How to Get Your House Ready for the Winter

Winter Snow

Winter is coming. In some regions of the US, it’s already starting to get noticeably colder, which means it’s about that time to prepare for the freezing months ahead. Here are some things you should do to get your house ready.

Test Your Heating Before You Need It

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You probably don’t need to crank your furnace up just yet, but you certainly don’t want to wait until you absolutely need it before finding out that it needs repairing.

RELATED: How to Optimize Your Home’s Airflow to Save Money on Your A/C

Test Your heating right now and make sure that it’s functioning properly, so that way when you actually do need it, you’ll know that it works. Plus, if you test it out now and discover that it needs some work done, you can call a repairman before they start getting really busy with similar work orders.

You don’t need to be a professional to do a basic inspection of your furnace. Simply inspect the furnace flames and look for steady blue flames that aren’t flickering orange (a teeny bit of flickering is okay). If they’re flickering orange a lot, this indicates a problem that requires a professional to come check out.

Cover Your Windows with Plastic and Improve Any Weather Stripping

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If you have older windows, then they probably need some TLC in order to get them in tip-top shape (or as good of a shape they can be in). Older windows can be very drafty and easily let out warm air, as well as let in colder air from outside.

To combat this, placing plastic film over your windows can create a greenhouse effect of sorts–letting in warm air from the sun, but also keeping cold air out and warm air in.

It’s also a good idea to inspect the weather stripping around your windows and doors, and replace any that’s damaged. You can also caulk around the edges both on the interior and exterior to prevent drafts.

Install Storm Doors & Windows

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If you still have your screen doors and screen windows set up, it might be time to switch those out for storm doors and storm windows. All you need to do is replace the screened material with glass panels to protect against bad weather and provide better insulation.

Some storm doors and windows come with screens built in, so that all you have to do is remove or add in the glass panel. However, others require that you completely switch out the glass panel and the screen material. This can be a bit more work, but is worth it in the long run.

Drain Exterior Water Spigots

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In most modern homes, exterior water spigots are frost-proof, meaning that the shut-off valve isn’t located where the handle is, but is actually pushed back further into the house so that the water in the pipe doesn’t freeze.

However, if you have an older house, the shut-off valve may be located right where the handle is, exposing the water to the cold outside air. Since ice expands, this can cause pipes to burst if the water inside becomes frozen.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to disconnect hoses from spigots, turn them completely off, and drain them if possible. Some houses have a shut-off valve specifically for exterior water spigots near where the main water shut-off valve is. If you don’t have this, your last resort is to get these water spigot protectors that cover the spigot and protect it from extreme temperatures during the winter.

Reverse the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans

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Many people think that ceiling fans are just for summer use, when you need to cool your house down. But they can actually be used in the winter to circulate warmer air, too.

All you have to do is reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so they spin clockwise and pull cooler air up, thus pushing the warmer air down.

On most fans, there will be a little switch located somewhere on the main center portion of the ceiling fan. Flipping that switch will reverse the direction of your ceiling fan. Just remember to switch it back when spring arrives.

Perform Lawnmower Winter Maintenance

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While your lawnmower technically isn’t a part of your house, it’s perhaps one of the most-used tools during the summer for homeowners. However, you can’t just simply put it away for several months as-is.

You’ll first want to drain all the gasoline from the lawnmower. Gasoline goes stale after a month or two and if it sits in the carburetors for an extended amount of time, it can gum them up and make them dirty, resulting in a poorly-running engine come spring time. Simply open up the gas cap, tip over the mower, and dump the gas out of the tank and into a gas canister. After that, start up the mower and let it burn any remaining gasoline that’s left in the fuel line and carburetors.

It’s also a good idea to change the oil before you put the mower away for the winter. This isn’t a crucial step, as you could wait until the spring, but it’s one thing you won’t have to do when you go to mow your lawn the first time around. Plus, oil doesn’t go bad as quickly as gasoline does, so new oil sitting in your lawnmower all winter is completely fine.

Inspect the Roof and Clean the Gutters

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While you should technically inspect your roof year round, the fall is a great time to do it since your gutters probably need cleaned too. All of those falling leaves can get caught in your gutters. This can prevent melted ice from flowing out of your gutters and create ice dams, which can cause roof damage.

Furthermore, check to make sure you aren’t missing any shingles, as the water from melted snow and ice can seep through the roof and into your home.

Of course, if you aren’t comfortable getting onto your roof, have a capable friend help you out or hire a professional to do it for you. There’s never shame in getting a little help!

Title image by AnnieAnnie/Bigstock

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.