Blog by Erie Insurance
There’s no denying it: Winter is on its way.
Winterizing your home can help lower your energy bills, prevent bigger more costly repairs later on, and reduce the risk of accidents like a home heating fire. (Side note: That’s why having the right homeowners insurance can give you peace of mind, too.)
Ready? Let’s walk through the big list of projects to tackle this fall.
FALL HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST
- Windows and doors: Prevent chilly drafts (and pricey heating bills) by checking and replacing any worn weather stripping, and caulking any cracks. For loose-fitting doors, slide a draft guard or rolled-up towel underneath to fill the gap. For old or drafty windows, consider peel-and-stick window insulation film – it might not be the most elegant look, but it can keep up to 70% of heat from escaping.
- Fireplace: Check your fireplace and flue system to remove soot or ashes. Check for cracks that could be a fire hazard. Also, examine the fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be need to be repaired or replaced. If you’re not planning on using your fireplace at all, invest in a chimney balloon to block the opening. (Just remember to take it out before you build a fire next season.) Most importantly, know what fixes are safe for you to tackle and what should be in the hands of a certified chimney sweep with training and proper equipment.
- Furnace: Before you turn up the heat for the season, start by changing (or cleaning) your furnace filter. It’s also a good idea to have an HVAC professional check your furnace once per year. And if you can’t remember the last time you had your heating ducts checked for leaks and efficiency… an HVAC professional can help with that, too.
- Thermostat: For every degree lower your home’s temperature during the winter, you can save as much as 1 percent on your energy bill (according to the U.S. Department of Energy). If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a smart model to save on heating costs. Many new thermostats have algorithms to learn your comings and goings so you’re not paying to keep your home toasty warm when you’re not around.
- Other home heating: We know they’re cozy, but be extra cautious when using a space heater. Space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
- Drafts and cracks: Cold air will take advantage of any opportunity to sneak into your home. Here’s a list of quick fixes for drafty places:
- Outlets and switch plates: Use foam-insulating sheets to block cold air coming in from exterior walls.
- Exposed ducts: Check your attic, basement, and crawl spaces and use sealant to plug up any leaks or cracks on exposed ducts.
- Floors: Don’t underestimate the power of a thick, cozy rug. Your floors can account for as much as 10 percent of heat loss in a house.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: While you’re in the process of prepping your house for the long winter, check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in good working order. Also, with the increased risk of fire in winter, it’s important to have a family escape plan. You can create one using the National Fire Prevention Association’s online guide.
- Gutters: Start by clearing debris from gutters and downspouts to prevent them from leaking or sagging. Clogged gutters and subsequent water issues can cause foundation problems, wall and ceiling damage, or even insect infestations. Just make sure you do it safely – use a tall, sturdy ladder (and never stand on the top three rungs!), and don’t forget protective eyewear, gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself against debris, bacteria and pests.
- Roof: Snow can be a heavy burden for an old or damaged roof to handle. Before winter hits, inspect your roof for signs of potential problems, like missing, broken, blistered or curling shingles; cracked caulk or rust spots; or large patches of moss and lichen. Any damaged, loose or missing shingles should be repaired right away.
- Trees and landscaping: It’s a good idea to trim any branches hanging near electric wires before they become a problem. Also, know how to spot the signs of a diseased or dying tree. Heavy snow and strong winter winds can knock down weak branches (or whole trees), so it’s best to do the prep work while the weather’s still mild.
- Lawn equipment: Drain the oil and gas from your mower before storing it for the off-season. Gasoline can separate and spoil in only a few weeks, which could potentially damage your engine.
- Snow removal supplies: Before the first snow, you’ll be glad you thought ahead and bought supplies early. Inspect the bolts, belts and parts on your snowblower; make sure your snow shovel is in good shape; stock up on ice melt or sand; and invest in a snow rake to help clear your roof. Snow accumulation on your roof that exceeds 20 to 25 pounds per square foot can be dangerous.