Summer’s behind us and the leaves are starting to change. While you’re enjoying those delightful autumn vibes, take some time to make sure your home is ready for Old Man Winter—because you know he is on the way. And, let’s be real—he can be a grumpy old fella.
Winter preparations range from do-it-yourself tasks to replacing those windows or doors you’ve been meaning to take care of for years. While every home is unique, these steps will help prepare you and your home for whatever winter delivers.
Check Your Windows and Doors
Replacing windows can be a big expense for homeowners. Knowing when the windows need to be replaced is important.
“Windows are one of the major energy losses in a house,” said Steve Rennekamp of Energy Swing Windows. “Older windows are an especially big drain in the wintertime as they let energy out and leak cold air into the home.”
While double-paned and tilt windows offer some advantages over standard windows, the swing windows design is a step up from an energy perspective.
“A swing window sits in a track; the harder the wind blows the tighter the seal,” explained Rennekamp. “They are better than tilt windows from an energy perspective because tilt windows sit on a ledge, and if there’s movement over time you may lose the seal.”
Energy savings is one reason to replace your windows, but it is not as important as some other reasons.
“If the windows can’t open or close and the window parts have worn out, it’s time to make a change,” said Rennekamp.
Having a quality door is important. While you may save money initially by choosing a cheaper product, the cheaper doors deteriorate faster, leading to rotten frames that absorb moisture. If you have older doors, you need to check the weather stripping, as it will eventually wear out.
“The doors that we sell have a frame that doesn’t absorb water, which is important in the Pittsburgh area because you often get snow packed up against the door,” explained Rennekamp. “Our doors have a composite material at the bottom of the frame on both sides, which prevents it from absorbing moisture.”
Be Sure to Clean Your Gutters
The leaves will fall and when they do, it’s important to clean out your gutters. Once the winter ice storms and dropping temperatures arrive, those leaves will freeze into an icy mess. If that gets under your shingles, roof damage is possible. If you’re up for climbing a ladder, grab some work gloves and scoop out those leaves. Or, schedule someone with experience to do the job for you.
Drain Outdoor Sprinkler Systems
Residual water left in an outdoor sprinkler system may freeze when temperatures plummet. To avoid an expansion that could crack the pipes, it’s best to have an irrigation contractor blow out the water using compressed air.
If you’re a do-it-yourself person, you’ll need to shut off the water source, open the drain valves located at the lowest part of the irrigation system and allow the water to drain.
Keep Your Pipes Insulated
Another potential freeze disaster exists within exposed pipes. If you have exposed pipes in an unheated area like a basement or crawl space, temperature drops below 32 degrees can cause a pipe to burst, and that alone can ruin your winter wonderland.
Time for Tree Trimming
If you have tree branches extending over your home, driveway or power lines, it is a smart idea to have those trimmed before winter storms arrive. If the branches come down during a storm severe damage can ensue.
Get Your Furnace a Check-Up
You’re counting on your furnace to keep you warm through the winter. The best way to ensure that happens is with a furnace check-up before the cold weather settles in. Contact an HVAC contractor to check your furnace and confirm it is operating efficiently and safely.
Call the Chimney Sweep
You’re going to want to cuddle up by the fire with a glass of hot chocolate this winter, so it’s important to make sure your chimney is clean. If you have a wood burning fireplace that you use six or more times a year, you should schedule an inspection annually with a certified chimney sweep. If your fireplace is gas or you use it less frequently, every three years is sufficient.