Easy Winter Preparation Checklist for Your Home

This article comes from The Spruce.

Easy Winter Preparation Checklist for Your Home

Winterizing your home is no fun when it’s already freezing cold out. So fall is the time to get winterized in preparation for the season. Proper winterization involves a systematic review of your home’s HVAC equipment as well as the critical structural and mechanical systems. Take care of these elements before winter, so you can enjoy the snow in cozy comfort.

Here are key areas of your home that you should focus on when winterizing.

Winterize the Heating System

The heating system is perhaps the most critical element for a home in the winter. The following tasks will help you prepare it.

  • Test run: No later than October, give your heating system a test run. Turn the thermostat to heat mode, and set it to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You should hear the furnace turn on, and warm air should begin to blow within a few minutes. If the furnace is running fine, turn the thermostat back to its normal setting. If the furnace is not running properly, you can try to diagnose it yourself. Depending on what’s wrong, you might be able to fix it yourself, or you might need to call a qualified service technician.
  • Replace the air filter: Put in a new, clean air filter. It’s easy, and doing so will ensure a free flow of air and a cleaner environment. Each furnace has its own requirements for air filters, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Check the fuel supply: If you have a propane or fuel oil furnace, make sure your fuel storage tank is topped off and ready to go.
  • Inspect and clean heating vents: Clear obstacles to heating vents, so air can freely flow. Many experts recommend having a service technician come in and clean the vents every year or two.
  • Check for carbon monoxide leaks: This silent killer can easily be detected with either an inexpensive test badge or a battery-operated alarm. If you discover problems, call in a professional to identify and correct the cause of the leak. Usually, this involves leakage in the exhaust system of a furnace or other fuel-burning appliance, such as a water heater. Don’t put this work off; a carbon monoxide leak is a very dangerous situation.
  • Check exhaust vents: Some furnaces and boilers, as well as gas water heaters, vent through a chimney, while newer high-efficiency models might vent through plastic pipes running through a side wall. Make sure these vents are open and free of obstructions, which can block the vent pipes and interfere with the furnace’s ability to burn efficiently and properly vent exhaust gases.

Winterize the Air Conditioning System

Often neglected is one of the most important components of a cooling system: the condensing unit outside that churns away in the heat of summer. This component needs a little attention as winter approaches.

  • Clean the condensing unit of debris: Using a hose with the spray head set to the highest pressure, clean the fan blades and condensing coils of debris and dirt. Let the unit dry completely before covering it for the season.
  • Cover the condensing unit: Left unprotected, the condensing unit can be damaged by wet leaves and debris that contribute to rusting and freezing of internal components. Although these units are designed for outdoor use, covering them with a breathable waterproof cover made for that purpose goes a long way to extending the life and efficient performance of the unit.
  • Winterize window air conditioners: As for window air conditioners, remove them if possible and store them for winter. Left in windows, these appliances are very hard to seal effectively against cold drafts. If they can’t be removed, then close the vents and make sure to get an air conditioning cover similar to a condensing unit cover.

Inspect the Fireplace, Chimney, and Flue

Although largely ignored in warm weather, a wood-burning fireplace and chimney can be a major source of cold air leaks and other issues in winter. So the chimney and fireplace need some inspection and service before winter sets in.

  • Clear obstructions: Check to make sure the chimney is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels, or other small animals.
  • Check the damper: Make sure it opens and closes fully and that it can be locked in the open or closed position.
  • Check the chimney draft: Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then, with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn’t, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional to clean the chimney.
  • Have the chimney cleaned: If it has been several years since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, have it done by a professional chimney sweep.
  • Inspect the firebrick in the fireplace: If you see any open mortar joints, have them repaired immediately. A fire can spread into the stud wall behind the masonry firebrick through open mortar joints.

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