7 Essential Winter Home Maintenance Tips

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As winter approaches, we need to prepare our homes for the colder months ahead. While the season brings festive cheer and cozy evenings, it also poses unique challenges for home maintenance. Winter preparation is key to a comfortable and safe home environment, from protecting pipes against freezing to upgrading your HVAC to an efficient single zone mini split.

These seven practical and effective strategies are designed to help you safeguard your residence against cold weather damage, ensuring a warm and worry-free season ahead.

1.     Insulate Your Home

Effective insulation is vital to maintaining a comfortable and energy-efficient living space, especially during winter. You can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs with proper home insulation.

To ensure your home is well-insulated, start by inspecting the attic. If the insulation level is below or just level with the floor joists, it’s time to add more. Fiberglass batts are an excellent option for attic insulation and are easy to install yourself. Next, check the walls. You can tell if they need additional insulation if the interior walls of your home feel cold to the touch. Adding extra insulation to walls can be trickier than attic installation, but blown-in cellulose is a practical choice. However, this type of insulation is best left to professionals with the equipment and know-how to perform the job quickly and correctly.

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2.     Check the Heating System

Regularly checking your home’s heating system is vital for a warmer winter and can also impact your wallet. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that proper maintenance and upgrades can lower your energy bills by up to 30%.

Start by looking for common issues with your HVAC, such as strange noises, uneven heating or a persistent need to adjust the thermostat. You can mitigate many of these issues by cleaning or replacing filters and ensuring vents are clear of dust and debris for optimal airflow. You may need a professional annual inspection for more complex systems like furnaces or boilers.

If your system is over 15 years old or needs to be repaired frequently, consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model. Installing a DIY mini split is a simple, cost-effective way to improve your home heating. Mini split systems let you heat your home zonally, so you only heat the rooms you use.

3.     Seal Windows and Doors

Gaps and leaks in a home’s envelope — windows, doors and other openings — can be significant sources of heat loss. Heat transfer and air leaks through these openings can account for an estimated 25–30% of a household’s heating and cooling energy use, leading to increased energy consumption and higher bills.

To seal your home, use foam, felt or vinyl weatherstripping for movable parts like doors and windows. Due to its weather resistance, silicone caulk effectively seals non-movable gaps under ¼” around frames and junctions. You can apply transparent window insulation film on glass to cut heat transfer and install door sweeps or draft stoppers at door bases to block cold air entry and retain warmth, especially on exterior doors.

4.     Weatherproof Your Plumbing

Weatherproofing your plumbing is essential to prevent your pipes from freezing over. When water in pipes freezes, it expands, potentially causing pipes to burst, leading to significant water damage and costly repairs.

Use foam insulation sleeves to insulate and protect your pipes, especially in unheated areas like basements, attics and garages. These are simple to install and can be cut to fit. For extra protection, consider using thermostatic heat tape on vulnerable pipes like outdoor hose bibs or pipes in north-facing exterior walls.

During cold spells, maintaining a steady water flow can help prevent freezing. Let a faucet drip slightly overnight or when the temperature drops significantly to keep water moving and reduce the risk of freezing. Keep cabinet doors under sinks open to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.

5.     Clear Gutters and Check the Roof

Winter weather can severely impact your gutters and roof. Accumulated snow and ice can lead to ice dams, which hinder proper drainage and potentially cause water to seep into your home. Clearing gutters of leaves, twigs and debris before winter sets in helps maintain proper water flow.

When inspecting the roof, look for damaged or missing shingles, cracks or any signs of wear that could lead to leaks. Pay special attention to flashing around chimneys and vents, as these are common leak spots. Use roofing cement to seal leaks and gaps to prevent more significant damage. 

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6.     Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

As winter arrives and heating systems work overtime, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors become critical for home safety. Before cranking up the heat for the first time this season, press the test button on each detector to ensure they sound loudly. Then, re-check the units once a month. You also need to keep detectors clean by dusting and gently vacuuming them to avoid false alarms.

Batteries should also be replaced annually. It’s a good habit to do so when daylight savings time changes in the fall. Otherwise, change them during your pre-winter alarm text. For continued reliability, replace the detectors every 10 years or per the manufacturer’s guidelines.If you have an old gas stove, consider replacing it with premium home appliances to reduce the risk of accidental carbon monoxide leaks in your home.

7.     Test Your Sump Pump

Testing your sump pump before the rainy season or periods of heavy snowmelt will ensure it is functioning correctly and ready to protect your basement from flooding. To test, pour five to six gallons of water into the sump pit until the float rises and the pump turns on. It should activate, pump out the water and turn off automatically.

Also, check the power cords and the outlet for any damage. Clear the pump inlet screen of any debris and inspect the discharge pipe to ensure it’s not blocked and is directing water away from your home. If the pump doesn’t operate correctly during the test, it may need servicing or replacement.

Create a Cozy Home This Winter

A little maintenance goes a long way to creating a safe, inviting home during the colder months. With some simple cleaning tasks and upgrades to your HVAC system and appliances, you can spend an enjoyable winter at home.