Home Care for the Colder Seasons

Cold weather can be nice and serene as leaves turn, colors become more vibrant, and the heat of summer passes. At times though, the colder months can be downright nasty. This month, I want to share some important ways to prepare your home as the temperatures begin to drop, and October is one of the best months to get things done.

Many of you know that I like lists, so here are the things we do to prep our home each year:

  1. Close Crawl Space Vents

For those of us who have a crawl space, there are almost always vents in at least two places (usually the front and back of the house).  These are perfectly fine to close for the Fall and Winter.  In fact, you should close them up because they are only kept open in the summer months to help keep the crawl space aired out and dry.  Just be sure you remember to open the vents back up come summer!

In the colder months, closing them helps prevent big drafts in homes with old flooring.  More importantly, it can help keep the drafts from freezing pipes.  Depending on the style of vent, you could remove the vent frame and put a piece of foam in it and then replace the frame.  If you have an old house like mine, the vent is often just an old ceramic pipe with a screen.  That is why you sometimes see old houses with straw bales around parts of the foundation.  Place a bale of straw where that hole is to help keep it closed and insulated.  You can buy a bale of straw at a local farm store for just a few dollars or befriend a farmer and you might just get a couple for free. 😊

  1. Clean the Gutters

Before winter hits, be sure to clean the leaves and debris out of your gutters.  If gutters get clogged during a rain and the rain freezes, your gutters will begin tearing away from the house and cause serious damage very quickly.  If you do not want to climb around on the roof to clean them out, hire someone.  Make sure they are insured though in case they were to have an accident while doing the job.  Depending on the size of your gutter system, the cost should be about $200 at most.  That is a lot less money than it would cost if your gutters are damaged and need replaced.

  1. Insulate Water Pipes

This step primarily applies to water pipes that run on an exterior wall.  Exterior wall pipes are more prevalent in older homes than newer homes.  For this step, just go to the hardware store and buy foam tubes and put them around the pipes.  That will do wonders to help prevent pipes from freezing.

  1. Change the Furnace Filter

This should only need to be done twice per year (Spring and Winter) if you buy a high-quality furnace filter.  If you purchase lower quality filters, they should be changed every month.  I suggest paying the extra for a higher quality filter.  Higher quality filters usually run $40 to $45.  It would actually be cheaper for you in the long run because you only have to do that twice a year versus paying about $10 every month for a cheaper filter.  It will also give you better air quality and is more energy efficient for your furnace.  The most important thing when changing your furnace filter is to make sure you put the new one in the correct way.  If you are not sure which way to put it in, ask for help.  You also need to check the size filter you need before going to buy a new one.  There are plenty of how to videos online that walk you through this project.

  1. Wrap Your Windows

Wrapping windows is more for older homes but may also be beneficial in homes that are just a few years old.  Wrapping windows on the inside will add a second layer of protection against cold air leaking into your home.  Be sure to measure all the windows you need to wrap before heading to the store.  Do the quick calculation on how many feet of wrap you will need and then go buy the window wrap kits.  They come with the double-sided tape and big film sheets.  Most brands have a standard of 0.7 millimeters in thickness.  Heavier duty sheets are 1.5 millimeters thick.  The thickness you will want depends on the age and draftiness of your windows.  There are plenty of how to videos online that walk you through this project.

  1. Plug Drafty Doors

This can be a very inexpensive project. You do not have to buy the fancy draft guards for under the door.  I have even used a rolled-up towel in front of a door at the back of my home where it is out of sight from visitors.  There are also inexpensive foam adhesive strips you can buy and install around the edges and bottom your doors.

  1. Adjust the Heat

If you are not going to be home for a while, lower the temperature.  Do not turn your furnace off completely.  Turning the heat down to around 60 degrees while you are away can save energy and money.  I would not recommend turning the heat below 55 degrees just to be on the safe side with the water pipes.

  1. Use Your Ceiling Fan

If you have ceiling fans, use them.  Heat rises, so if you turn your ceiling fan on the lowest setting, it gently pushes warm air back down and circulates the warm air around the room.  TIP:  When the fan is going clockwise, it pushes air down, but if it is turning counterclockwise, it pulls air up, so you need to switch directions.  There is a small switch on the fan that controls the direction it spins.

  1. Use the Sun

Open the curtains during the day if the sun is shining.  You would be surprised at how much sunlight shining in will heat your home.  When you close the curtains at night, that can act as another barrier to cold air leaking in through the windows.

  1. Bundle Up

It seems simple and obvious, but the higher you keep the temperature in your home, the more energy you use and the more you pay for your heating bill.  I keep my house at 67 degrees most of the time when we are home.  We just wear heavier clothing, or we put on a blanket when we are relaxing.  Unfortunately for my wife, my sons and I also like cold weather.  To help ease her suffering, the boys and I just buy her some new insulated pants and those fuzzy socks that she loves for Christmas every year.  It helps. 😊

I hope you have a great Fall season and be sure to check out our next newsletter in December!

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