2015 is one of the hottest years on record. That doesn’t mean, however, that the winter is due to be mild. On the contrary. In El Nino years–and yes, this is one of them–winter weather is often just as extreme as its summer counterpart. This means that we are due for extremely cold temperatures and an onslaught of storms and other inclement conditions that could strand us at home for days or even weeks. And, unlike in past decades when we’d have lengthy springs and autumns in which to prepare for the more extreme seasons, climate change has shortened our springs and autumns to weeks instead of months. This means you have to prepare for winter right now.
Here are the most important areas of your home that you need to fix or audit if you want it to stay safe, cozy, and warm all winter long:
As most qualified home exterior contractors will tell you, making sure you’ve got solid windows is one of the most important parts of weatherizing your home for the winter. According to BUILDPRO, you know it’s time to install new windows when:
- Your windows are painted shut.
- Your windows stick or don’t move smoothly.
- Your windows are single pane.
- There are water stains or peeling around your windows.
- Your windows are cold to the touch on very cold days.
- Your windows are rotting.
- You are forced to prop your window to keep it open.
- Your window hardware is rusty, loose, or difficult to operate.
- You feel a draft coming from your windows.
- Your energy costs are too high.
When you replace your windows, make sure that you opt for energy efficient models and that your contractors pay close attention to their fit and proper insulation. Air leeching around window frames is very common and it is important to plug those holes so that your home can stay warm all winter long.
Holes, Cracks, Edging
While you’re making sure that your windows are properly fitted and insulated, take some time to inspect the rest of your home. Pay attention to the edging around your door frames, vents, and HVAC installation. Check around the edges of any built-in lighting elements. Make sure any weather stripping is properly placed and that any insulation or mesh used to seal edging is intact.
It is also very important to inspect your home’s plumbing. The spaces where your pipes pass through the walls of your home and foundation are prime spots for air leeching and pest invasion. Most mice, insects, etc find their way into your home via these cracks and fissures so make sure that your plugging material is solid and free of holes and isn’t showing signs of deterioration.
If it has been a while since the last time you had these materials replaced, now is a fantastic time to do so.
Maintenance and Repairs
Have a professional inspector come out and inspect your heating and cooling system. Replace your vents, look for and fix signs of wear and tear. Regular maintenance and inspections are the best way to ensure that your heating system is ready to take on even the harshest winter. Do not wait for signs of slowing down or problems to have it looked at. The last thing you want is for your system to fail only to find out nobody can come out to fix it for weeks because of inclement weather conditions or a long backlist of clients experience the same problems you have.
If you have non-electric based heat (like propane, pellet or woodstoves, etc) now is a good time to stock up on your heating fuel. The further into winter we go, the more expensive those supplies are going to become and the scarcer the supplies will be. Make sure you always have enough heating fuel on hand to get you through at least a few weeks of winter, just in case an emergency hits.
This is also a good time to have your plumbing inspected and repaired (if problems are found). Talk with your plumber about installing insulation to help keep the pipes from freezing.
If you use a septic tank, make sure this is inspected and any needed maintenance is performed as well. Have it pumped before the season begins. There are few things worse than having a septic tank failure in the middle of winter.
If you live rurally and get your water from a well on your property, make sure this gets a thorough inspection as well. It is important to make sure your water supply is safe and will stay safe throughout the winter.
Obviously, there are steps you can take inside your home as well. That, however, is another post for another time.