Angie's LIST Guide to
Winterizing Your Home

Even if you have good insulation there are practical steps you can take every year to make sure your home is ready for winter weather. Most cost little to do and can pay off big over the long term.


Sometimes it's necessary to remove snow accumulation from a home's roof to avoid ice dams.
Sometimes it's necessary to remove snow accumulation from a home's roof to avoid ice dams.

Winterizing tasks

Maintain your furnace. The single best step a homeowner can take to maintain heating system efficiency is to change your furnace filter regularly. You also should have an HVAC service provider check your furnace, give it a tune up and make sure it is in top working order.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, stock up on logs, but make sure they're hardwood and well seasoned before burning. Store them in a dry place but far enough away from your house that they don't attract termites. Also check your fireplace damper. Make sure it is closed when not in use to avoid drafts.

Check your ducts. To increase your heater's efficiency, check all the ducts in your heating system and cover any leaks in the system with metal-backed tape. It reflects heat better than duct tape. While you're at it, find any exposed pipes and wrap them in insulation. This will help keep them from freezing.

Walk the perimeter. Before the onset of winter, inspect the outside of your house and make sure you have all the little cracks sealed. Be alert to any cracks or holes around the foundation of your house, which can also invite in insects and mice as they seek shelter from the cold.

Clean your gutters. Even if you already cleaned the gutters during the fall, check the top of each downspout to be sure it hasn't collected more debris before winter weather begins. If they are not properly cleared, winter precipitation can freeze, causing damage to your roof and other areas of your home.

Check your trees. Trim trees near your home so that limbs don't break under the weight of snow and fall on your house. Planting evergreens near your house also can help shelter it from cold winds.

Check alarms and detectors. Winter can be a dangerous time because many people keep their homes closed up tight while running furnaces or burning fires. Because of the potentially dangerous build-up of smoke and carbon monoxide, make sure you check your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers to ensure they are in working order.

Drafty windows

Although the best solution to drafty windows is to swap them out entirely for energy-efficient replacement windows, that's a high-end investment not all homeowners can afford. There are, however, some lower-cost remedies that can be quite effective.

Spray foam insulation: The problem with older windows isn’t always confined to the glass and frame. Older homes are notorious for being light on insulation, especially around the windows.

If you are handy with a hammer, remove the trim from around a window. Fill the cavity with spray foam insulation and then replace the trim. Tip: Be sure to leave space for the insulation to expand, and do not replace the trim until it has stopped expanding.

Weatherstripping: Double hung windows may have seals that have lost their ability to keep the cold weather out. Use strips to seal gaps in between the sashes and around the frame. Raise the window and replace the weather strip on the bottom of the frame.

Glazing: Older windows feature glass panes that are held in place with a putty-like glazing compound. As the long-dried compound wears away, cold air can start to seep in. The old glazing strips can be removed with a razor blade and then replaced with fresh compound.

Plastic sheeting: Often the most effective, easiest and least expensive solution to drafty windows is to cover them on the inside with plastic sheeting.

Available in kits, the plastic will include double-sided tape. Simply apply the tape around the window, fit the plastic over it and then use a blow dryer to shrink it and create a perfect fit. If you are concerned about a lack of insulation around the window frame, you can carry the sheeting out onto the surrounding drywall. Be aware that the glue from the tape will be easier to remove from the wood frame on the window than the painted drywall.

Program your thermostat

Programmable thermostats are digital timers wired into your furnace and air conditioner system to control the temperature during the day and night.

Instead of running your heat at warm temperatures during the times that you are at work, running errands or sleeping, programmable thermostats let you schedule what temperature your home will be during every hour of the day. You can set the thermostat to warm your home just before you get home or wake up to increase your comfort level.

Over time, programmable thermostats save you money on your heating bill by setting your furnace not to run when you are not home. By only warming your home to comfort levels while you are at home and awake, your utility bill will decrease. Your utility bill will go down by about 3 percent for each degree lower than 72 degrees you set your thermostat.

Installing a programmable thermostat is easily done yourself with just a screwdriver. The thermostat itself will run $70 to $200, depending on the model and features. A professional heating and cooling company can install one for you, but expect to pay for a service call or labor on top of the cost of the programmable thermostat.


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