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Have You Winterized Your Home Yet?

Start off the New Year with a resolution to take better care of your home.  First off, don’t delay winterizing you home if you haven’t already!

We’ve got a handy list below that will help keep your home protected and prepared for the next winter snowfall or major ice storm (Remember that February and March can have some of the harshest weather in the DC metro area!).

Keep in mind you’ll save money over the long run since regular winter maintenance prevents costly damage to your home AND makes your home more energy-efficient.

Put in the effort today and start creating your own to-do list. Some items are simple DIY tasks and others may require a professional.  Once you look through the list below, you can decide what you can handle yourself and what tasks are better to hire out.

Doors, Windows & Attic

These tasks can be simple DIY projects that can keep your home toasty and warm without having to crank up the heat. If you have an older, drafty home, this is a definite for you.

  • Add or replace weather-stripping around doors and windows to keep out drafts.
  • Caulk around windows where cold airs gets in.
  • Switch out summer screens and install storm windows, if you have them.
  • Get a good storm door for your entrance.
  • Consider getting plastic shields to protect basement window wells.
  • Switch to heavier curtains or shades during the wintertime to help keep rooms warm.
  • Insulate your attic and look at the benefits of cellulose insulation over fiberglass.

Chimney

Before you sit by the fire, you’ll want to double check our list below. You don’t want to have any nasty surprises or create a fire hazard.

  • Hire a professional to inspect and clean your chimney and make any recommended repairs.
  • Close the damper when not in use, but don’t forget to open it before lighting a fire.
  • Cap or screen the top to keep out rodents and birds seeking refuge.
  • Buy firewood but store if away from the exterior of your home. Many creatures like to make woodpiles their winter home.
  • Consider getting a gas fireplace if you have a gas line. They look much more realistic than ever and are easy to switch on and off.
  • If you are using any kind of fireplace—gas or wood-burning – be sure to have a carbon monoxide detector installed on every level.

Furnace, Ducts & AC Units

No one wants to wake up in a bitter cold home. Do these now so you can relax over the winter months or head out of town with no worry about freezing pipes.

  • Hire a HVAC professional to inspect and clean your furnace. Better yet, have a contract with a company that you can contact in case of an emergency outage, so that they’ll respond more quickly since you’re a dedicated customer.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly. Can’t make it to a local store or buy bulk at Costco, you can order these online to be delivered to your door!  Amazon even has an automated ordering system now where you set it up once and can have them delivered every month automatically!
  • Drain air conditioning pipes and turn off its shut-off valve if you have one.
  • Hire a professional to inspect ducts for leaks in their joints; and have them cleaned if necessary.
  • Ducts in cold spaces such as attics, basements, or crawl spaces should be insulated.
  • Remove and store window AC units.
  • Most furnaces have a “winter” setting on the ductwork to push more air to the lower levels during winter months.  If you find that your home has unequal heat, with some rooms or levels being colder or warmer than others, simply adjust the levers and voila!
  • If you have a gas-fired furnace, be sure you have a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.

Thermostat

These easy tasks can go a long way in saving energy and convenience.

  • Buy a programmable thermostat that allows you to set temperatures lower when you’re not at home or sleeping. There are so many smart technology options out there when it comes to thermostats so shop around.
  • To prevent pipes from bursting, never set your thermostat below 55 degrees.

Outdoor/Home Exterior

The outside of your home is where harsh winter storms and cold weather can do damage. Get these outside tasks done right now.

  • Take the time to make sure gutters and downspouts are cleaned out thoroughly of leaves and debris. Water can freeze causing them to detach from your home. This can also cause major water damage to your home!
  • Trim tree branches that hang too close to your home or electrical wires to avoid causing power outages.
  • Drain garden hoses and store them inside.
  • Drain outdoor faucets and winterize in-ground watering systems so you don’t get burst pipes inside your walls. Watch YouTube videos to show you how to do this;it’s easy and a must-do to keep your pipes from freezing!
  • Cover outdoor furniture or store it inside. Do the same with sensitive potted plants.
  • Seal foundation cracks to prevent mice sneaking in.
  • Sometimes eco-friendly composite decks and stairs can be more slick and hazardous when ice forms. Be careful since it might not be obvious!
  • Stock up on pet-friendly salt or deicing treatments for your sidewalks, driveway, and porch to prevent slipping.

Power Failures & Severe Weather

When a storm hits, many neighborhoods lose power. Be ready with these tips.

  • Store flashlights, a first-aid kit, and extra batteries in easy-to-reach locations. Consider getting some battery-operated candles instead of real candles to prevent any fire risk.
  • Make sure your cell phone is charged if a storm is forecasted.
  • Keep extra water bottles, nonperishable food (for babies and pets too!), blankets and necessary medications on hand.
  • Check that you have a working shovel and bags of ice-melt ( remember pet friendly brands!) or sand so you’re ready for snow and ice.
  • Consider getting a generator if your home or neighborhood loses power more often. It could be worth the money and might be needed if you have small children. Place the generator at least 20 feet from your house.
  • Find the phone numbers and website of your utility companies. Post it somewhere for easy access.

Fire/CO Safety

Make sure your home doesn’t have any unsuspecting hazards. We’ve already mentioned cleaning your chimney, getting your heating units inspected but there are other steps to include on your list.

  • Make sure you have smoke detectors installed throughout your home and now’s a great time to change the batteries.  If your smoke detector is older than 7 years, replace it!
  • If you have any gas-fired appliances — furnace, gas fireplace or even a gas stove or a wood-burning fireplace — be sure to install a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector. It can alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas, which causes headaches, nausea, and disorientation. Check batteries monthly.
  • Be careful with space heaters. Make sure you don’t leave them on and don’t use extension cords.
  • Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement and garage.
  • Do not heat your home with a gas range or oven.
  • Never run a car or truck inside an attached garage.

We hope you’ve found these tips a helpful way to enjoy a safe, cozy, and happy winter! Here’s a handy PDF list that you can access from your smart phone or print out.

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