With our first real cold snaps quickly approaching, prepare your home for winter before the year’s first frost. By being proactive, you will lower your energy bills, increase the efficiency and lifespan of your home’s components, and make your property safer.

Minimize your chance of being in line needing repairs on freezing days by having your heat pump and furnace inspected now to measure carbon-monoxide leakage and to ensure the system is clean and in good repair so that it can maximize its manufacture-rated efficiency. Clean or replace air filters. Dirty air filters force a system to work harder (chug) and waste energy costing anywhere from 10 to 30% more.

If you have an old thermostat, replace it with a programmable unit easily at a cost of anywhere from $35 to $250. Since it is cheaper to maintain temperatures than to turn them up and down, set your thermostat to come on when the day time temperature drops below a certain temperature, like 68°. If you turn it up only when you are home, you will certainly realize a savings on your heating bill and setting your thermostat at 68° rather than 72° can save up to 20% on your heating bill. You may be able to turn your thermostat down by a degree or two simply by reversing your ceiling fans so that the fan’s blades run in a clockwise direction. Energy Star indicates that the fan will produce an updraft and push the heated air that rises to the ceiling down into a room, which may be even more effective in rooms with high ceilings.

Check your hot water heater, flush the tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order. You may even want to insulate your hot water heater with a “blanket” that runs $20 to $40 at your home improvement store like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Ask your contractor about insulating exposed pipes.

Have the insulation in your attic inspected and identify and fix air leaks and inadequate insulation which can lead to ice dams. Ice dams can cause melt water to back up and flow into your house.

Inspect all ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces for leaks and use a sealant to plug any leaks. If any ducts run through unheated parts of the house, you can substantially minimize heat escape by insulating them at a minimal cost while saving hundreds of dollars on your heating bill.

Have your roof checked looking for damaged, loose, or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow/ice. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around walls, skylights, vent pipes, and chimneys. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.

Check the weather stripping and joints around windows and doors. You will want to add weather stripping around doors as needed to ensure you cannot see daylight from inside your home and if the gaps between the siding and frames are bigger than 1/3 of an inch, you may need to reapply exterior caulk, using silicone since it won’t shrink and is impervious to the elements. You can check for drafts around windows and doors in your home by moving a lit candle slowly around the them. If the candle flickers, you have a draft and should caulk to prevent heat from escaping. Make sure you check the window-glazing putty (where the windows are sealed to the frame). Replace your screen doors and windows with storm doors and windows.

Before using your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood, or coal), ensure the firebox and flue system are checked by a chimney sweep to make sure there is no soot or creosote and that there are no cracks or voids to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide from seeping into your home. If the damper is closed but there is a draft, the damper may be warped, worn, or rusted. You could look at installing a chimney balloon into the flue to seal the area tightly. If you are not using a fireplace, block it off and seal it simply by using cardboard and sealing foam to prevent heat from escaping. A pretty fireplace screen will hide the sealing materials.

Check all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are all in working order.

Clean your gutters of debris. Debris-filled gutters can allow water to back up against the house and damage roofing, siding, and trim, causing leaks and ice dams. Replace any missing or repair any damaged gutters and fascia boards. Add extensions to your downspouts so that water runs at least 4 to 5 feet away from your foundation to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snow/ice melt.

Make sure all vents and openings to the home are covered to prevent heat escape and insects, birds, and other small creatures from getting inside the home to nest in a warm place.

Disconnect all garden hoses and drain water remaining in any faucets or sprinkler systems. Clean leaves and debris from any courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.

Trim overgrown branches away from your house and electrical wires. Iced over or windswept branches can cause severe property damage or power problems.

Inspect your deck, looking for signs of decay or insect damage and treat any splintering, decay or insect damage to prevent further deterioration throughout the harsh winter months.

Check and stock your cold-weather essentials like salt or ice melt, shovels, etc., and move snow blowers and other winter essentials to the front of the garage or storage area for easy access when needed.

If you need any assistance with inspections or repairs, call Pinnacle Building Services at 704-361-1084.