It’s not too late to ensure that your home, from outside in has been poked, prodded, and provided for when it comes to winter care. By following these steps not only will you make your home more comfortable, energy efficient and save money, you may even prevent damage that’s caused by colder temperatures and weather conditions. Any materials that may be needed can be easily found at your local hardware or home improvement store at a minimal cost.

Maximize your Heating Efficiency

Making sure that your home’s HVAC system is at its optimal is one key thing you can do this season. Getting a heating tune-up can result in reducing your heating costs as well as maintain that everything runs efficiently during the coldest time of the year. In order to check that you’re not inadvertently wasting energy, the following are a few inexpensive things you can do for your home.

Check for cracks in all the windows and doors in the house, which are obvious areas where cold air can be leaking through. It’s also important to check for gaps in the brickwork, stucco, siding and even the foundation of your home. If you find any cracks, the next thing to do is to of course to fill them. For the exterior of the house you will need weather stripping, caulk and foam. There may also be leaks that need to be plugged in from the interior of the house. You can find these air leaks by making a flag from tissue on a toothpick or by lighting a stick of incense around windows and doors or switch plates on outside walls.

If air is coming in, the flag would wave or the smoke would visibly diffuse. The next step is filling in these holes with temporary caulking that would be removed once the weather is warmer, probably by spring.  Adding more insulation – which can get compacted over time – in the attic and crawlspace are other ways to prevent heat from escaping.  Adding storm windows over your existing windows can reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent. Implementing a programmable thermostat that is set to a reasonable temperature can also help save energy.

Winter Garden Care

Now that you’ve chosen winter hardy plants, make sure that you avoid planting under the eaves of your house as come snow fall, that and ice will settle on the plants. Soaking plant beds before the ground freezes helps with retaining the soil’s moisture underground, which is especially important for evergreens. Laying down a 2-3 inch layer of mulch such as pine bark or needles or wood chips will also maintain the soil’s moisture by reducing water loss, as well as prevent alternate freezing and thawing of the soil (that can damage short-rooted plants).

It also keeps the soil temperature warmer so that roots can grow deeper during the winter. Remember to leave several inches from the trunks of the trees to the mulch in order to prevent rodents from feeding on the bark.  Weak branches should also be removed however, if the pruning was done during late summer, new growth could have been spurred, which would lessen the nutrient reserves of your plants necessary during winter hibernation.

Protect Your Plumbing

In addition to sealing up your home from cold air leaks, raking leaves and cleaning out gutters, homeowners should consider their plumbing system when it comes to winterizing steps. Taking a few precautionary measures before cold weather sets in just might save you from dealing with a messy and costly water pipe break. Shutting off water supplies that won’t be used is the first thing to do; such as any outside water supplies like the tap in your backyard. Store any garden hoses inside after they’ve been drained and of course, disconnected. If there are valves in your basement that supply water to the garden faucets, these too should be shut off and drained by unscrewing the little cap on the side of the valve. If you have an irrigation system it should also be turned off and have any water drained from its lines; leftover water can freeze and cause pipes to break.

Should a problem arise, knowing where your main water shut off valve is located – typically next to the water meter at the front of the home or in the furnace room – could be crucial should the need arise that it be switched off to stop the flow of water into the home. If you and your family plan to be away for a longer period of time during the winter, consider turning off the main valve and having a professional drain your system to prevent freezing of the pipes should the furnace unexpectedly stop working. Another preventative measure is having pipes and valves in unheated areas wrapped with heat tape, or covered with pipe insulation.

Taking a few uncomplicated steps in preventative measures this winter can safeguard your house and garden from damage caused by prolonged freezing temperatures. Making your home more energy efficient and avoiding potential incurred costs will save money as well as give ease of mind, making the worst of winter that much more endurable.

With Files from: Naturalawn of America, Waterworks Plumbing, and Service Experts.

Susan Hu

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