Preparing Your Home for Winter - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Oct 17, 2018

Preparing Your Home for Winter



The winter brings some wonderful things; beautiful natural scenery, cozy clothing, fuzzy blankets and holiday spirit. But winter in New York is perhaps best known for cold, and brutal weather conditions.  

Preparing your home for the colder months ahead of time can save you headaches later. The last thing you’ll want to deal with in the winter is an emergency… like frozen pipes at 2am or heating vents that aren’t emitting warm air. Take the time to prepare the inside and outside of your home now before you’re stuck dealing with issues in below zero temperatures.  

Inside
These little fixes can really make a difference in the safety and comfort of your home during winter.

  • Make sure nothing is blocking any heating vents. This includes furniture, curtains, and pet beds. Look for anything that could block air flow.


  • If you haven’t already, consider switching to a programmable thermostat that will let you adjust your system automatically. Setting the house to one temperature while you’re away or at work, and a more comfortable temperature when you know you’ll be home can help you save on your heating bills. You might also consider using an device that can be adjusted using a mobile app.

  • Set your fans to spin clockwise. Direction actually makes a difference! A clockwise spin will push rising warm air downward. Most ceiling fans have a switch that will allow you to change the direction they spin, so make sure that your fan is spinning clockwise if you want the room to be warmer. Switch it to counter-clockwise if you’re feeling too warm and need to cool down.

  • Stay well stocked on basic supplies. There will be plenty of snowy or sub-zero degree days where either you can’t or won’t want to leave the house, so make sure you have the items that you may need on hand. Stock up on things like batteries, flashlights, nonperishable food items, bottled water, hand warmers, first aid kits, and insulated blankets. If possible, consider getting a generator in case of a prolonged period without electricity.   


Outside
The inside of your home isn’t the only place that needs a little maintenance before the cold settles in.

  • Put your outdoor items into storage. Equipment like lawn mowers and grills should be serviced and cleaned before you put them away. Outdoor furniture should be brought in (or covered if you don’t have room to store them inside). You will also want to bring in potted plants or flowering trees before the first frost.

    Make sure you’re properly prepared for outdoor winter maintenance by investing in plenty of ice melt and some sturdy shovels. If you use a snow blower, get gas and make sure to perform maintenance on it before the first snowfall.  Don’t wait until you need it to find out it’s not working properly.  
  • Have a contractor check your roof to make sure it can handle the weight of heavy snowfall. This preventative measure will allow you the time to make repairs or invest in a roof rake. A roof rake can be used to pull off snow buildup, as it occurs, eliminating pressure on your roof which can lead to leaks and damage.


  • Help protect your roof during the winter by making sure your gutters are cleared out prior to snowfall. Clear gutters can help water (melted snow) drain off your roof. This step helps to reduce the chances ice dams. Ice dams occur when melted snow freezes in your gutters and seeps into and under your roof, causing water damage. A water-repellent membrane can also help offset ice dams when installed under your roof.



  • Disconnect your outdoor hoses, and drain them. It’s also beneficial to disconnect outside water valves if possible. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, you’ll want to make an appointment to have that drained as well.
  • Heating

    Ensuring that all sources of heat are working at peak efficiency is crucial. This step will not only help prevent nights spent bundled in extra sweaters under a mountain of blankets, it can also save you money in the long run and keep you safer.


    • Getting a routine maintenance check for your heating system is a good way to avoid any surprises when that first cold night hits. A professional can vacuum out your vents, check other essential other heating components, and take care of any necessary filter replacements.  

    • If you have a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove  in your home, have it inspected and cleaned by a professional (ideally before the first frost of the season). Stocking up on firewood or pellets is also a good way to prepare for the winter. For fireplaces and wood stoves, hardwoods (oak, maple, elm, beech) work well as firewood. Ensure that any firewood you procure is seasoned.

    Plumbing

    It’s important to ensure that your plumbing isn’t compromised during the colder months to avoid frozen or bursting pipes.


    • Have a plumber come by to identify problem pipes that may be more prone to freezing or leaking. This advance warning allows you to take the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of winter related plumbing issues.


    • Wrap pipes that have a history of freezing in heat tape or insulation sleeves. This measure can help prevent freezing by keeping them warm and reducing heat transfer.


    • Go over how to turn off your home’s water source with everyone who lives in the house. In the event of a pipe burst, not knowing how to turn off the water can result in excess flooding that could have been avoided.

    Proper Insulation

    Eliminating gaps or spaces where cold air can infiltrate your home, and properly insulating your home, will dramatically increase your heat retention during the winter and reduce your energy bill.

    • Check your attic, windows, doors, vents, doors, mail chutes, outlets, and basement for cracks or holes where drafts may be entering and caulk them.


    • Winter is a great time to invest in thicker insulated curtains! They help to keep out cold air and reduce drafts.


    • Place foam outlet protectors around outlets to prevent cold air from entering your home.


    • You’ll want to check around the doors of your home to look for wear, and replace worn down weather stripping, caulk gaps, and potentially install storm doors.


    Little Things to Remember
    Blasting the heat isn’t necessary, but you won’t want to completely neglect the fact that your home needs warmth and air circulation too.


    • To prevent pipes that might be located in unheated areas of your home from freezing, you can keep a small trickle of warm water running.


    • Don’t shut your heat off when you’re out of the house. You don’t want it to get too cold in your home as this can create issues with pipes freezing.


    • During particularly cold nights or days open your cabinet doors to allow warm air to better circulate through your home. Especially in your kitchen and bathroom as this will help keep pipes warmed. You’ll just want to make sure there isn’t anything dangerous located in unsecured cabinets that children or pets could get into.
    Taking the extra time to prepare your home for the winter will help you avoid unexpected hassles. There is always a risk of an unexpected crisis, but with these precautionary tactics, you’ll have the power of proactivity behind you as you settle in for the colder months.


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