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Tips to Help You Winterize Your Home

The winter season has arrived in all its freezing glory as many people in the Minneapolis area and throughout the state of Minnesota are trying their best to keep their homes warm.  Extreme cold does more than just make us uncomfortable, it can also cause several issues within a home that has not been effectively winterized to handle the cold weather.  Winterization is very important before the start of the winter to make sure your home is ready for even the coldest temperatures and if you have not winterized your home this year, it is not too late.  The following tips will help you effectively winterize your home to get you through the remainder of the season.

Avoid Frozen or Burst Pipes

One major problem that all homes face in the winter months is the possibility of frozen pipes.  The plumbing system in your home is susceptible to freezing in cold temperatures, especially in areas of the home where the pipes are exposed, and frozen pipes will drastically slow the water flow in your home and eventually cause the pipe to burst.  Burst pipes can cause extensive water damage that is very inconvenient to deal with in cold weather, making it important to avoid burst pipes at all cost.  These tips will help you keep the exposed pipes in your home warm enough to prevent them from freezing:

Frozen pipe

  • Install Insulation: Installing insulation over the exposed piping is one of the easiest ways to keep the pipes warm enough to prevent freezing. You can buy pipe insulation at just about any hardware store and install it yourself without professional assistance.  It is important to install insulation over hot and cold pipes as both have the potential to freeze.
  • Use Heating Cables: Heating cables should be used to insulate pipes if the weather drops below zero consistently because regular pipe insulation is no longer effective once the temperature falls to about -10 degrees. Although heating cables cost a little more than regular pipe insulation, the price is still reasonable and they can also be installed without the help of a professional.  Simply wrap the cable around the exposed pipes and plug it into an outlet or extension cord.
  • Heat Your Basement: Many of the exposed pipes in a home are found in the basement and making sure the basement stays warm is an effective way to prevent the pipes from freezing. You can put a space heater in your basement to keep it warm and filling any cracks or spaces in the foundation of your home with a spray foam sealer will also help keep the basement insulated.  It is important to never leave a space heater running for more than a couple of hours at a time because they are a potential fire risk.

Check the Energy Efficiency of your Home

Virtually every home in the state of Minnesota will be running the heat until the end of the season which makes checking the energy efficiency of your home an important part of winterization.  Maintaining the energy efficiency of your home through the winter will not only make it easier to keep your home comfortably warm, but also save you money by contributing to lower heating bills.  You can improve your overall energy efficiency with these tips:

Energy efficiency chart

  • Seal Drafty Doors and Windows: Doors and windows are responsible for anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of the total energy loss in a home which makes it important to check for and seal drafty doors and windows. There are several things you can do to seal doors and windows including installing weather stripping, caulking interior and exterior seams, and installing insulation film over your windows.
  • Check the Insulation: Insulation becomes worn out with time and as this happens, it loses its ability to effectively prevent the heating from escaping your home. You should inspect the insulation in your home and look for areas that have older insulation that may need to be replaced.  If you live in an older home, you can improve the energy efficiency with new blown-in cellulose insulation.
  • Keep Water Heater Temperature Low: This may seem counterintuitive but keeping your water heater at a lower temperature through the winter will actually increase the energy efficiency of your home. The average temperature setting for water heaters is about 140 degrees and setting it to 120 degrees will cause it to use less gas or electricity which will save you money on your energy bills.

Keep Furnace and HVAC System Maintained

The furnace is perhaps the most important appliance in your home during the winter and keeping it well maintained will help prevent the nightmare of having it break down in subzero temperatures.  You should perform the following actions while winterizing your home to help prevent issues from your furnace and HVAC system:

Man reading a HVAC system vent

  • Check the Filter: It is recommended to change the filter for your heating system every 30 to 60 days but many homeowners forget to do this at the beginning of winter. The filter collects dust and other debris from the air as it passes through the system and when it becomes full, it can restrict airflow which lowers the heating efficiency and may even cause a breakdown in the system.  Make sure to check your air filter throughout the winter and change it when needed.
  • Inspect Air Ducts for Leaks: A leak in your air ducts can lead to lower energy efficiency which makes it important to inspect your HVAC system for leaks. If you find a leak, you may need to call a professional for repairs.  Having professional air duct cleaning done by SVMPS can also improve the efficiency of the HVAC system with the removal of built up dirt and debris.
  • Check the Furnace: There is no worse time for a furnace to malfunction than in the middle of winter. It is wise to have it inspected by a professional to ensure that it is in complete working order.

It is still early enough in the winter for you to complete these tasks and winterize your home for the rest of the season.  By completing the tasks on this winterization checklist, you can improve the energy efficiency of your home, keep your heating system functional, and prevent frozen or burst pipes that can cause significant water damage.

If the cold weather or a winter storm does cause damage to your property, contact ServiceMaster Professional Services at (800) 245-4622 for construction services or water damage restoration in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN area.