Simple Ways to Winterize Your Home

If the snow flurries are any indicator, it’s safe to say winter has hit the Windy City. Time to ready your Chicago home for the upcoming months of freezing temperatures and harsh weather. The next few posts include useful winterizing ideas that will help you reduce energy waste, save money on utility bills, and protect your home against the elements this winter.

Check the Ducts
If your home has central heating, make sure to check the ducts for dents, breaks and proper insulation. Oftentimes you can see exposed ductwork in the attic or basement, or take the register grates off the vents an use a mirror and flashlight to view down the duct interior. Any cracks should be sealed with specialty tape and replace or reinforce duct insulation where lacking. Everything you need for these projects are available at home improvement stores. Be sure to get insulation made for ductwork. Dents can restrict the airflow and prevent the maximum amount of heated air from reaching the vents. Fix dents where possible – you may need a professional to repair severely pinched ducts.

This is also a good time to clean out your ductwork. Get rid of excess dust, hair and dirt using the hose feature of your vacuum. If your ducts are not in proper working order, as much as 60 percent of heated air can be lost before making it to the registers. Don’t waste your money on wasted heat! Put in the necessary maintenance time and you’ll have an efficient system that will keep your family warm and budget-conscious this winter.

Mind the Windows
A lot of heat can escape through your windows if they are not well insulated and sealed. Newer windows are not such a problem (especially if you have double-pane features), but older windows need extra attention in winter to offer the most energy efficiency.

First of all, always take out screens and put in storm windows if you have them. Seal gaps with caulk to limit cold drafts and heat leaks. For windows that are warped from age and do not close tightly, you can buy foam strips to fill in the gaping space between the window and sill. Window insulator kits may not be the most attractive fix, but they help reduce heat loss. Usually these include clear plastic sheets you shrink wrap to the window with a hairdryer. Again, the supplies you need for these winterizing projects are available at most home improvement stores.

These are helpful winterizing tips for everyone, whether you live in a high-rise downtown condo or single-story suburban house. If you do live in a single family home, there are some additional steps you can take to protect your home, and your budget, from the long winter ahead.

Clear and Secure Gutters
Clean out the fallen leaves and other gunk that builds up in your gutters during autumn. It is important to unclog the gutters and downspouts because water trapped inside can rot eave boards and home siding, damage foundation, and incur many costly repairs later on.

After clearing the leaves and debris use your garden hose to run water through the gutters. Look for leaks and spots where the downspout has disconnected from the eave trough. You’ll also be able to see if there are clogs in the downspout from obstructed water flow. Use specialty silicone gutter caulk to seal small gaps and remove blockages by spraying water into the downspout. You may have to take the spout off to clean tough, hard to reach clogs. Reattach the dislocated downspout and caulk seams.

Take the time to ensure your gutters are securely fastened to the house. Over winter, the weight of snow and ice build-up can pull gutters from the structure where gutter spikes are loose. Replace with gutter screws for best durability. All materials you need to complete this project should be available at home improvement or hardware stores.

Winterizing Garden Care
You shouldn’t leave gas in your motorized lawn care equipment during winter because long periods of nonuse and cold temps can gunk up the engine and lead to corrosion. To prevent this, drain extra fuel from the lawnmower and other machines into a gas can and run the engine to burn off what’s left inside the system and tank.

Turn off the water to your sprinkler system and use compressed air to blow out the excess water inside the lines. Outside faucets should also be shut off and drained of remaining water by cranking open the spigot. This will eliminate the risk of your pipes bursting. Exterior hoses should be drained of water as well, and storing them in the garage is a good idea. It is recommended to all this by late October to accommodate any early winter freezes.

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