For the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing ways to prepare northeastern homes for the coming winter months. If you’ve been following along, you’ve already read about some of the main home elements that require maintenance and/or inspection: windows, doors, chimneys, fireplaces, fire and carbon monoxide detectors/alarms, furnaces, vents, and air filters. Today, we’ll take a look at a few more aspects of your home that need a bit of attention before that first snowfall.
Check Out Those Pipes
Oh, the pipes. Anyone who has forgotten to prep their pipes for winter and ended up with a burst, frozen pipe is not likely to make that mistake twice, as this is a major hassle and an expensive problem. Fortunately, there’s a little work you can do that will go a long way toward ensuring you don’t wake up to burst pipes at 2 a.m. during a snowstorm.
First, locate the turnoff valve for your hose bibs and drain the lines. This one simple step will save you from some big, big problems. Next, locate your exposed pipes and wrap them up tight. People often forget the outdoor pipes for their irrigation systems, as well as pipes in basements, crawlspaces, and even garages, so be sure to really take your time with this and get them all.
Insulating exposed pipes is fairly simple. Any typical hardware store or home improvement warehouse will have fiberglass insulation or specially designed foam rubber sleeves that you can cut to fit your pipes. Secure the wrappings, whichever you choose to use (duct tape works well for this, as it does for most things!), and you’re all set.
Fun tip: In a pinch (i.e.: You forgot to do this, and now it’s midnight, snowing, and 10 below), grab your kids’ “fun noodles” from last summer at the shore. These colorful Styrofoam pool toys are hollow inside and can be cut to fit your pipes pretty easily. It’s not a long-term solution by any means (read: “Go to the store the next day and get the right equipment.”), and it’s not a recommended method, but in an emergency, you can chop up those noodles, wrap an old blanket around them, and secure them with – yes, again – duct tape. It’ll be your best bet for getting through the night.
Take to The Air
Next up: all things “air.” Grab a ladder and a partner and reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. Warm air rises, so in the winter, you want your fan blades to rotate clockwise (from the perspective of someone below) and push the warm air down. While you’re up there, clean your fan blades, and (if applicable) dust in side the light fixture and check for light bulbs that need replacing. This is a great time to consider Energy Star light bulbs, as they are far superior to standard bulbs, produce less heat, and use less energy. When the weather warms up, you’ll want to switch your fan’s rotation again, and that’s always a good time to, again, dust and check your bulbs.
Finally, consider your air ducts. If you haven’t had your ducts cleaned and inspected in the last couple of years, this is the time to do it. If you’re unfamiliar with duct maintenance, find a service provider who will let you follow him or her around so you can learn the basics. Ducts need to be cleaned periodically to stay free of all the little bits of dust, pet hair, and other “stuff” that that build up in them, as these annoying little particles can be respiratory hazards.
As well, it’s important to have your ducts inspected (or learn to do so yourself) to ensure that they’re not blocked or narrowed in any places. Ducts that have been compromised (pinches, holes, etc.) will not work effectively, and this ultimately means it takes more energy and a much longer time to heat your home. End result: you run your heat much more often and longer than you would if the ducts were functioning properly. It’s well worth the price of a service call to have a professional inspect and clean those ducts.
Are you feeling prepared for winter? How many of your winterizing tasks are you tackling on your own?