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Angie’s List: How can I winterize my home?

By Lisa Gauthier Mitchison
Angie’s List

Winter weather can take a toll on your house. Here are a few ways you can take some of the pressure off it and keep energy bills from skyrocketing.

Insulation

Updating your house’s insulation is one of the best investments. Not only will it keep you and your family comfortable during frigid weather, but also it means less energy expenditure, therefore, lower bills. Insulation can deteriorate over time, so if it’s been a while since you inspected it, now is a good time to check it out. The best way to find out where you may be losing heat is to get an energy audit. They can pinpoint any heat loss, whether it’s from the attic, windows, or walls.

A DIY project is installing weather stripping, which is inexpensive and can be found at any home improvement store. Weather stripping is self-adhesive, so it’s easy to install around windows and doors. You can also caulk around windows and doors to lessen heat leakage.

The decision between repairing or replacing a roof can make a difference of thousands of dollars.

Outside the house

Have your roof and siding inspected and make any necessary repairs. Prevention could save you a lot of money in the long run. Inspect gutters and downspouts to ensure proper fastening and re-secure sagging or loose gutters. Also, clean the gutters to avoid overflowing and icicles. Make sure downspouts reach at least 5 feet from the house to avoid flooding and water damage.

Your lawn and garden

Now is the time to aerate and reseed the lawn. You can also use a winterizing fertilizer if you want to.

Cut back overgrown branches near the house and near any electrical wires. Ice and snow buildup can cause branches to break, potentially snapping a line (or damaging your home) on their way down.

Turn off outside faucets. Drain water from the pipes in order to avoid the pipes bursting. Remove any attached hoses and put them inside to avoid cracking and prolong their usefulness. Cover exterior faucets to prevent water damage.

Check outside lighting. With long, dark days, proper lighting will help prevent accidents on iced-over walkways. Also, inspect handrails on outside stairs, making sure they are secure.

Tools

Prepare seasonal tools, such as snow blowers, with a tune-up, which includes a light coating of oil to prevent rust. Make these tools (including snow shovels and salt) easily accessible so you don’t have to dig them out when you need them. Make sure everything is in proper working order.

Get your lawnmower ready for long-term storage by cleaning away leaves, mud, grass and other debris.

Inside the house

Get your chimney inspected and cleaned to avoid unintentional and dangerous fires. It’s also time for a furnace tune-up.

Make sure your humidifiers are clean and have new filters for best efficiency.

Remove window AC units or install specialized covers over them. This will help keep out drafts.

Ceiling fans should be switched to the reverse position, blowing warmer air down for better energy efficiency.

Lisa Gauthier Mitchison is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.