Getting Your Home Ready for Winter

That time of year always seems to sneak up on us quickly as the summer ends. With snow and ice just around the corner, it’s time again to prepare your home for those cold months in Winnipeg.

Completing some simple tasks on a winter home preparation checklist can help avoid some costly disasters. A home left unprotected in the freezing temperatures can lead to a large mess, not to mention the headache of an insurance claim or expensive repairs down the road.

Here are some tips to make sure that your home is ready for winter so you can rest easy and comfortably during the chilly months.

 

Inspect the Furnace

To have an efficiently heated home it’s important to make sure your heating system is clean and well maintained. These are steps you can take on any gas powered furnace.

Make sure to have a trained professional furnace repair technician to brush and vacuum the heat exchanger. At the same time, they can lubricate parts if necessary, and they will check for cracks which could result in a dangerous carbon monoxide leak.

As well, changing the air filters at regular intervals, especially at the start of the heating season, is an important part of keeping the airflow moving efficiently. Clean air filters will not only keep the air clean but they will allow for better airflow so your heating system does not have to work so hard.

 

Air Conditioner

While the heat is being checked on the inside, make sure to cover the air conditioning unit on the outside of the home. Do this only if you’re A/C is not part of a heat pump system, which would require the unit to be in operation throughout the year. Covering the A/C will help to protect the condenser from falling ice, and the melting and freezing of snow and ice. Just about any type of covering will do but make sure some air flow remains to keep the moisture from being trapped and rusting away your unit.

 

Thermostat

It’s easy to overlook switching your thermostat from the cool setting to heat, and setting it for appropriate temperatures for the coming season. Setting the thermostat to a temperature that is a couple of degrees higher than the current temperature should prompt the system to begin heating the home. If you don’t hear the furnace click on within about a minute, pull off the thermostat cover and make sure the wiring connections are secure, or batteries are fresh in a unit that requires them. You can also check that the heating system has power through the breakers and the system is turned on. If the problem persists it might be time to call in a professional.

If you have the older style thermostat, consider replacing it with an updated programmable model. Doing so can save you money on heating costs in the long run by adjusting the temperatures as needed throughout the day.

 

Duct Cleaning

While in most cases cleaning your ducts in Winnipeg will not be necessary every single year, however, if you haven’t done it a few years it might be time to take care of it. Dirty ducts not only circulate dust throughout your home but any organisms that have been able to grow within the ducts can become airborne as well. A thorough cleaning of your ducts can also help to reduce the allergens spread throughout your home in a forced air system.

Clean ducts also allow for more efficiency from your furnace. The air flowing through the ducts will not have those dirty obstructions to blow past.

 

Windows and Doors

Every entry point of a home is also a point for potential heat loss or leaks. To win the battle against the cold, make sure to check all the weather-stripping around windows and door frames. Replacing the weather-stripping as needed will offer a better seal around each opening.

If your home has wooden windows, check each frame carefully for any signs of rot or decay. Replacing or repairing a worn wooden window frame will help keep the heat in the home while also maintaining the structural integrity of the window.

While inspecting the frames, also check the glass on each window to make sure cracks or broken glass can be fixed before it gets too cold.

 

Fireplace

Much like the furnace in the home, the fireplace can be a great heat source. Whether it is a gas fireplace or natural one complete with a chimney, making certain that everything is in proper working order and clean before its operation can prevent major issues.

  • Gas Fireplace: Have a professional inspect your gas fireplace before you run it. The unit can be checked for any insects that have chosen to nest in the system and the gas lines can be inspected for signs of wear.
  • Natural Wood Fireplace: Have the fireplace checked thoroughly, from the firebox to the flue, and up into the chimney. A professional will be able to look for cracks or voids in the structure that could lead to a fire hazard. As well, the chimney should be cleaned annually to eliminate soot or creosote, which can be flammable if they have built up over the course of time.

Even if you haven’t used the fireplace in years, there may be animals that have found a home in the chimney stack that you might not be aware of. Cleaning them out will create a clear path for the smoke to flow safely.

 

Eaves Troughs

Check the eaves troughs on every side of your home, especially if you live in an area with mature trees that hang high up over the houses. Cleaning out the troughs will leave the room needed for snow and ice to run off during a thaw. This will prevent ice from damming up or forming icicles that can damage your roof and soffit.

 

Exposed Water Taps & Sprinkler Systems

Leaving pipes and taps that are exposed to the freezing temperatures of winter can result in pipes bursting due to the expansion of water when it freezes. This can cause major damage. A simple solution to this is to empty the pipes that are in the backyard, the sides of the house, and even in the garage. Simply let the water run at each spout and turn it off at the source, which is usually in the basement of the home. Evacuating the water from the pipes will leave them clear and ready for use in the spring.

 

In the Yard

There are a few things to take care of outside the home that could potentially protect against damage.

  • By trimming the branches on bushes and trees that hang near the house, or possibly next to electrical wiring, you will be reducing the risk that they damage the wires or your home during a heavy wind, ice storm, or a heavy snowfall.
  • Make sure that your storm drains are clear and that they are running to areas away from the home’s foundation. As well, the ground surrounding your home should slope away from the building so that water does not penetrate the walls. Adding dirt and gravel to areas that need it will help to maintain the required slope.
  • Store any hoses in a shed or the garage for use during the next spring season. This will help to prevent them from cracking and will prolong their usefulness.
  • Check your deck for any splintering, decay, or even damage from insects. By fixing issues on the deck prior to the winter, you could avoid further damage from exposure throughout the cold months. At the same time, cleaning the deck of any leaves or pine needles will salvage it from mold and mildew growth.
  • Check your outdoor lighting systems to make sure they are in good working order. Winters are not only cold, but the darkness lingers in the mornings and the evenings. Making sure pathways are illuminated can make walking through the ice and snow much easier.
  • With that in mind, also make sure that any outdoor handrails are completely secured so they can be used safely when needed. Stock up on ice melt before you need it.

 

3 Other Important Things to Consider

  1. The change of seasons is always a good time to check your home’s smoke detectors. Replacing batteries in these devices could save your life should anything go wrong.
  2. The goal of every winter is to keep the warm air in and the cold air out. Plug up any air leaks in the ducts, basement, attic, and crawl spaces. A simple sealant will make sure no unwanted air can flow through any cracks or holes.
  3. Along the same lines, caulk air leaks around windows and doors to maintain your home’s heating efficiency.

The coming winter is something every homeowner needs to think about at the end of each summer. A few little points of preparation can help make winter comfortable inside your home and at the same time, prevent damage that could cost thousands in repairs. Do right by your home so it can do right by you. Get your home ready for winter before it gets cold.

Steve De Vries is a “Red Seal” refrigeration technician with over 20 years of experience in the HVAC industry. He has been a certified Lennox Premier technician since 2006. Steve is also a Master gas-fitter licensed by the province of Manitoba. Along with his Red Seal Provincial accreditation he also holds an electrical license. Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Steve has a very good understanding of a diverse climate and the affects it has on our construction. Well versed in duct design, fabrication, ventilation, and air quality, Steve understands all the variables to take into consideration for our region as well as the science to achieve desired comfort, which is so much more than just temperature.