As a custom home builder in Maryland, we are often asked what one should be doing to prepare their new home for the colder months. In short, whether your home is new or old, the message is always the same. Getting into a routine of winterizing is an important and fairly inexpensive routine that will keep your home warm and comfortable, and save money on energy bills throughout the winter.
Here’s a checklist to get you started.
Protect your pipes. A burst pipe can be messy and costly to clean up and repair.
Minimize the risk of frozen pipes by sealing cracks and openings in your walls, attic, basement, and crawlspace.
Weatherstrip and caulk around crawlspace doors and basement windows.
Check insulation around pipes to ensure that it’s adequate. Add insulation where needed, avoiding gaps. Simplify the process by purchasing pipe sleeves and seal pieces with tape.
Research heat cables and get advice on whether they are appropriate for your home. Follow use guidelines when installing or using these cables.
Install storm windows or replace old windows with energy efficient alternatives.
Remove and drain hoses and turn off water to any outside faucets or water sources.
Check or install a door sweep which seals the gap between the door and the threshold.
Easily install weather strips and keep drafts from entering your home.
Feel around electrical outlets and switch-plates for cold areas. Add foam sealing gaskets where needed.
Fireplace. Don’t overlook the importance of an annual inspection of your fireplace. This should be done each year prior to the first use.
During warmer months, it’s not unusual for animals to nest in chimneys creating a hidden fire hazard.
Creosote buildup is another common issue, and having your chimney cleaned will reduce dust and soot residue in your home.
Check the flue for a tight seal when closed.
Block the Cold. Blocking out the cold can be as easy as inspecting your attic.
The majority of heat loss occurs in the attic space. Make sure you have adequate and properly installed insulation.
Insulate your attic. If you are not in a new home, you may need to adjust the amount or quality of insulation in your attic where original insulation has settled or deteriorated. A local hardware store or contractor can assist you in purchasing the correct kind and the amount of insulation you will need for your home. Make sure to do your research or hire a professional before starting this kind of project.
Fill in the gaps or cracks. Read guides on how to buy and distribute caulk properly and then go to work on filling in the open spaces.
Thermostat. With new systems entering the market every day, it’s a great idea to install a programmable thermostat for Maryland’s cold months. This technology allows you to set the temperature of your home to vary by day and night, or when you are home or away. This easy to install addition can keep your home cozy when you need it and reduces wasted costs by reducing heat in an empty home.
Test Your Heating System.
Turn on the thermostat to heat mode and set it to 80 degrees for testing. The unit should turn on and begin to heat the home. If it’s running well, turn the unit back to its normal settings. If there is an issue, contact a qualified technician to assist you with the problems.
Maintain your unit seasonally. Follow the step by step instructions in your manual which will keep your system operating efficiently.
Replace air filters regularly.
Clear obstacles from heating vents so air can flow freely.
Protect yourself with an easy to install carbon monoxide alarm.
Outdoor Furniture and Appliances. Just because something is labeled “for outdoor use”, it doesn’t always mean it can withstand extreme weather. Leaving items out during the cold and wet winter months will weather them and reduce their lifespan.
Protect your furniture and grills by moving them indoors. This measure will reduce damage and extend the life of your items. Propane tanks must be stored outside, so always disconnect them and close the tank valve before bringing your grill inside.
If space is an issue, purchase sturdy covers and secure them tightly so they don’t blow off with winter winds.
Not all weatherproofing jobs are big. Some require little to no “handiness” but make a real difference once cold weather hits.
Clean Gutters and Downspouts. Check your gutters mid-fall and then after all the leaves have fallen. Keep them clean and clear of debris. Repair loose gutters if needed. If you have a wooded lot, it may be worth investing in gutter covers.
Replace filters in your furnace.
Close vents in your home that may have been opened during warmer months.
Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans to slowly blow in a clockwise direction. This will draw room air up toward the ceiling and force the warm air down, avoiding a wind chill effect.
Seal your deck to protect it from harsh weather.
Save on Energy Bills. Don’t forget to call your power company and have them conduct an energy saving assessment. This is often a free service where a technician will visit your home and make suggestions of specific changes you can make which will increase the efficiency of your home and save you money.
It’s usually the little things that all add up and make a big difference. Our suggestion would be to prioritize your list by starting with the essential steps, like protecting your pipes. Then, move through the remaining items as you can. Every little step you take to prepare your home for the winter months will add up to a warmer, cozier and less costly winter for you and your family.
Paquin Design Build is a custom home builder located in Grasonville, MD. We currently build homes in Anne Arundel County and Annapolis, and on the east side of the bridge from Stevensville to St. Michaels. Our homes are custom built and designed uniquely for each of our clients. Visit our website for additional information at paquindesignbuild.com.