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Winterize Your House to Lower Your Insurance Risks and Maintenance Costs!
Winter is fast approaching. I recently wrote an article giving several tips on how to minimize your insurance risks when driving in cold weather. But what can we do if we just want to stay comfortable in our home?
As you might expect, there are a number of things that can be done to make homes more comfortable and safer during the winter. An added bonus is that by winterizing your home and planning for cold weather, you’ll also reduce the risk of having to file an insurance claim that may (or may not) be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
If we start from inside the house and work our way out, here are some tips to keep in mind. If you think your heating bill is too high, have a heating contractor check the amount of insulation in the attic and walls of your home. There are also services that can take an infrared image of your home to see where heat is escaping.
- Having a well-insulated home can offer immediate savings on heating bills. An insulation inspection can also reveal other maintenance issues (such as animal damage) that are much less expensive to fix if they are addressed early.
- Check doors and windows. Trying to raise the temperature outside the house using the oven is not a good idea. If you have cracks around doors or windows that can be sealed with caulk or weatherstripping, heat from your home escapes through those cracks.
- Inspect all water pipes. Take immediate steps to prevent pipes that may be exposed to the cold from freezing. While water damage from a frozen burst pipe may be covered by homeowner’s insurance, the hassle and cost of repairing a flooded basement when it’s 20 degrees below zero is something every homeowner faces. would like to avoid
- Space heaters used in the home have a much higher risk of danger than central heat.
- Clean and seal the air ducts. Furnace air ducts that are covered in dust or have gaps are inefficient and will prevent your furnace from operating at peak efficiency.
- Oven maintenance. Have your furnace checked every few years (or whenever you think there might be a problem) by a heating professional. If you have an older furnace, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model. Replace your furnace filter. Consider replacing an old thermostat with a newer programmable thermostat. The potential savings could be easier than the cost.
- Test your smoke detectors to make sure they are working. Many fire deaths in the US are the result of smoke inhalation. Unfortunately, if smoke detectors don’t go off when they should, there’s a good chance that by the time the fire department arrives it will be too late; not just for the house, but for the occupants.
- Fireplaces and wood stoves. If you use a wood stove, have the chimney swept. Just a small build-up of creosote in the chimney can greatly increase the chances of a chimney fire. Make sure your chimney is not clogged and that unwanted pests have not made your chimney their home.
- Roof and gutters. An ice dam can occur when water freezes on the roof or in the gutters. This usually results in the shingles being pushed up. Then the water gets under the roof tiles and finally reaches the house.
- Reduce your risk by cleaning all gutters to remove leaves that may have accumulated in the fall. Remember past winters. If you’ve noticed icicles or ice build-up on your roof, consider them warning signs. Have a qualified contractor assess the situation and/or consider installing roof ice melting cables
- Close (and if necessary) drain the water in the outside taps.
- Drain, roll up and store all used hoses outside during warm weather.
- Control ice and snow on walks and steps. As a homeowner, you are responsible for the safety of your family and guests. Slips and falls are a major risk during the winter. Remove snow as soon as possible and place de-icer in areas subject to pedestrian traffic.
- Holidays When you’re on vacation, have a family member or someone you trust stop by your house to check on it from time to time. Turn down the heat in the home (probably down to 50 degrees). Make a list of emergency numbers that can be called in case of the unexpected. Stop home delivery of items that might indicate you’re not home.
- Remember to winterize any gas home maintenance accessories you have. Run the attachment (lawn tractor, leaf blower, lawn mower, chainsaw, etc.) until it runs out of gas or add an appropriate amount of gas stabilizer to the tank. In cold weather, the gas can deteriorate and cause problems when you want to use the item next year. Store all flammable materials in approved containers.
- And finally, these two elements. If you need to leave the house quickly for any reason, make sure the family has an evacuation plan. Second, if you’re completely snowed in and the power goes out, have an emergency kit.
Proper home maintenance and winter planning can go a long way in making sure you enjoy the change of season and don’t experience extra expenses.
Have a good winter!
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