Let’s first understand the dangers of winter. Winter storms can take down trees or even structures, but there are silent risks as well. For example, when water freezes, it expands with great force. Preventing your home from this type of damage is what it comes down to. Assuming you have the right homeowner’s insurance, here’s how to start.
1. Insulate Your Pipes
Your water pipes are not strong enough to withstand the transition from liquid water to ice. Water expands when it freezes with tremendous force that can overpower most residential pipes. To prevent this, you need to insulate them, especially at their most sensitive points, which are outside and close to it.
Wrap your pipes with insulation if they are within 5 feet of your foundation, outside walls, or if they are outside of your home, as these areas will have the highest exposure to the elements. The best part is that this insulation is extremely cheap and it could save you thousands of dollars and won’t interrupt your water usage.
Head to the hardware store and pick up some foam insulation (it will look like a pool noodle) and wrap the areas that need it most to prevent them from freezing over.
Next up, to save money on your utility bill, you should also insulate your water heater. Wrapping this up will help your water heat up faster, reduce your energy consumption, and allow you to access warm water when you need it.
Anything else containing liquid water during the warmer months should be winterized by removing the water and storing it away. This includes garden hoses and irrigation systems.
2. Change Furnace Filters
This could save you a fortune on your furnace and utility bill, and it will also improve the efficiency of your heating system. Changing the filter is easy, cost-effective, and only needs to be done once or twice a year.
3. Sweep the Chimney
When too much ash, embers, leaves, and other materials clog your fireplace, it poses a risk of chimney fires. It could also prevent smoke from exiting the chimney, meaning that it will only enter your home. You should have your chimney swept once a year to prevent this from happening.
4. Check Your Roof
Hiring a roof inspector is a great idea, but if you don’t want to spend that money, at least give it a thorough look while you are cleaning the leaves out of your gutters. Get up on the roof (safely) and look for any abnormalities. If you see anything that concerns you, contact a professional.
The additional weight that snow adds onto your roof puts it in a compromising position that may lead to wear, leaks, or collapse. A new roof can cost well over $10,000 to replace. Don’t underestimate the importance of home inspection.
5. Rotate Ceiling Fans
If you’ve never heard of this trick, it’s very handy! Heat naturally rises toward the ceiling, so during the winter, if your ceiling fans rotate backward, it will gently push cool air upwards, forcing the heated air back down to the floor.
This is an especially helpful trick if you have high ceilings, as it can be very wasteful to heat large spaces when it all goes to the top.
6. Check Your Heating System
Make sure that your heating system is running at optimal levels. You don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work on the first below-freezing day of the season, so if you want to check beforehand, open some windows, turn it on, and check each outlet to see how they perform.
Never use your oven as a backup, makeshift heater. It is very unsafe as both a fire and carbon monoxide hazard, so do not use it as a heater or leave it open for an extended period.
7. Check Your Detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are important all year round, especially during the winter. When you are running your fireplace or any other heating element, you are running the risk of both starting a fire and trapping carbon monoxide in your home.
Even if you replaced your smoke detector battery, you should replace it before the winter months. The last thing you want is to get up in the middle of a freezing night because your smoke alarm is beeping to tell you it needs a new battery.
Remember, nearly 50,000 fires are caused every year due to heating systems. Accidents happen, but you don’t want them to cost you your life.
7. Look Outside
Winter storms in Massachusetts can get brutal, and we’ve all seen downed trees littering the road. Don’t be fooled. They hit houses, too.
Take a look for any branches or dying trees that are in close proximity to your house, car, fence, or other valuable property. Intense wind could take out a dying tree with ease, so if you see something, either cut it yourself (if it’s an easy fix) or call in the professionals.
8. Seal Air Leaks
Covering your windows with clear plastic will do the most for preventing heat loss, but even sealing the cracks around doors and windows will go a long way. Having a professional do this will yield the best results, but using door stoppers and some insulation caulk, you could make a big difference on your own.
This will help lower your energy bills significantly, as anywhere from 10% to 50% of heat loss comes from air leaks, and it will also keep your house warm in the event of a power outage.
How to Prep for Winter Power Outages
We all saw what happened in Texas last year when they received an unexpected winter power outage. If you’re thinking, “I’m not from Texas. We’re prepared, ” think again.
A winter power outage could cause serious problems in your home, and it could even kill you if you aren’t prepared. Of course, you want to follow all the steps above to prevent heat loss, pipe bursts, and structural damage, but there are still important steps to protect yourself from a power outage.
Keep Warm Clothes Available
If you’ve lived in New England throughout your life, you probably have a heavy supply of warm clothes. If you’re new to the area, it’s time to make the investment and keep them handy.
If you bring your clothes to a laundromat, don’t have enough winter gear, or simply rely on the heat and a thick hoodie to get you by, you need to make sure there are clothes available to you during the winter months. It could save your life.
This means a thick winter jacket, blankets, and pants. If you run out of options to heat your home, it’s important that you have options to retain your body heat. If you prepare for the worst and it never comes, at least you were prepared for it.
Stock Up On Supplies
Having a wide variety of non-perishable food items, drinking water, and first aid supplies could save your life in these situations. Have these items ready and don’t use them unless you need to, and always replace them when you do. Some great purchases to stock up on for both safety and comfort are:
Carbs – Oats, rice, pasta, or quinoa.
Protein – Powder, jerky, or canned meat.
Canned fruits and vegetables – Variety is good.
Flashlight – With spare batteries
Medical supplies -First aid, bandaids, gauze, and more.
This is a good start. For drinking water, it’s best to keep at least 10 gallons available. If your pipes are frozen or if you can’t access clean tap water, you may need to use several gallons of it a day, so having a few days’ worth (per person) is important.
Portable chargers are another great investment for keeping your phones and electronics charged. Keep them charged at all times throughout the winter and only use them as needed.
Remember, running to the store during one of these storms may not be possible, and even if you manage it, supplies will likely be thin. If you’ve ever seen shoppers in Massachusetts the day before a heavy snowstorm, you know why it’s important to get your supplies early. You may need plenty of other supplies, but this will get you started.
Find a Smaller Space
If you have a smaller room within your house, especially one that doesn’t have windows or doors to the outside, use it. Bring food, drinking water, entertainment, and anything else you need into the room in the event of a power outage to limit the time you have to leave the room.
Your body heat alone will be enough to heat up a small enough space quite significantly over time. Start with layers of clothing, bring your necessary supplies, pets, and family members in with you, and allow the space to warm up. Seal off the bottom of the door to trap heat in the room.
If conditions are extreme, create a small space within a small room by using a tent or building a blanket shelter to allow your body heat to warm it up even faster.
Alternatively, in extreme conditions, get into your car. Assuming the roads are too bad to drive on, it’s okay to idle for a while and use the heat in the car. This will also allow you to charge your phone for emergencies.
Use Your Fireplace
Of course, if you have a fireplace and wood, you’re golden. That’s assuming you have your firewood in an easily accessible location. However, if you have a fireplace and no supplies, find scrap wood or kindling around your house. Even a small fire could make a large difference for the room if you seal it off.
As we mentioned, never use your oven for heat. If you have a gas stove or a gas oven, it’s okay to cook with them, which will provide some heat. Boiling a pan of water on the stove can add some heat and humidity while also providing safe water to use.
Get a Generator
Lastly, a generator could save your life, keep your house warm, and keep your food from spoiling. If you can afford a generator, it may be the best investment you made in your life, and it will prevent a devastating winter storm from causing too much damage to you or your property.
Without a doubt, a generator is the best way to maintain maximum comfort and safety during a winter power outage, especially combined with a fireplace. If you have both, you’re good to go!
Just remember that a generator is a waste if you don’t have fuel. Gasoline or diesel can degrade over time, especially in the colder months, so after a few weeks, use the can to fill up your car and refill it.
Stay Warm and Enjoy!
Now that you have the right winter home maintenance checklist, you can enjoy your winter with a newfound peace of mind and spirit for the season. It doesn’t have to be too difficult, so just spend a weekend preparing for the worst and then hope to spend the season enjoying the best! Stay up to date with our latest news, and contact us with any questions!