No matter what winter looks like where you live, whether it’s snow and ice all season long or 70 degrees one day and in the teens the next (we’re looking at you, Virginia), the colder months come with unique challenges to keeping your home comfortable and safe. A buildup of condensation plus freezing temperatures can equal trouble for your roof. Heavy ice and snow can lead to blocked and damaged gutters. Fluctuating winter temperatures can cause caulk to crack and separate from your windows, leading to cold drafts and higher energy bills. Extreme cold can cause pipes to freeze and burst.
The above cold weather catastrophes are only a few ways that winter can damage your home. In addition to having a robust homeowners insurance plan, taking the proper precautions can help ensure that your home stays warm, cozy, and damage-free all winter long.
Protecting your home for the winter: indoors
While you might think that winterizing your home would refer exclusively to outdoor tasks, the inside of your home needs protection from harsh winter weather as well. Below, we’ll discuss different areas of your home in detail, and the steps you can take to protect them from cold winter temperatures.
Add extra insulation
Skyrocketing energy bills are a common winter problem for homeowners. But the good news is that it’s not inevitable. Properly insulating your home can both keep your home warm through the winter and cut your bills back down to size. You can do this by:
- Replacing the screen in your storm door. Swapping out the screen in your storm door for a solid glass pane is a simple way to help keep out the cold.
- Sealing up drafty doorways. To prevent cold air from seeping in under your doors, fill the spaces between the doorframe and the door itself with rubber weatherstripping. For a larger gap between the floor and the bottom of a door, you can use a double draft stopper (two cylindrical pieces of foam that slide onto the front and back of your door).
- Improvising window insulation. While not the prettiest solution in the world, you can easily add an extra layer of insulation to your windows with some plastic sheeting and a hairdryer. Tape a layer of plastic sheeting over your window and shrink it down with the hot air from the hair dryer.
- Insulating the attic. Use rolls of unfaced insulation to fill the spaces between the joists, then add a second layer running perpendicular to the joists.
- Bundling up your water heater. You wear extra layers in cold winter weather — your water heater can benefit from bundling up, too. Find a fiberglass “jacket” at your local home improvement store, wrap it around your water heater, and watch your heating bill shrink.
- Maintaining your HVAC system. Keeping up with your HVAC system maintenance means using quality air filters, changing the filters on time, cleaning your ducts regularly, and promptly repairing any leaks in the ducts. This will keep your home warmer, as well as improve your air quality.
- Swapping out your curtains. It’s a good idea to switch out your airy, light summer curtains for heavier ones in the winter. Thicker curtains, or even ones with thermal backing, will help keep the cold air outside where it belongs.
Have a back-up power source at the ready
Even if your home electricity is pretty reliable, you want to have some sort of back-up power source on hand, especially when winter rolls around. Your main options here are fuel-powered standby generators and battery backup generators.
Conventional fuel-powered generators typically run on natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel. Some natural gas and propane generators connect directly to your home’s gas line or propane tank, which saves you the effort of manual refills. Diesel generators, on the other hand, will need regular refills in order to keep running.
Home battery backup systems run on electricity, either from your power grid or your home’s solar system. They are significantly more expensive up front, but can save you money in fuel costs in the long run.
Protection through detection
To keep our homes warm and comfortable, we tend to keep our windows and doors closed to the outside during the winter. This, combined with otherwise helpful insulation, can unfortunately lead to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide build up inside your home. Fire becomes more of a risk in the winter, as well — using your fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, and wood stoves can all keep your home cozy, but pose a fire risk if not used properly.
To help keep yourself and your home safe this winter, make sure you have plenty of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed. You should have at least one of each, or a device that detects both, on every floor of the house, and they should cover all sleeping areas. You should test and clean all of your detectors regularly. Finally, make sure to keep all flammable objects at least three feet away from all heat sources.
Protecting your home for the winter: outdoors
Ice, snow, and fluctuating temperatures can cause winter damage to your home’s exterior. Through regular maintenance and preemptive repairs, however, you can do a lot to minimize winter weather damage to your home.
Trim, clean, and seal
Three simple steps you can take to protect the exterior of your home from winter weather are:
- Trimming the trees. Heavy snow or ice storms can easily weigh down tree branches and cause them to snap. This is especially true for branches that are already dead. Before winter weather hits, make sure to trim your trees back and remove any dead branches, especially any branches that hang over your fence, yard, or house.
- Cleaning your gutters. Just as ice and snow can weigh down tree branches, they can cause significant damage to your gutters. Making sure your gutters are clear of leaves and other debris before snow starts to fall can help prevent clogging, damage to your walls, and flooding.
- Sealing cracks with caulk. Re-caulking around your windows and in any of the small gaps where different materials meet on the outside of your home can go a long way towards protecting your home from wood rot, water damage, and unwanted air flow.
Repair steps and handrails
When dealing with slippery snow and ice, the last thing you need to deal with is unstable or unsafe steps or handrails. Make sure your railings and steps are solidly put together before winter hits. If you do make a misstep or slip on the ice, you’ll at least have something to grab on to!
All of the steps listed in this article can go a long way towards helping your home weather even the worst winter weather. What’s more, they can help your wallet do the same! Taking the proper steps before cold weather sets in can save you money on both bills and repairs for winter damage.
In addition to home repairs and maintenance, homeowner’s insurance is another smart preventative measure. Homeowner’s insurance helps relieve the financial strain of damages to your home, property, and personal belongings.
Article last updated on October 30th, 2023 at 11:24 am