Tips For Winterizing Your Home

In addition to wrapping pipes and properly preparing plumbing for winter temperatures, homeowners can let certain spigots and faucets drip to keep the pipes from freezing.

The imminent arrival of cold weather means homeowners should take precautions to stay comfortable, reduce fire hazards and avoid unnecessary expenses, including broken pipes or excessive heating bills.

Frank Davies, manager of Little Hardware in Mountain Brook, and Chief Leland Rhudy, fire marshal with the Mountain Brook Fire Department, offer some helpful tips. [Mountain Brook is a suburban community near Birmingham Alabama]

Of course, consumers like to hold down heating bills, and Davies offered suggestions.

Check doors and windows to prevent air leaks. “There’s simple, self-adhesive weather stripping that can take care of most of that,” Davies said.
Removable seal-and-peel caulk is also available to seal windows. “In the springtime you can peel off the caulk and open the windows right up,” Davies said. Another option is to use window insulation kits with clear, shrink-to-fit plastic film. 

Some online sources suggest installing storm doors and windows.
Homeowners should also protect their pipes in a hard freeze, especially one accompanied by a power outage, according to Davies. Consumers can protect pipes with foam-tube insulation, which can be cut and wrapped around the pipe, according to Davies. 

There are also heating cables with thermostats that keep pipes warm when temperatures drop below freezing, said Davies.

One trick to keep pipes from freezing, especially if they’re exposed in a basement or unheated area, is to let water drip, Davies said.

People should also insulate outdoor spigots with pre-packaged styrofoam insulator cups that fit over the faucet and retain warmth from the house.
Homeowners should winterize outdoor sprinkler systems. “They need to be shut off and drained,” Davies said.

Davies also offered suggestions for people with second or lake homes, especially those that will be closed for the winter.

“They can shut the water off at the street and drain the water out of the house on the lowest level or from an outside faucet,” he said.

If the power is still on, owners can leave the heat set at about 50 degrees to keep the house from getting too cold.

Owners can put RV antifreeze in toilets. “They can freeze and burst,” Davies said of the bathroom plumbing.

Any power equipment with small gasoline engines, including boats and jet skis, should be winterized, too. It’s best to drain the fuel, but if that isn’t possible, a fuel stabilizer can be added to make sure the gasoline doesn’t go bad, Davies said.

Chief Rhudy offers safety tips to reduce the risk of fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.

People should properly maintain carbon monoxide detectors, which should be installed outside of each bedroom and on each level of the home. Homeowners should have their central air and heat or floor furnaces inspected regularly by a licensed technician, according to Rhudy.

People should also “change their furnace filters, if they are not in the habit of doing it on a monthly basis or a regular basis,” Davies said. “It’s important for your system to work efficiently.”
Portable generators used during power outages can cause problems with carbon monoxide, according to Rhudy.

Generators should be set up outside, at least 10 to 15 feet away from the house and away from doors and windows, he said. And heavy-duty extension cords should be used with generators.

Consumers should be careful using space heaters, according to Rhudy. It’s best for small heaters to have an automatic shut-off and be approved by a testing laboratory. 

Homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces should have them inspected by a professional chimney sweep, according to Rhudy.

“Over time, creosote will build up on the walls of the chimney and could potentially catch fire,” he said. 

An inspection can also reveal cracked or broken brick, he said.
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