Updated: May 9, 2023
Before you know it, another cold winter will soon be upon us. Knowing how to winterize a home will protect you from the long cold days ahead. Not taking the time to prepare your home can lead to costly repairs down the road, like frozen and burst water pipes.
Preparing your house for winter should begin in the fall. Here is a winterizing a home checklist you can take to protect your home from the harsh winter weather and make it a cozy place to spend the season.
How Do You Winterize A House?
Winterize Your Pipes
One of the leading causes of wintertime damage to homes is water damage from a burst pipe.
So, before anything else, if you’re already struggling with frozen pipes, our Mississauga Drain Cleaning and Repair Services is ready to help. Frozen pipes are considered a plumbing emergency, and we can help you save thousands of dollars by fixing them right away. Just fill out our contact form or call us at +1 647 878 9293. We’re ready for you from Monday to Sunday, 24 hours a day.
Now, back to winterizing your pipes.
The risk of frozen pipes increases if you reside in a location where winter temperatures often fall below -15 degrees Celsius. On top of that, it is more likely that your pipes will freeze this winter if they are positioned on an outside wall that is not heated. If there is no vapour barrier or insulation beneath the drywall in a finished basement, the pipes could also freeze.
Pipe insulation can be used to safeguard exposed pipes, such as those found outside or in unheated spaces. As a last resort, you can offer some protection by wrapping them in rags, newspapers, garbage bags, plastic foam, or even bubble wrap. Close off any openings around the base of your house. Get the hoses out of the water and put them away in the shed or garage.
For indoor plumbing, ensure that water flows smoothly through the plumbing system without any obstructions or disruptions. One of the most effective measures for winterizing your plumbing system is simply turning on the faucet.
To prevent the freezing of water in your pipes, it is recommended to keep the water flowing by slightly opening the taps and allowing cold water to trickle out. It is advisable to implement this approach amidst a period of extreme cold weather or during the wee hours of the night when temperatures are at their lowest.
Check Your Gutters
Knowing how to winterize a home means performing gutter cleaning before the onset of winter as the accumulation of autumn foliage can obstruct the flow of water. During the winter season, the stagnant water may solidify, leading to the accumulation and solidification of additional water.
Once your gutters are clean, use your garden hose to flush water through the gutters. Ensure that there is an unobstructed flow of water from every downspout. Additionally, inspect for any potential leaks during the process. We highly recommend you thoroughly inspect the entire gutter system.
We also recommend removing gutter guards during winter to prevent ice dams and the buildup of debris that can cause blockages in the gutter system. In the event that the temperature plummets, metal gutter covers are susceptible to freezing. In addition, in case of heavy snowfall, accumulation of snow and the formation of ice dams on your gutters can result in potential damage.
Ensuring the stability of your downspouts and extensions during the winter season is crucial. Disassembling the gutters may lead to obstruction or impairment of the gutter system, which may incur significant expenses for repairs or replacements.
Add Reflectors to Your Radiators
In order to increase the efficiency of a radiator, you can install a reflector between its back and the wall. Metal (often aluminum) or foil-wrapped slimline board is typically used for these. They are compatible with the vast majority of radiator models.
Radiator reflectors are designed to redirect heat that might otherwise escape through walls and back into the space. If you have gone through the trouble of insulating a wall, you will likely want to maximize the effectiveness of your radiators.
Installing a reflector between a radiator and a wall is as simple as measuring the radiator, cutting the reflector to size, and following the manufacturer’s straightforward instructions.
Some items include clips that can be fastened to the wall brackets used to install the radiator. These clips are used to suspend the reflector. Sticky pads or double-sided tape can also be used to secure the sheets to the wall.
Is aluminum foil suitable for reflecting heat from a radiator?
Although this is a low-cost option, it may not be the most effective.
Common kitchen foil often creases, and tears, and is otherwise difficult to work with. Providing you can get it to sit flat behind the radiator, it may work in the short term, but it won’t likely hold up as well as products designed for this exact purpose.
Remove Unvented Space Heaters
In Canada, gas fireplaces without vents are prohibited by law.
The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant reason to eliminate unvented gas space heaters from residential settings. It is highly inadvisable to combust fuel indoors and allow the resultant exhaust fumes to accumulate within the confines of your home, regardless of the absence of carbon monoxide.
We understand that gas space heaters are an effective way to rapidly warm a room, but they also pose a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide gas is released into the air because they work by directly heating the room through combustion.
However, the frequently disregarded predicament with these heaters is the substantial volume of water vapour they can introduce into the atmosphere of your home. Based on our assessments and experience, water vapour production was substantial aside from the presence of gas in the air.
It is possible to become ill from exposure to excessive humidity, particularly from respiratory diseases and allergies. Illness-causing bacteria and viruses multiply rapidly in the air with a relative humidity greater than 60%. Knowing how to winterize a home also means knowing how to keep you and your family safe.
In order to prevent mould growth, indoor relative humidity levels should be kept below 70% Relative Humidity (RH) at a building’s surface and never above 60% RH, according to research conducted by Building Science Corporation.
Check Your Heating System
Knowing how to winterize a home means maintaining your HVAC unit clean all year round, but a thorough cleaning in the fall can improve efficiency and get it ready for the cold season ahead.
Turn off your device and use a hand broom to clean it out. You can either wipe the unit down with a damp cloth or give it a light spray with a hose. Be careful not to damage any of the internal parts with a too-vigorous spray.
Cleaning your unit isn’t the only thing that needs doing on a seasonal basis. You should also clean the vents and inspect the filters. You should replace your filters whenever they reach the three-month mark or when they visibly lose their effectiveness. Doing so will improve airflow and prolong the life of your system.
After cranking up the thermostat, you should take a stroll around the house to make sure every room is toasty. This can help you determine the direction of airflow in your home and determine if any vents need to be opened or closed. A lack of insulation or an obstructed vent could explain why certain rooms in the house remain cold while others remain toasty warm.
Check Your Attic
In the summer, the attic is kept toasty by the sun’s warmth and the upward movement of air. The attic stays cool in the winter because of insufficient insulation and airflow from the vents.
During the winter, however, you don’t want your attic to be warmed by your furnace. Wet air can become trapped in an uninsulated attic. Problems like mould and rotting wood are possible results of this. If your attic is already insulated, knowing how to winterize a home means double ensuring that the insulation is in good condition and has not been disturbed by pests like insects, rats, and birds.
In the summer, many homeowners turn on their attic fans to vent the hot air that builds up there. In the winter, the attic becomes a hot, humid trap. The attic fan helps to dry up the space by removing the stale air. To prevent condensation in the attic during the winter, you should install an attic fan if you don’t already have one.
Run Fans Clockwise
In knowing how to winterize a home, you should also know when to run your fans clockwise or counterclockwise. Most ceiling fans may be switched between two directions—”clockwise” and “counterclockwise”—each of which is more suitable for use in a certain season.
Ceiling fans with counterclockwise-rotating blades direct cooled air downward. If you want to feel cooler in the heat, this is the direction to face.
Warm air, which would otherwise rise to the ceiling and away from people and animals, is distributed evenly throughout the room by fan blades spinning clockwise. This generates an updraft and distributes the room’s warm air. Improve the average room temperature and reduce the strain on your furnace by recirculating the warm air and dispersing it back into the living space.
The circulation of heated air will make the space more comfortable and reduce heating costs during the colder months.
Draught-proof Your Chimney
It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy or despise your fireplace. The fact is that it sits unused for long periods of time. This indicates that there is a breach in your building’s thermal envelope, allowing outside air and heat to enter and leave, respectively. It’s the equivalent of cracking a tiny window. Keeping the heat on as air escapes through this hole might have a significant impact on your monthly energy costs.
There are different ways to draught-proof your chimney. However, for this article, we’ll only show you three options: A chimney balloon, chimney sheep, and a pillow.
Chimney balloons are a straightforward answer to a straightforward issue. The chimney balloon is available in many sizes and may be easily inflated to form a barrier that stops heat from escaping. However, problems with the chimney balloon can make installation difficult. They tear easily, and if it gets too cold (since cold air contracts), they may pop right out. Overinflating them can be problematic because they are meant to allow some air to flow around the borders to prevent moisture.
Similar to the chimney balloon, the chimney sheep is designed to prevent heat from escaping via the chimney. The chimney sheep has an upper hand on the balloon due to its superior construction and design. Being made of a natural, permeable material, it is superior to the chimney balloon. Condensation and dampness will be greatly reduced as a result of this.
Finally, an old cushion is a simple and least expensive option. Some people swear by the tried-and-true method of pushing a pillow encased in waterproof bin bags or similar material up the chimney. However, the pillow is inexpensive, but it attracts and retains moisture, which can lead to mould and prevent the chimney from functioning properly.
Regardless of what you’ll choose of the three, make sure you don’t forget that they’re in your chimney before you light your fireplace.
Do An Energy Audit
You should have some idea of what you’re up against before doing a DIY home energy audit. To effectively know how to winterize a home, get together your energy invoices from the past two years and examine the differences between each month to spot patterns. Seasonal variations in energy consumption provide useful information.
After that, here’s what you should do:
- Track down the vent holes or air leaks. Check for drafts by walking about your home and feeling the following:
- Window and door frames, as well as their weather stripping and caulking.
- Doggie doors and mailboxes
- Window-type AC units
- Look into the insulation and measure the thickness of the insulation in your attic to make sure it’s up to code. A vapour barrier should be installed beneath the insulation for added protection. Ducts, pipelines, and chimneys should be fully insulated. When you’re done exploring the attic, it’s time to move on to the basement. Insulation under the flooring in the living space is also recommended for unheated basements.
- Inspect the heating and cooling system. Both heating and cooling your home can be significant energy consumers. Units older than 15 years should be replaced with newer, more efficient models. Get an annual maintenance inspection for your heating and air conditioning equipment. During the colder months of the year when the furnace is used more frequently, it is imperative that the filters be changed as often as the manufacturer suggests. If your central air conditioning system has unclean coils, you should vacuum them.
If you don’t have time to do an energy audit, it’s fine. After all, energy audits are a lot of work. Alternatively, you can hire a certified energy auditor to help you out.
Remove or Replace Screen Windows
In order to avoid frost buildup on the glass, it is recommended by any window provider that the screens be removed during the winter months. Because a window screen acts as a barrier, the area between it and the window becomes a cold zone where condensation can accumulate and eventually freeze into frost.
If you have casement windows in your home, it’s important to remember to remove the screens before the winter months. This is due to the fact that condensation accumulates on the cold glass and gets trapped by the screens, which are positioned on the inside of these windows.
Before the cold weather sets in, it’s a good idea to install storm windows over any single-paned windows in your home. Storm windows can’t be installed without first removing the screens. However, you may want to think about upgrading to double- or triple-paned windows for added insulation.
Additionally, screenless windows, especially those facing east or south, let in more natural light. This additional sunshine not only helps heat your home during the day, which can lessen the pressure on your HVAC system and reduce your energy bills, but it also helps brighten your home during the darkest months of the year.
Add Weather Stripping to Doors and Windows
Depending on where you live, weather stripping may need to be installed at different times of the year. More often, however, we do this before the winter comes.
If your windows are made of wood, nail-on weather stripping is the most long-lasting option. For uniformly sized spaces, spring bronze is an excellent choice. In terms of aesthetics, it also excels. Felt strips are ineffective as a sealant and easily wear out.
Cuttable self-adhesive weatherstripping is the most practical option. EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene-monomer) is the material of choice for self-stick V-strip tape because it maintains its pliability for decades even when subjected to subzero temperatures.
Foam weather stripping is convenient because it may be used to seal off wide, irregular spaces. However, its effects are typically short-lived. However, open-cell foam can only be used indoors, despite being the best at springing back to its original shape after being compressed. Closed-cell foam can withstand the elements, but it doesn’t last very long.
Use rope caulk or a shrink-wrap plastic window kit for a temporary weather seal that can be easily removed when the weather warms up.
Smart Home Devices Save You Effort
When the cold weather finally arrives, you’ll have to put in more effort and time to keep warm. You shouldn’t have to put up with that. A home or apartment can be heated efficiently using smart home devices.
You’ll save money on heating costs and have more time for fun things like binge-watching Netflix in the winter or surfing the web.
Investing in a Nest Thermostat, which monitors your energy usage and makes adjustments to the temperature and hot water tank accordingly, is a great way to keep warm without breaking the bank. If you haven’t already, you should get this device because of how simple it is to set up and operate.
You may use a smart plug in any standard electrical socket. You can use an app to manage a “dumb” device once you’ve plugged it in. That means you can turn off your coffee maker from across the room if you accidentally leave it on and it’s connected to a smart plug. If you’re always wondering if you left your hair appliance on, whether it’s a flat iron or a curling iron, a smart plug can put your mind at ease.
To a lesser extent, smart plugs can be utilized to manage conventional bulbs. If you don’t want to arrive home to a dark cold house, just put in a lamp and configure it to turn on automatically when it becomes dark outside. If you’d want a more permanent solution for managing your non-smart lights, a smart switch can be installed in lieu of your existing switch.
Trim Your Trees and Use a Windbreak
After your tree has entered dormancy and most of the leaves have fallen, winter is the best time to prune it. When the tree’s limbs and branches are removed, the tree’s structure can be examined in greater detail, potentially revealing problems that were previously hidden.
Bald cypress, honey locust, juniper, poplar, and spruce trees, as well as other fruit trees, benefit from winter pruning, whereas birch, elm, maple, and walnut trees are best pruned in the summer or fall to avoid sap seepage.
After trimming your trees, you should also use a windbreak.
Soil erosion can be reduced to nearly zero if a windbreak is constructed. Both the windward and leeward sides of your house benefit from windbreaks.
By shielding structures from the wind in the winter and the sun in the summer, windbreaks assist preserve energy and cut down on cooling and heating costs. In the colder months, a windbreak can cut heating expenditures by up to a quarter.
Windbreaks can have a significant impact on how much you spend on air conditioning in the summer. One fully grown deciduous tree may provide the same amount of cooling as ten standard window air conditioners.
Winterize Your Water Heater
As expert Mississauga plumbers, we recommend winterizing your water heater if your home or investment property will be unoccupied during the colder months.
Those who let their home remain empty during the colder months because they escaped to warmer climes would find this information useful. It’s also crucial for landlords who struggle to fill vacancies in the winter.
Turning off the power is the first step in winterizing your water heater. Knowing the make and model of your water heater will help you locate the power cutoff switch or valve.
To turn off a gas water heater, for instance, you must turn a shutoff valve. This valve must be turned halfway to ensure it is perpendicular to the gas line.
There is typically an on/off switch on the control panel of electric water heaters. The electricity can be turned off with a single flick of this switch.
After turning off the power to the water heater, shut off the water supply by turning off the valve. During the cold Mississauga winter, this will prevent water from entering the water heater and freezing.
The water shutoff valve could be outside or in the basement. The valve will likely have a wheel-shaped gear that you can spin to seal it.
Your water heater and its associated pipes need to be winterized so that water won’t freeze and break them. Because of this, any water that may already be within the heater needs to be removed.
The drain is usually situated on the bottom of the water heater and must be accessed for this purpose. There is typically a notch for directing the water into your yard. If you don’t have a garden hose, you can use a large bucket instead.
Turn the handle and the water will drain once everything is set up. It may take up to 30 minutes for this to completely drain.
While waiting for the water in the water heater to drain, you should turn on every faucet in the home. No more than a trickle of water should emerge. That way, no water will be left in the pipes over the winter to potentially freeze and cause damage.
You should insulate the tank and pipes if you plan on being away from home for a significant portion of the winter. A water heater blanket, designed to fit over the tank, may be purchased at any hardware store. Wrap the pipes in blankets and secure them with duct tape to prevent heat loss.
If you need help with your water heater or any other plumbing issues at home, don’t hesitate to contact us!