Tips for Taking Care of Your Home in the Winter
Owning a home comes with a lot of excitement. Having a property to call your own can be very empowering, and it usually leads to the creation of countless great memories. Wintertime, especially, is a season filled with memory-making opportunities, as the season is filled with a slew of holidays, parties, and other excuses to get together with the people you love. Being able to host these celebrations is a feeling that one simply can’t experience until they own a home, and it is a very fun benefit of being a homeowner.
While owning a home comes with a lot of great rewards, it also comes with all new levels of responsibility. When you rent a living space, your only responsibilities are paying rent, paying utilities, and keeping the place clean. You do not need to worry about maintenance, upkeep, mortgages, renovations, and other obligations. This is one of the biggest advantages of renting! However, as a homeowner, these new levels of responsibility come at you quickly, and you have no choice but to step up and embrace them.
Each season comes with its own set of responsibilities. While there are certainly homeowner responsibilities throughout the year, winter is a season that presents an especially unique set of responsibilities to homeowners…especially those who live in areas that experience a vast temperature change between seasons. This post is going to offer tips for taking care of your home in the winter, both to prevent costly damages and to reduce high heating bills.
Wintertime Home Maintenance Tips
Before diving into the specifics, it is important to note that not every tip will apply to every homeowner. If you live in Florida, for example, you likely do not need to worry about snow. If you live in upper Maine, you likely don’t need to worry as much about drastic temperature changes throughout the year. Still, this list as a whole serves as a great reference for every homeowner, regardless of geographic location.
1. Protect Your Pipes from Freezing
Frozen pipes are a homeowner’s nightmare. While they aren’t the most catastrophic thing that can happen to a home, they are certainly costly to fix. On top of that, the damage that they can cause can be a real hassle to clean up, adding thousands of damages to your list of worries. Frozen pipes occur when water sits still in your pipes during very cold weather. Water expands when it freezes, which can cause your pipes to crack. While replacing cracked pipes isn’t a horribly hard or expensive task itself, the real damages occur as all of that water thaws. When the frozen water thaws, it leaks from the pipes and goes pretty much everywhere. Depending on the layout of your piping system, this can mean you will have anything from a damp floor to several inches of sitting water in your basement. Neither is something that you want to deal with!
The easiest way to protect your pipes from freezing is to keep your faucets slightly open. While leaving the water running would be both costly and wasteful, leaving the faucets open just enough to constantly drip is a nice way to keep the water moving, which is the most effective way to protect your pipes from freezing. When water sits still, it freezes more easily. When it moves, even if only slightly, it is significantly more resistant to freezing.
Another way to prevent frozen pipes is to keep your heat running at all times, even if you will be leaving your home for a while. Turning off the heat before leaving for a wintertime vacation is one of the most common causes of frozen pipes. If you are leaving your home for a stretch of time during the winter, it is recommended that you leave your heat running constantly in some capacity while you are gone. While you may not need to keep your house at 75 degrees while you are gone, maintaining a temperature of at least 60 degrees is a great way to prevent frozen pipes.
2. Clean Out Your Gutters
Leaves and debris are extremely common things to have in your gutters, and for 75% of the year, they are not a major concern. While clogged gutters are never a great thing to have, there is very little risk of major damage in any season other than winter. In winter, however, clogged gutters can be a major problem, as they can lead to the formation of ice dams. An ice dam is essentially a frozen chunk of ice that is blocking the drainage flow of the gutters, and excess leaves and debris are the most common causes of ice dams in your gutters.
If an ice dam forms while there is major rainfall or snowfall, the precipitation will not be able to flow naturally out of your gutters. Instead, this precipitation backs up onto your roof, and it can be forced under your shingles and into your roofing structure itself. This can cause severe damage, including rotting and mold. You already have to replace your roof every ten to fifteen years; you want to avoid any cause that may make you need to replace it even sooner. Cleaning out your gutters is not a very difficult task, and the hour or two that it takes can save you thousands of dollars of damage.
3. Repair Any Loose Shingles
On the topic of roofs, another thing you should do each year before winter is have a professional roofer assess your home for necessary repairs. While this is more necessary in places that are threatened by heavy snowfall, it is still something that should be considered everywhere where hard precipitation is common. Loose shingles or rotten roofing panels are especially vulnerable in the winter, as snow is very heavy. If you think shoveling snow is hard work, imagine what it would be like to hold a heavy shovel full of snow for a full day. This is what your roof does every time that there is a heavy snowfall.
Weak spots in your roof can be badly exploited by heavy snowfall, and the last thing you want to deal with during a snowstorm is a collapsing or leaky roof above your head. Having a qualified roof evaluate your roof each year before winter is a good practice, as repairs to a weak roof are much easier and cheaper than repairs to a damaged one. Avoiding the damage is much wiser than waiting for it to occur, and most roofers can evaluate your roof pretty quickly.
4. Take Steps to Reduce Heating Costs
Owning a home can be costly. While many of the tips on this list can help you to avoid costly damages, some of the tips are simply ways that you can save money through the colder months of the year. After all, owning a home is expensive! While paying to repair damages can be a financial burden, simply paying your recurring bills can be a burden in and of itself. One of the most expensive parts of owning a home in the winter is keeping it warm. While this does not apply very much to houses in warmer climates, heating bills in states that experience cold winters can stack up very quickly.
Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to lower your heating bills year after year, and they are both pretty simple to do. Firstly, you can insulate your attic or crawlspace. Hot air rises, and it will continue to rise right out of your roof if you let it. Insulating your attic or crawlspace serves to trap the hot air within your home, which can drastically lower your heating costs. Insulation is relatively cheap, and installing it is very easy. This minor investment can pay dividends as the years go on.
The second easy thing that you can do to reduce heating costs is reverse the operation of your ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are designed to pull hot air more quickly towards the ceiling, leaving the cooler air towards the bottom and middle of your home. This is achieved by the angling of the arms of the fan. For no additional cost, you can reverse the operation of your fans so that they push the hot air downwards. Most fans have a switch somewhere that flips the direction that the fan rotates, which simply swaps the direction that the air is pushed. If your fan does not have a switch, you can manually remove and flip the arms of the fan to attain the same result.
The third thing that you can do to reduce heating costs is winterproof your doors and windows. While storm doors and storm windows can be expensive, there are less expensive ways you can winterproof the doors and windows that you already have. Heat escapes from anywhere that you let it, which is why adding insulating strips or sealers around the edges of your doors and windows can be an incredibly cost-effective upgrade to your home before winter begins.
5. Clean Out Your Chimney
While the damages that can result from a clogged chimney are not specific to wintertime, people tend to use their chimneys and fireplaces a lot more in the winter than they do in the summer. Chimneys can get very easily clogged by soot, ash, and debris, which can restrict the natural upwards flow of smoke. While sitting around the fire can be a nice family experience, clogged chimneys can lead to a slew of problems that can damage both your health and your home.
Clogged chimneys lead to a good amount of house fires every year, as the fireplace is unable to properly breathe and expel heat. On top of that, clogged chimneys can trap carbon monoxide, which can lead to very unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide accruing in your home. This is both a fire hazard and a heath hazard, and can even lead to death. Having a chimney sweep come to make sure that your chimney is ready to operate is a wise idea that can literally save lives and protect your home and family.
6. Prune All Trees to Avoid Falling Limbs
Just like heavy snow can cause a weak roof to cave in, heavy snow can cause weak tree limbs to snap and fall. While this is a natural occurrence, falling tree limbs can pose a serious threat to your home and other properties. For this reason, it is a good idea to make sure that there are no weak or dead limbs left on your trees in autumn each year. Properly pruning any trees close to your house drastically reduces the risks that winter presents, and can save you from thousands of dollars of damages.
7. Make Sure Your Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Function
Houses tend to use more forms of heating in the winter, as people try to combat the cold weather that occurs outside. These heating sources pose increased fire risks, which is why it is very important to make sure that all of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly at the start of winter. We have already discussed the increased risks that fireplaces present, and heating systems can pose similar threats to your home and loves ones. Functioning smoke detectors can be the difference between a small fire and a completely destroyed home.
8. Test Your Sump Pump
Every house is different, and therefore has different needs. In this way, some houses have a need for a sump pump, and others don’t. If your house has a sump pump, it likely means that your property is naturally prone to flooding, as the role of a sump pump is to deviate excess water away from your home’s foundation. While winter may not be the wettest season of the year, it still presents great flood risks. Even if snow falls slowly, accumulated snow often tends to melt all at once. As a result, a gradual snowfall can pose similar flooding risks to a thunderstorm. Making sure that your sump pump is functioning properly before the start of winter can protect your home’s foundation in the case of any flash flooding that occurs from snow melting.
9. Clean Your Dryer Vents and Ducts
Dryers are one of the most fire-prone appliances in an entire house. This not is simply because they use high levels of heat as they dry your clothes…it is a combination of this heat and the lint that your dryer traps during each cycle. The lint in your dryer is extremely flammable, especially as it sits adjacent to extremely high temperatures within the dryer. While this threat exists all year, it is increased in the winter as winter clothes tend to shed high amounts of lint while they dry. To avoid home fires caused by your dryer, clean out your dryer ducts and vents each year at the start of winter. Make sure to unplug your dryer before cleaning anything, and also be sure not to forget about the shiny foil duct leading from your dryer to the wall.
10. Store Your Patio Furniture and Outdoor Appliances
The last recommendation we have is to store your patio furniture and any other outdoor appliances before the start of winter. This is for several reasons. Firstly, you want to protect the items! There is a small chance that you will use these things during the winter, and protecting them from the elements during the winter months can add years to their lifespans. On top of that, winter storms can blow your patio furniture around, potentially causing damage to your home. Putting these things in a shed or garage at the start of winter is a wise idea all around, as it can both save you money and protect your belongings.
Thank you for reading our post with tips for taking care of your home in the winter. Owning a home comes with a lot of costs and responsibilities, but equally as many privileges and rewards. Following the advice that we provided in this post can help you to both save hundreds of dollars on heating costs and prevent thousands of dollars of damages. Nobody wants to get stuck with a collapsed roof or a flooded basement, and taking a few easy steps at the beginning of winter to weatherproof your home can go a very long way.
If you decide to visit Myrtle Beach or any other place in South Carolina and fall in love, reach out to us for help. We at The Boyd Team are always here to help you figure out whether Myrtle Beach is your next home or not, and we are committed to helping you find the right property for your needs and dreams. Any question that you have about moving to the area and finding your dream home by the beach is our pleasure to answer. Feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call us at (843) 222-8566, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Being true natives of the Grand Strand and Horry County and with over 25 years of experience in the local real estate market, whether buying or selling, we can help you make your dreams a reality.
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