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How To Winterize Your Home

Doing a few, simple, inexpensive things now to winterize your home can prevent little problems from becoming big, expensive repairs later on. Some of the things on this check list will help you save on energy costs as well. Keep in mind that your home warranty covers many of the things that may need work including heating and air conditioning, water heaters, built-in appliances and more. If some of your coverage is through your homeowners association, now is a good time to find out the extent of that coverage. If you have some helpful "winterizing" tips, please add them in the "Comments" section at the bottom of this article.

Going from the top down:

  1. Check your roof for possible leaks, especially around skylights. If you are not about to climb on your roof, this might be something you want a contractor to check especially if you have an older home and you've had leaks in the past. Roof leaks can do a lot of damage to insulation, ceilings, walls, contents and more. Resulting mould is expensive to eliminate and can cause serious health problems.

  2. While you're on the ladder, clean out those drain pipes that may be clogged by leaves and other debris.

  3. Next, it's time for that semi-annual heating-air conditioning system check-up. Replace filters now and monthly. If you have permanent filters, clean them now. Dirt can run up energy costs and eventually harm the unit itself. Close vents in rooms you seldom use like a guest room and make sure vents are not obstructed by furniture. Before you boost that thermostat and get used to elevated winter indoor temperatures, consider a setting that is one or two degrees lower than you have used in the past. You will be surprised how much this can save on energy bills -- as much as 5% for each lowered degree.

  4. Is your water heater insulated? This is something most people forget. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, unless your water heater storage tank already has a high R-value of insulation (at least R-24), adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45%. This should save about 4%–9% in water heating costs. Don't know your heater tank's R-value? A tank that's warm to the touch needs additional insulation. Choose a "jacket" or "blanket" made for water heaters with an insulating value of R-8.  You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets from around $10–$20. Some utilities sell blankets at low prices and offer rebates. Be sure you follow the instructions that come with the insulation and note that there are different rules for gas and electric water heaters. Need a new water heater? There are 2009-2010 energy-efficient tax credits available for non-solar, Energy Star, gas, tankless water heaters. Read more about it at the U.S. Department of Energy web site.

  5. Speaking of insulation -- don't forget your attic!

  6. Escaping heat during cold weather is costly. A lot of winter comfort seeps out around windows and doors that are in need of weather stripping and caulking. This may be a difficult task on older homes without optimal results. If the glass is not up to par in energy efficiency, you may want to consider replacing windows and doors while the tax credit of 30% or up to $1500 is still applicable. Remember, not all energy-efficient windows and doors qualify, so consult an expert.

  7. If window and door replacement is not an option for you at this time, start by replacing deteriorating weather stripping. This is a task that is relatively easy. Consult your home improvement expert when selecting the right product. Self-stick foam is easy to install but not very durable. Rolled vinyl with aluminum or spring metal are probably the most durable choices. If you have recently painted your entry door, make sure the paint has cured before applying new stripping. Use a good quality caulking to seal around window frames, casings and individual glass panes. If needed, select a long, tubular draft stopper for the bottom of doors and windows.

  8. Remember to protect your wood decking from the elements with a good quality sealant like Penofin.

  9. Don't forget to check the grounds around your home including terraced areas on your property to make sure sure retaining walls are in good order and drainage to make sure runoff is appropriate.

  10. Check for faucet and pipe leaks inside and outside your home, including sprinkler and drip systems. Reset your automatic watering times for colder weather.
  11. Last but not least, remember your pets. If its cold, damp and uncomfortable outside for you, then the same goes for your dog. cat, bunny, ferret and so on. And keep an eye out for symptoms of winter illness. Pets are also suseptible to arthritis, respiratory infections and more.