5 Smart Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Winter
Stay warm and keep your utility bills down.
Assess Drafty Doors
For around $4 a roll at your local hardware store, foam weather stripping is inexpensive and easy to apply. Check the weather stripping around each exterior door every year to make sure that it's still intact, replacing pieces that are worn out, torn, or missing. Choose the size of your weather stripping wisely, and stick up a test strip before outfitting the whole doorframe. The seal around your door should be snug—the door should just close, with a gentle push to lock—but not tight, such that you need to shoulder it closed. Also consider adding a simple rubber door sweep or an old-school door snake across your threshold, which will eliminate chilly drafts. Don't forget about interior doors that lead to unheated spaces, as well—think attic doors, crawl spaces, and basements.
Seal Up Leaky Windows
Wondering about the reliability of your home's original windows? On a windy day, pull up your blinds and hold a candle near the edges of each of your windows. If the candle dances when the wind blows, you may have a leaky seal. This means that cold air is not only coming in, but your expensive heat is going out, too. To address this issue, first go outside: Look for gaps in the wood surrounding the frame and use caulk to seal them up. Then, head inside: There's a wide range of weather stripping products you can buy for windows, including metal v-channels, reinforced felt, and expandable foam strips—these materials are nailed or self-adhered along the inside edges of the window and along the bottom of the sill to produce a tight, wind-proof seal. Each of these products will compress when you close the window, so the window can still be locked. Talk to your local hardware store expert about what option is best for your home's vinyl or wood windows. With the right materials in hand, a project like this can be a quick, one-afternoon DIY.
Protect Your Pipes
Use inexpensive pipe sleeves (also purchased at your local hardware store) to insulate both hot and cold water pipes running through unheated areas of the house. A project like this will help keep your water temperature regulated, and prevent your pipes from freezing during the winter. It may also allow you to slightly lower your water heater temperature during the winter months, which will save money on your energy bills, as well.
Don't Create a Refuge for Rodents
Let's face it: Southern rodents are about as inclined towards cold weather as southern humans, and as soon as the weather turns chilly, many homeowners are aghast to hear the distant pitter-patter of little paws in the house. There are many ways to keep furry friends from taking up residence in your home, but the best and most effective approach is a preventative one. Starting in early fall, comb the exterior and interior of the house, looking for any possible entry point for pests. Pay special attention to any areas where pipes, wires, or ductwork enters the house, and eliminate space around them with close-fitting wire mesh, caulk, rodent-proof spray foam, or steel wool. Remember: Mice can get though a hole the size of a dime.
Trim Your Trees
Check out the foliage around your house, and make sure there are no branches touching your home or the power lines surrounding it. Brittle branches can wreak your siding and gutters during windy winter months, and make for convenient rodent bridges leading straight to your cozy attic. If they threaten your utility lines, they may also knock out much-needed power during a winter storm.