Get Your Home
Ready for the Cold
Getting your home ready for the big chill now will save
you time and money once winter sets in, especially if you
are unprepared and problems arise.
A pre-winter maintenance involves checking both the
exterior and interior of your home for any potential
problems or areas in need of repair.
Unless you really know what you are doing, get your
heating system professionally inspected, adjusted and
cleaned. This includes having your chimney or furnace vent
inspected for any obstructions. A poorly maintained
heating system not only uses energy less efficiently, it
can break down, catch fire or become the source of carbon
monoxide during heating months.
Ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors properly
installed in all sleeping areas, and inspect these
regularly to ensure they are working properly. Also have a
ready supply of furnace filters on hand so you can change
them regularly - usually once a month.
Keep the area around your furnace free of dust and
clutter. If your furnace has a built-in humidifier, ensure
it is clean and well-maintained. Replace any old pads,
trays or other parts.
Windows, doors, baseboards
Check all weather seals on exterior doors and windows and
replace any worn ones as necessary. Weather-stripping
products generally last only a few years. Also check for
draft problems around the interior of windows, doors and
Light a match. If the flame moves or blows out, you have a
draft problem. Use silicone caulking around doors and
windows and spray foam for filling larger drafty cavities
such as pipe outlets. As a temporary measure, you can
apply clear plastic film over a window to stop drafts and
prevent frost build-up. But these windows should be
properly repaired or replaced.
Attics and basements
Since hot air rises, most heat loss occurs through your
roof. Even if your attic is well-insulated, it may not
necessarily be well-sealed. Insulation is designed to slow
down heat loss rather than stop air flow.
Begin by sealing the gaps that lead from your living areas
to your attic. These gaps serve as escape routes for
heated air. Some accommodate wiring and pipes, while
others are the result of bad craftsmanship and/or the
normal settling of a structure.
A well-sealed attic, however, will not prevent winter
moisture problems if your home has insufficient vents or
these are not in good condition. A well-insulated home
still needs good ventilation.
Heat loss can also occur through your basement if it is
not well-insulated and subject to moisture buildup. You
can control a damp basement by waterproofing the walls,
installing a window exhaust fan, venting your clothes
dryer to the outdoors and wrapping cold-water pipes with
an insulation product.
Clear leaves and debris from all eaves troughs,
downspouts, drains and gutters. Flush with water. Make
sure all downspouts are draining properly. Any obstruction
can lead to ice build-up, which can cause more damage.
Siding, trim, foundation
Patch and seal open cracks. Paint any exterior surfaces in
need of painting. Paint peeling off wood often means there
is moisture in the wood. Purchase products at your local
building supply store to help dry the wood before
painting. Seal any openings where animals may take refuge.
Close vents of unheated crawl spaces.
Root, shingles, flashing
Check your roof or hire someone to check it for you.
Instead of risking life and limb to inspect it, first try
to get a close view with binoculars. All shingles,
flashings and the caulking on flashings should be in good
shape. Check your attic for water spots and other signs of
leakage, such as pinpoints of light on a bright day. Even
if your roof leaks, it may not need to be replaced if it
is less than 15 years old. Most holes in roofing or
flashing can be easily patched.
Cover exterior AC units
Use an appropriate cover or winterized plastic to protect
your outdoor air conditioning or window fan unit to stop
drafts and heat loss.
Install a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat can cut your heating bill with
every Celsius degree you lower the setting. If you have
air conditioning, it also lowers your cooling bills. To
ensure your water pipes don't freeze and burst, don't turn
your thermostat below 14C. With air conditioning, don't go
below 24C - you save by turning your thermostat up.
Check the fireplace
A lot of household heat escapes right up your fireplace
chimney, even when not in use. Check the flue damper to
see it fits snugly and is closed when not in use. Consider
installing tight-fitting glass doors to control airflow.
If you use your fireplace regularly over the winter
months, clean or hire a chimney sweep to dean your chimney
before you start using it again. Removing any obstruction
or build-up will ensure your fireplace operates
problem-free through the winter.
Wrap your pipes
You can avoid burst pipes by wrapping foam tubing around
them and taping it in place. Most tubing comes pre-slit
for easy installation. Water pipe heat cables can also be
purchased; they can keep water flowing at temperatures as
low as -40C.