Freezing temperatures are always possible here in the Pacific Northwest! We are known for a lot of rain and moisture. What happens when water freezes? Among other things, it can expands and burst pipes. As a home inspector in the Olympia, Washington area I see the damage freezing temperatures can do to homes quite frequently and with the record low temperatures all across the country recently, I thought it would be a good time to look at specific ways you can avoid damage to your home like the one just mentioned. The tips below can save you money now and help you avoid expensive headaches down the road! Most are minor and inexpensive. Even tiny leaks can affect the energy efficiency of your home by up to 30% per year (US Department of Energy). That really adds up!
To keep the warm air in your house circulated more evenly reverse the direction of your ceilings fans so they turn clockwise pushing warm air from the ceiling down into the room.
Doors & Windows
The goal is to keep warm air in and cold air out. How do you find air leaks in your doors and windows? Inspect the molding around each window and the seal. If you suspect a leak, use a hair dryer or place a fan on the exterior side then have someone light and hold a match inside of the house.Point the air stream of the fan or hair dryer around the door or window. If you see a flicker of the match on the inside you have a leak.
Use weatherstripping or draft guards to fix air leakage through doorways. Use a plastic covering or caulking to fix air leakages and gaps around windows or siding.
Make sure to remove old or cracked caulking first. Both are very easy fixes and fairly inexpensive.
Don’t forget to examine the areas where the windows, door, and corner trim meet the siding.
Inspect the kickplate and seal on your external doors. The summer sun and moisture can cause the seals to rot and weaken leaving cracks, gaps or leaks that will let in cold air.
For an extra layer of protection, install draft guards for doors that lead outside.
If you don’t have two people try the “wet hand” test. It’s done by wetting your hand and holding it a few inches from the place you are checking for leaks. If you feel air blowing on your hand then you have a leak.
If you have older windows and doors, consider replacing them for new, energy efficient ones that can add an extra level of insulation to your home. Also consider adding storm windows and doors.
Check around light fixtures, the entrance to the attic, exhaust fans, around vent pipes and other similar places to ensure warm air is not leaking out of the home.
Fireplace and Chimney
First, if you have a fireplace that you are not using, you can buy a chimney balloon that will stop cold drafts from coming down through the chimney or you can install glass doors on the fireplace. A chimney balloon is much cheaper and easier!
If you have a fireplace, you should check for drafts by making sure the damper is closed and then reaching your hand in the stove to see if you can feel cold air. Do you feel air? If so, then you probably have an air leak. If you don’t feel cold air, then just remember to keep the damper closed all the way when you are not using it. This will keep your home's warm air from escaping out the chimney.
Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order.
Prevent breakdowns in the middle of a cold snap and reduce your heating bills by changing out the filters for your furnace. For maximum efficiency and depending the age of your furnace, change the filters out once a year and even once a month during the coldest months because dirty filters reduce air flow and are less efficient.
If your furnace is past its prime, the best weatherization step would be to replace it.
Filters get dirty much quicker if you have pets.
Sign up for a service to automatically send you filters when it’s time to switch them out. All you have to do is insert it.
If you are using gas heat, please install carbon monoxide detectors for your own safety.
Consider an alternative heat source in case the furnace stops working, such as a generator.
Hoses & Faucets
Water expands when it freezes so if you haven’t already, disconnect and drain your hoses. When the weather is freezing cold, you may want to insulate and cover the spigot or faucet to ensure there isn’t any damage. Foam insulators are simple and can be picked up for just a few dollars at a home improvement store. They can also be wrapped with insulation.
If you live in a colder region, take time to turn off your external faucets with the inside shut-off valve. This keeps water out of the pipe, where it could get cold and burst.
Do you have a sprinkler system? If you haven’t already, make sure you shut it down and drain the pipes. It’s also a good idea to insulate and protect the main shutoff valve.
Depending on the age of your home or the last time you’ve replaced the insulation, it may be time to consider replacing the old insulation or adding a layer of new insulation to your attic and crawl space. This can help keep your home warmer in the winter.
Consider installing reflective insulation in your attic and crawl space. There are three kinds of heat transfer and traditional insulation only effectively stops two of those.
There’s nothing worse than a frozen pipe in the winter! Cold weather means cold pipes so you may want to consider investing in pipe insulation for pipes in unheated areas like the garage, basement or attic. Pipe insulation tubes are available at your local home improvement store, low cost, and easy to install. To get a good fit, make sure to measure the pipes before you go to the store.
Make sure you know where the water shutoff valve is in case of an emergency.
It can be tempting to leave the heat on when the temperatures drop. With a programmable thermostat you can set the heat to your schedule, reducing the cost of heating an empty home or rooms at night or while you’re away from home.
Stock up on Winter Supplies
If you know that freezing cold weather is coming, consider stocking up on some supplies for your car as well. Here are a few things to consider:
Emergency Kit including flashlight, hand warmers, road flares, small blanket, and a snow shovel
Kitty Litter, Salt, or Extra Ice Melt - in case you get stuck somewhere
Windshield Wiper Fluid
Winter Update - Check the tires, filters, and battery.
Make sure that you have a plan for communicating with your family in case you are not together and the weather causes extreme damage.
It might be freezing cold, but the birds still have to eat. Get yourself a bird feeder so you can watch and enjoy the birds.
Plant bulbs this winter to give yourself something pretty to forward to this Spring!
Winter is a good time to visit your crawl space if you have one. Use a flashlight to look for moisture and drainage problems. Pinpoint the source of the problem if you can. Is it coming from pipes, through the floors, or cracks in the foundation?
Spending a weekend or two on maintenance can prevent expensive repairs and alert you to developing problems before they become serious. Plus, you will get to enjoy some of life's greatest pleasures, like curling up to the warm glow of a fire on a winter evening (or snuggled on a couch with a good book and a warm blanket). Did we miss any tips you think should be on this list? No problem, leave us a comment here!
Don’t have time to run through the freezing home maintenance checklist? No problem. Get $50 off a home maintenance inspection if you mention this article when you call Right Way Home Inspection at (360) 704-9728 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT RIGHT WAY HOME INSPECTIONS
Right Way Home Inspections is dedicated to providing high quality comprehensive inspections. Owner Nate Kilby is certified to perform complete excellent home inspections, indoor air quality tests, radon and lead paint tests, underground tank location and even underground sewer scoping! Right Way Home Inspections is a member of the Thurston County Realtors Association and a supporter of the Washington Center of the Performing Arts.
Right Way Home Inspections serves Olympia, Thurston County, and surrounding communities including Shelton, Mason County, Montesano, Aberdeen, Elma, Grays Harbor, Centralia, Chehalis, Lewis County, Dupont, Puyallup, Tacoma and Pierce County.
Learn more about Right Way Home Inspection by visiting us at our website www.rightwayhomeinspector.com or on Facebook
This list of freezing weather home maintenance and energy saving tips was compiled from the author’s previous experience in the home maintenance industry and a variety of sources listed below.