that may have been damaged by mice of moisture.
Project 2 – Drain Sediments from Water Heater
As winter months decrease the efficiency of my hot water heater in addition to insulating the hot water tank I also drain the tank to empty the yearlong accumulation of sediments in the tank. The removal of sediments increases the efficiency of the water heater, helping to offset the efficiency lost to the cold winter.
Project 3 – Change Filters on and Check Performance of Humidifier
My family has found that using a humidifier during the winter months not only makes the house more comfortable and the air less dry, it also improves the efficiency of our heating system as humid air feels warmer at lower temperatures than does less humid air.
Prior to each eating season I inspect and change filters on the humidifier and test the unit to ensure it will function once the heating system is activated.
Project 4 – Disconnect Outside Hoses and Insulate Spigots
To prevent freezing hoses I disconnect them from outside spigots and drain them before storing these in the garage. At this time I also place insulation caps (purchased from home supply store) over each external spigot to prevent freezing and bursting of water pipes.
Project 5 – Insulate Hot and Cold Water Pipes Under House
As a result of one frozen pipe in the crawlspace of my house last winter I have just completed wrapping both the cold and hot water pipes that run beneath my house in pipe insulation purchased from the home supply store.
Project 6 – Clean Gutters of Autumn Leaves
An important annual chore that must be done prior to winter’s onset is he cleaning of leaves and debris from all gutters and downspouts. This is necessary to prevent blockage and overflow of the gutters that may seep in behind siding and to avoid water accumulation in the gutters that might freeze cause the gutters to fail from excessive weight or ice expansion.
Winter Months Repairs:
Project 7 – Clean and Repair Deck (Outside) Furniture
Outside furniture that has accumulated dirt and mold in the summer months is taken inside the garage for winter storage. At this time I clean each piece by washing in soap and bleach solution and inspect the furniture for rust, rot, or missing paint. If any of these conditions are noted I make the necessary repairs in the garage during the winter months.
Project 8 – Isolate Cold Draft Entry Points and Repair
Improperly sealed or insulated places that result in drafts and loss of heat (or air conditioning) are often not obvious during summer months, but become very obvious in the coldest days of winter. Often air leaks that create noticeably cold drafts are found around poorly sealed of insulated windows, electrical outlets and doorframes. Once these are detected I use my time in the winter months to seal the leaking outlet using spray foam (Great Stuff) that effectively seals any open cavity around outlet boxes and windows. Similarly. I seal leaking doorframes using weather striping and door seal purchased from the home supply store.
Project 9 – Service lawn and yard equipment for winter storage
As the equipment used to maintain the yard in the summer months (lawnmower, weed-eater, edger, etc) is brought inside for winter storage I prepare them for storage by washing and cleaning each piece of equipment, draining the fuel, changing the oil, removing the sparkplug and spraying a light coat of WD-40 lubricant in each cylinder and replacing the old sparkplug with a new one. I then add a small amount of gasoline and an equal amount of extender to each fuel tank.
The above ensures that I will have equipment ready for use next summer.
Project 10 – Close Foundation vents and insulate adjacent pipes
Prior to the first freeze I circle the house and close all foundation vents that have been used to ventilate the crawlspace in summer.
Following one bad experience with freezing pipes I ensure that the pipes adjacent to these vents (which are the most vulnerable to cold) are well insulated.
The above is the routine I follow in the winter months to keep my home functioning and warm and secure. These are simple, but effective techniques.