Winter Survival Guide for Your Home

Tune up Your Heating System
For about $80 to $100, a technician will inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection should also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. If you act soon, you’ll minimize the chance of being 200th in line for repairs on the coldest day of the year. Make sure you check your technicians qualifications, references and what all will be inspected.
Reverse your Ceiling Fans
If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises).
This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings — and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.
Prevent Ice Dams
If your home had lots of icicles last winter — or worse, ice dams, which can cause melted water to back up and flow into your house — take steps to prevent potential damage this year.
A home-energy auditor or weatherization contractor can identify and fix air leaks and inadequate insulation in your home’s attic that can lead to ice dams.
Inspect your roof
Or at least scan it closely with binoculars. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If need be, hire a qualified roofer to repair any damaged or missing shingles. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. Make sure all fasteners for antennas, satellite dishes, roof vents are all sealed and caulked. If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, rake or blow off fall leaves and pine needles, which can hold moisture. Don’t sweep aside the pebbles; that will expose the asphalt to damaging sunlight.
Caulk Your Windows and Doors
Gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. Check the joints in window and door frames, too. Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements. Check window-glazing putty, too which seals glass into the window frame. Add weather-stripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.
Clean the Gutters
If your gutters have lots of debris in them, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim — plus cause leaks and ice dams. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.
Divert Water
Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation
Turn Off Exterior Faucets
Un-drained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets.
If you don’t have frost-proof faucets, homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not, turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.
Drain Your Lawn Irrigation System
Call in a professional to drain your watering system. Draining sprinkler-system pipes, as with spigots, will help avoid freezing and leaks.
Mulch Your Leaves When You Mow
Mow your leaves instead of raking them. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter. Use your lawn mower without its bag. If you do not already have a mulching lawnmower you can swap the cutting blade for an inexpensive mulching blade. This process may take several passes.
Prepare to Store Your Mower
As the mower sits through the winter, fuel remaining in its engine will decompose, “varnishing” the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring. Check your mower manufacturer for recommend procedures to store your equip,ment over the colder months, but some samples of things to do are: If you’ve added stabilizer to your fuel to keep it fresh longer, then fill the gas tank to the top with more stabilized fuel and run the engine briefly to allow it to circulate. If not, wait until the tank is nearly empty from use and run the engine (outdoors) to use up the remaining fuel. Check your mower’s manual for other cold-weather storage steps.
Do Not Prune Your Bushes or Trees till late Winter
You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, when you can first see the underlying structure of the plant. Horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they’ve been long dormant and just before spring growth begins. To get advice specific to your plants and region, consult master gardeners at local nurseries or horticulturalists. One exception: You may need to hire an arborist to remove deadfall or trim limbs close to your home or power lines that could cause problems in a winter storm.
Test Your Sump Pump
Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should do this every few months, but especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one. For more complete instructions for testing and maintenance, check your owner’s manual. Most sump pumps last about ten years,
Chimney Sweep
Before you burn the Yule log, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home. Make sure you use a certified sweep and check qualifications.
Winter Essential Supplies
Don’t wait for the first winter storm to restock cold-weather essentials, such as salt or ice melt. Gas stabilizer, gasoline for the snow blowers. Make sure your winter shovels are in good shape, handles are solid.