There’s much to look forward to during the colder season: Holiday gatherings, outdoor winter activities, and cozying up next to a warm fire are just a few. Yet, for as much fun as winter can be, extreme temperatures can make staying safe and warm indoors difficult if one doesn’t prepare their home for winter storms.
Forecasts for the 2022–2023 winter season vary depending on where you live. Still, experts predict the coldest temperatures will strike in mid-January for the Northeast, Lower Lakes, Upper Midwest, and the Heartland. Even the Deep South and Florida can expect an above-average winter, meaning more homeowners will be cranking up the heat.
Potential power outages, communication loss, and icy conditions resulting from treacherous winter storms demand that homeowners remain prepared for winter weather well in advance.
In fact, those who prepare for winter weather and its uncertainties have a better chance of protecting themselves, their families, and their property from hazards.
How do you Prepare Your Home for Winter?
Meteorologists study long-term climate patterns to understand how they’ve changed over time – a method they hope will allow them to predict future storm trajectories better and improve preparedness.
In the meantime, there are several ways homeowners should prepare for winter weather. Here are eight steps homeowners can take to ready their homes for the cold months ahead.
1. Reinsulate Your Home
Your home’s insulation balances hot and cold temperatures for optimal comfort and energy efficiency. If the insulation in your attic, crawl space, walls, and floors is old, reinsulating might be in your best interest.
In addition to greater temperature control, insulation decreases outdoor noise, reduces indoor allergens and pests, prevents roof ice dams, and enhances humidity control.
According to Energy Star, homeowners who reinsulate their homes save about 15% on their utility bills, equating to 11% of their total energy costs.
2. Weatherstrip Doors and Windows
One can’t possibly stay warm during the winter when there’s a constant draft. Sealing air leaks around your windows and doors will ensure cold air stays out and warm air won’t escape.
You can apply stripping tape – nail-on, self-adhesive, or foam – to your interior window frames to fill in any gaps. You might also want to recaulk the frame, if necessary.
Consider also weatherstripping your door with wrapped foam that you can easily measure, cut down to the correct size, and apply within minutes.
Attach a simple door draft blocker to interior doorways to prevent drafts from unoccupied rooms. Rolling a towel and blocking the gap near the ground is also effective.
Of course, always tighten the hinges to ensure your door is sitting in its frame correctly.
3. Winterize Your Plumbing
There’s nothing worse than a broken pipe in the middle of a winter storm. These incidents are hazardous since mold and structural damage are possible within a few days. To avoid this, homeowners must winterize their water lines to prepare for winter weather.
Turn off the main water valve before shutting down the water heater and pump. It would help if you also opened all the taps and drain valves. Otherwise, water can get trapped inside the pipes and freeze.
Other plumbing features you’ll need to tend to include air compressors, hot water tanks, holding tanks, sink and tub drains, and toilet tanks. Applying a little antifreeze to each item can help prevent water from freezing and cracking the pipes.
4. Repair the Roof
Check your roof for leaks and damage in the fall before a winter storm rolls in. The last thing you want to worry about is water and cold air seeping into your house through the ceiling and walls.
Roof lifespans vary according to the roofing materials your home uses. If your roof has reached half its life span, consider having a professional inspect it every three to four years – or more frequently if you live somewhere with heavy weather.
Also, homeowners should check their gutters when they inspect their roofs. Clearing debris from your gutters will ensure snowmelt, rain, and debris flow away smoothly and don’t weigh the roof down.
5. Set Your Thermostat
Investing in a smart thermostat for your home is an excellent way to reduce energy consumption and save on your heating and cooling costs throughout the year. Smart thermostats can learn your household’s patterns and temperature preferences, adjusting automatically to your home’s occupancy.
However, you can save 10% annually by simply rolling back the temperature by 7°F to 10°F for eight hours daily. The U.S. Department of Energy even suggests keeping your thermostat set to 68°F for maximum indoor comfort.
6. Trim Away Branches
It takes one major winter storm to send a large tree toppling onto your property. Before the winter gales arrive, prune your trees to avoid damaging your property and posing a safety risk for your household.
Hire a professional arborist or call your utility company to help remove dead or hazardous trees, weak branches hanging over the roof, and any trees that might interfere with overhead wires that power your community.
You should never remove a tree from your property yourself. Those who attempt tree removal risk traumatic injuries, including falls, being hit by falling objects, severe lacerations, and electric shock.
7. Inspect Your Chimney
Households that use their fireplaces each winter season must take precautions to prepare their chimney for winter weather.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireplaces and chimneys cause 29% of house fires annually. Most of these fires result from creosote build-up in the chimney, which is a flammable by-product from wood-burning logs.
The NFPA recommends homeowners have their chimneys and fireplaces inspected and cleaned yearly before the start of the winter season. After each use, you should also clean out any residual soot and ash in the fireplace.
8. Create an Emergency Kit
Homeowners must be ready for anything, so creating an emergency kit is essential. Some of the items you should keep around the house include:
- Extra blankets, mittens, socks, and gloves
- Battery-powered radio for winter weather updates
- Portable cell phone charger
- Extra batteries
- First-aid kit with additional medications
- Extra pet food
- A generator
- A shovel
- Jugs of water
You never know when you’ll endure a power outage or how long it’ll last. Being prepared will keep you safe indoors until the storm passes.
Always Prepare a Home for Winter Storm Uncertainty
Winter weather can be unpredictable. The news might call for a few flurries, but ultimately heavy snowfall might have you digging your way out of the house. Preparing a home to endure whatever winter throws its way is the best way to avoid damage and costly repairs.