If you’re like most Canadian homeowners, you’re already longing for the days of lounging on your back deck, basking in the warmth of the summer sun while sipping on a refreshing beverage. You’re definitely not ready for winter, and I’m guessing your home isn’t either.
While there are a few warm days left this fall, take a look around your property to see if you can spot the five warning signs that it’s not ready for winter. If you get started now, you just might get the work done before more snow arrives.
1) You haven’t had your furnace, boiler or fireplace checked for safety or efficiency
Even if you thought your heating equipment was working properly last winter, it’s critical that you have it checked every year. Things can corrode or leak and put your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or your home at risk of fire.
Contact a licensed heating professional to have your equipment checked and serviced. A typical maintenance check will involve searching for leaks and cracks, cleaning the combustion chamber, replacing the air filter, changing the oil, checking for flue pipe corrosion, adjusting the burner, testing the igniter, and checking the tension or replacing the blower belt.
To reduce the risk of fire, it’s important to have an annual inspection and removal of creosote buildup in your fireplace and wood stove chimneys.
If you use propane gas or other on-site fuel to heat your home, make sure you check the tank level and keep it filled. Running out in the middle of winter could be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous.
Although heating bills can take a real bite out of your budget, don’t be tempted to lower the thermostat below 12 degrees celsius. Water pipes can freeze and burst as the temperature inside the walls is colder than the room.
Replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure your family’s safety. You are vulnerable to toxic fume buildup during winter months when the house is closed up.
2) Cold spots around your home and condensation on your windows
It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly where the cold air is coming in, so you might put on a sweater rather than try figure it out. As soon as the temperature drops outside, you may feel air infiltration around windows and doors.
Clear plastic window insulation can be applied to keep the cold air out and lower your heating bills. It’s available in a variety of window sizes and can be found at most hardware retailers.
Window condensation is a sign of excess moisture which can lead to rotting, mold and mildew along your sills and frames. Prevent window mold and health symptoms like congestion, asthma and skin rashes by keeping the windows dry and eliminating air leaks. The plastic window insulation can help reduce condensation buildup too.
Install rubber weatherstripping around and under doors to eliminate drafts. A door sweep or door snake can prevent air from leaking in when placed along the bottom of the door.
Keep air leaks to a minimum by installing foam insulation behind exterior wall electrical outlets and switch plates. You might be surprised but this a common place for air to seep in and out.
Set your paddle fans to turn clockwise. This will push hot air down into the room and may even allow you to reduce the thermostat setting.
3) Foundation cracks and leaks
Whether your basement is finished or not, it’s a good idea to inspect for potential problem areas. First check exposed concrete walls and floors for signs of excess moisture, cracks and leaks. If your basement is finished, look for bowed or warped walls, peeling paint or a musty odor.
Repairs done now can prevent spring flooding and the potential risk of mold growth. If you find mold spores now, remove and discard the damaged material, and follow the proper cleaning methods.
While you’re in the basement, be sure to check your sump pump operation. Don’t forget that mid-winter thaws and power outages can occur without warning and flood your basement. Pour several buckets of water into the pit to activate the pump. Check that the water is being pumped safely away from the house. For added peace-of-mind, install a battery backup system for uninterrupted service in even the worst winter storm.
4) You haven’t installed extra insulation since you moved in years ago
If you noticed a lot of icicles hanging from your roof last winter, it means you have insufficient insulation and too much heat escaping your attic. This is the perfect time to inspect and upgrade your attic insulation.
It will help reduce ice dams that form after refreezing occurs. Without the extra insulation, the snow and ice on your roof will melt and form dangerous icicles, leaks and water damage inside and outside your home.
5) Pipes in unheated areas are exposed to freezing temperatures
While the majority of your water pipes are safely hidden behind walls or under cabinets inside your home, don’t forget about those pipes and faucets in garages, crawl spaces and attics that might be at risk of freezing.
Take the time to repair water leaks now and wrap exposed pipes in heat tape. In extreme temperatures, you can run the faucet with a slight trickle to prevent the water from freezing.
If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time, keep your thermostat set above 12 degrees celsius or shut off the main valve and drain the pipes.
Remember, if your pipes do freeze, DO NOT use a torch or open flame to thaw them out. This will create a severe fire hazard. Call a plumber to help find a solution to your problem.
Even if you’re looking forward to a picturesque Canadian winter, it’s essential to heed the warning signs your home is not ready for winter. These tips come in handy too even if you’ve just purchased a brand new home!
By following these winter home maintenance tips, you can rest easy that your home will be protected from the harsh seasonal elements and your family will be warm and comfortable.