Winterize Your Home

The weather may still be warm enough to venture out without a warm jacket, but Old Man Winter will be making an appearance before long. So now is the time to start thinking about winterizing your home. Here is a list to get you started.

Inspect your furnace
Turn on your furnace now, before it gets cold and you’ll be needing the heat. It’s normal for a strong odor to be present when you fire up your furnace for the first time of the season, but if it lingers, have your furnace checked immediately. Also keep your ears peeled for any unusual sounds. Be sure to change the filter (it should be checked monthly year-round) and if you don’t already have one, invest in a programmable thermostat. It’s also a good idea to have your system serviced by an HVAC professional.

Winterize  your hose bibs
Drain hoses and turn off the water to your hose bibs with the shut-off valve located inside your house. Remove the hose from the spigot and store it out of the elements.

Inspect your roof, gutters & downspouts
Thoroughly clean your gutters and spray water down the downspouts to clear out any debris. If possible, install leaf guards. This will help keep gutters clear and make winterizing your home easier next year. Another cost saving measure: Add extra insulation to your attic to prevent heat loss through the roof, which can melt snow and cause ice dams. Be sure to replace any damaged or worn shingles or tiles.

Change the direction on your ceiling fans
During the winter, reverse the rotation of your ceiling fans so that the warm air being pumped out of your furnace is pushed downward and forced to recirculate. When you’re looking at your fan from below, it should be circulating in a clockwise direction. This one simple step will help keep you toasty warm and improve energy efficiency.

Inspect the exterior, doors & windows
Check the exterior of your home for any cracks, crevices, or entry points around pipes, and seal them. If you have storm windows, now is the time to install them. Plug up any drafts around exterior doors with weather stripping, and caulk any gaps between window frames.

Prevent plumbing freezes
Wrap any exposed pipes on exterior walls with insulating materials, as well as exposed pipes that run through any unheated portion of your home. Now is also a good time to find your main water shut-off valve if you don’t already know its location. Nothing puts a damper on Thanksgiving dinner like a flood in your dining room.

Prepare your fire place
Call a chimney sweep to come inspect your chimney and clean it, if necessary. If you don’t already have one, put a cap on the chimney to keep out animals and debris. Check the damper to ensure proper operation. When you’re not using your fireplace, close the damper. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, now is the time to chop wood or purchase it for delivery. If you have a gas stove, light the pilot light and test operation. If you’re not sure how to light the pilot, call a professional to come do it. Don’t mess around with natural gas if you’re not 100% confident about what you’re doing.

Check alarms
You should get in the habit of replacing the batteries on all smoke alarms when the time changes in the Spring and Fall. You should also test the operation of your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms at the same time. If you don’t already have one, purchase a fire extinguisher (or even better, one for each floor of your home). And if you do have one, replace it if it’s more than ten years old or the gauge on it reads at the low end. Smoke detectors should also be replaced about every ten years.





Home Systems: Sump Pumps

If you live in a house with a basement, chances are you have a sump pump system (consisting of a sump pit that houses a pump) in your home. A sump pump system is installed to help manage exterior water runoff that drains toward the foundation of a house. Not all homes with basements have a sump pump system, but if water may be deposited near the exterior of a house, the builder will likely install the system when the house is being constructed. And you don’t need a basement to have a sump pump—some homes with crawl spaces have them, too.

It works like this: A drain system is installed around the perimeter of the home. The drain tubes usually have a diameter of a couple of inches, and have small holes drilled in them to collect and capture the water that’s heading for your basement. Once the water is captured, it’s directed to the sump pit, where the sump pump is installed. When water enters the pit, the pump is activated by a float and the accumulated water is pumped out of the home to a spot where it flows away from the home.

Since a sump pump helps remove moisture from the underground areas of your house, it’s important that the system is inspected and maintained in proper working order. Your pump should be tested at least twice a year, and more often if the pump runs frequently. If you have a pedestal model, just lift the float to test the pump. If you have a submersible model, pour a few gallons of water into the sump pit until the pump is activated. Of course, if the pump fails to activate when you test it, have it serviced immediately by a qualified technician!

Also, the sump pump should be plugged into a dedicated GFCI outlet. If it’s on a shared circuit, other appliances could trip the circuit, thereby disabling your sump pump. Some companies offer back-up pumps that run on battery power in case of mechanical or power failures. The sump pit should also be covered to help keep it free of debris that might hamper the movement of the float valve or cause other damage to the pump. With regular minimal maintenance, a sump pump should last anywhere from five to seven years, on average. That life span can be a bit shorter if you live in a damp area and your pump runs more frequently.