Get Ready for Cold Weather with Jon’s “Winterize your Home” Checklist

October is here, and in central NC that means we’re actually starting to get comfortably cool temperatures. Cold weather is right around the corner, and that means my to-do list has filled up as I winterize the house. 

This year I have a number of regular things on my “Winterize Your Home” checklist as well as some special projects I’m doing to make our home safer, more efficient and more comfortable.

Heating

The first thing to take care of in the winter is the heating system. You want to make sure all your heating systems work well before the cold weather hits.

The HVAC

First, I am going to clear all the tall grass from around the heat pump and spray the coils off with the garden hose. That should remove any dirt, leaves and grass from the coils. Even a little bit of stuff can lower the efficiency of your unit and make it work harder.

Then I plan to test the system. Let’s just make sure it works before we need it.

I plan to install new filters for the HVAC system. I plan on switching out the less restrictive filters I use in the summer and put in one that pulls more particulates out of the air in the winter month. That should keep us healthier. Either way, it’s important to switch out any dirty filters to operate your HVAC system efficiently.

Finally, turn down the thermostat as the weather cools. One of the best ways to save money is to make sure you keep the house “comfortably cool.” No flip flops in January! (Except for those random 65 degree days we get once a winter.)

We’ll set the thermostat down to 67 degrees. When the outside temperature drops below 32 we drop the thermostat down to 64 at night. Brrr! We have a supplemental heat system that kicks on when the weather turns cold, but we try to keep the house cool enough not to use them much. Every time they turn on, I hear the electric meter saying “Dollar, Dollar, Dollar….”

The Fireplace

We use gas logs in our fire place to supplement our heat pump system.Since heat pumps aren’t always the most effective systems in really cold weather, this does a great job of knocking off the chill in the house.

Since the natural gas company doesn’t come into our neighborhood, we use 20 lb. LP gas tanks to fuel them. Each tank gives about 20 hours of burn time. That means part of my “winterize the house” routine is to test the gas logs before it gets cold. If the line is clogged, I have to disconnect the line and the logs and use an air compressor to blow out the lines.

I also make sure to exchange the spare LP tank. The last thing we want is to run out of gas during a cold snap. While we’ve replaced most of our warehouse club purchases,, we kept our BJ’s Membership specifically because the cost to refill the LP gas tank was only $10 last year. That’s about half of what the gas station on the corner charges. The savings pretty much covers the membership.

Other things you may need to do:

  • Get the fireplace and chimney cleaned, especially if you haven’t done it in a while.
  • Lay in firewood and kindling. We can pick up a lot of useful sticks and pine cones to use in our fire pit as we clean up our yard this fall, and you may be able to do the same.
  • If you use propane or LP gas, make sure you arrange to fill up your tanks before the cold weather hits.
  • Clean up any space heaters you plan to use. A dusty or dirty heater poses a greater fire danger than a clean one.
  • Reverse the flow on ceiling fans so they move warm air down into your rooms.
  • Pull out your warm clothes! And pack your kid’s summer clothes away where they can’t find them.Dressing appropriately for the weather means you can keep your house a bit cooler.
  • Pull out your warm blankets for your bedding too. Electric blankets keep us nice and toasty at night.

 

State of the Blog: September 2016

Insulation

Before we moved into our house, I spent several hot June days putting extra insulation in the attic. I didn’t want to pay for hot (or cold) air just to have it escape into the atmosphere. So I’ve been thinking about where we have drafts in the house, and coming up with ways to address them.

My big project this year will be to construct an insulated cover for the pull-down attic stairs. That should help keep the cold air from the attic from sinking into the hallway below.

I visualize a project of 2 X 4’s,  plywood and a bit of the extra roll of insulation that I stored in the garage. Using those, some wood screws, and maybe a staple gun I should be able to blanket the top of the stairs.

The old window air conditioner in the basement window needs to come out. Having the window properly sealed should keep the basement warmer, so our wood floors won’t be quite so chilly.

My other big project is to pull out and install the storm windows. The previous owners left storm windows in our garage, and we’ve never installed them. If i can clean them up and install them, our windows will seal more tightly. The extra insulation would be well worth the trouble, though, and I have a goal of installing one window per weekend.

We also need to close off the vents to the basement crawl space. I have been considering cutting some foam rectangles to insulate the back of the closed vents. All that’s stopping me is materials. As I drive around town, I’m keeping an eye on the side of the road just in case any free insulation (also known as “road treasure”) has blown off the back of a pick up truck. Grins! (editor’s note…or we could just buy it, honey…)

Other things you may need to do:

  • Check the insulation around doors and windows. Add weather strips, caulk or draft snakes as necessary.
  • Make sure drapes and curtains work properly. You’ll want to open them on sunny days for more thermal energy, but close them at night to keep the warm air in.
  • Close off any vents in rooms you don’t use regularly and then close off the rooms.

 

Jon'c Winterize Your Home Checklist.

 

Plumbing

Since frozen pipes can burst and flood your home at the worst possible time, your plumbing system may need some attention as well. 

I have already shut off the outside hose faucets. In really cold weather those faucets can freeze, causing major plumbing headaches. We have fewer problems with that in Central NC, but I still need to protect our pipes.

Likewise, during the winter I make sure any garden hose that I’m not actively using gets removed from the spigot, drained and stored.

One little project is to do some insulation repair on the hot water tank. The old duct tape has let the fiberglass blanket slip off in sections. I just need to pull out some new duct tape and reattach it to make the hot water heater as efficient as possible. Insulating pipes is another good move to protect your home’s plumbing and keep the heat from your hot water from leaching out.

Other Places to Winterize

While heating, insulation and plumbing are the big three things to winterize, there are a some other things to worry about around the house and yard.

  • Replace the batteries and test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Trim back bushes and grass around the house. If you have trees with dangling limbs, consider trimming those too, especially if they are near driveways, roofs or power lines.
  • Winterize your lawn equipment if you don’t need to use it in the winter. Drain the gas from lawnmowers, weed trimmers, etc and store them appropriately.
  • Clean the gutters. You want to make sure water doesn’t pool (and freeze) in your gutters and pull them off of your house.
  • Get an emergency kit ready. When we lose power, it’s always in winter. Having extra jugs of water, flashlights  that work and some emergency instant coffee really helps.

And for me, fix my gas grill! Because winter is also grill time!

So that’s my best tips for getting a house ready for the winter. Next up, how to get your car ready for the winter!

What other things do you do to winterize your house?

Feel free to download this printable version of our checklist: 

Download (Jons-Winterize-Your-Home-Checklist.pdf, 250KB)

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *< and The John and Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing. *

31 thoughts on “Get Ready for Cold Weather with Jon’s “Winterize your Home” Checklist

  1. Nice list, very thorough! There are a couple things we need to make sure to do this winter and you hit on them. I want to look into buying a attic tent, it sounds like you are thinking of making one yourself, so I’ll have to research this a bit. Also, I know we get drafts on some of our doors and adding some weather strips will make the difference.

    Thanks for the checklist, it is time to get on these items before winter comes!
    The Green Swan recently posted…The Green StorkMy Profile

    • Hey JW,

      I like the idea of buying “an attic tent!” We have a pull down stair into the attic which only “intrudes” on the attic space by a couple of inches. So I am thinking that a couple of “2×4″‘s on the sides will raise the level, where a sliding “2×4 and plywood door” with fiberglass insulation on top will give us a better air seal and insulation from the “cold attic.” Also, may be able to build this out of the “scrap wood pile.” May have to buy some “wood screws” for this project! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Get Ready for Cold Weather with Jon’s “Winterize your Home” ChecklistMy Profile

  2. Great tips for “up North!” However, down here in semi tropical Florida our list is quite different. We bring in the potted plants if it is going to freeze overnight. This happened once last year. We need to check the gas logs we have never used and reverse all the fans. There are already extra filters for the heat pump returns in the garage. We have to remember to add chlorine to the pool a couple of times a month. If we want to swim the next day, we turn on the pool heat pump the night before to warm the water up to the mid 80’s. We do need to add weather stripping to a couple of the nine French doors leading to the pool and lanai from the house. The cooler weather (70’s) will be a great time to paint the exterior doors and trim. Also it is a good time to spread some grass seed and fertilizer on the lawn, and trim back the jungle around the house. The lower palm fronds that are brown need to be cut off, and spreading some nice red chips in the natural areas is a must. Guess that’s all the winter tips from the Sunshine State@

    • Hey Aunt Jayne,

      Greats tips for living in “The Tropics!” Do you have to turn on the heat in the winter? Grins!

      A heated swimming pool! We will come visit when the weather gets cold here in “Carolina!”

      Everything grows better in Florida, so I can imagine you have a “Jungle!”

      Hopefully “Hurricane Matthew” will turn out into the Atlantic, and not come onshore in Florida! I used to bring “everything” inside in preparation for a “tropical storm” or “hurricane”, after living in Orlando for 4 years!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Get Ready for Cold Weather with Jon’s “Winterize your Home” ChecklistMy Profile

  3. Thanks so much for these great reminders! This will be my first winter in my house and I was just thinking of ways to avoid a sky high heat bill. I already close the vents and doors to the rooms I don’t use much but I think extra insullation would be helpful too.

    I am contemplating buying a space heater since I am primarily in 2 rooms of my house.

  4. I love these tips and this is the perfect time to do it before it gets too cold. I need to turn off our outside facets and get ready.

    We normally keep our house at 68 in the winter and 62 at night. It definitely gets chilly but it is a tremendous cost savings. I also found having a programmable thermostat has saved us 10-20% on our bills with a small up front cost when we bought it.

    Thanks for sharing!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Benefits of Using a Credit CardMy Profile

  5. Smart tips!! We’ll also be adding the plastic sheeting stuff to our large glass patio window, as we can’t seem to keep that thing from leaking cold air in. We’re in MN, so winters can be extra cold here. Mega blankets are crucial. And my goal this winter is to buck up and turn the heat down a bit, keeping warm by adding extra layers.

    • Hi Laurie,

      It was 59 degrees here this morning! Grins! So I tested the gas logs and got them going, no problem. Yeah, I start wearing “undershirts” when it gets cold here, then step it up to a lightweight fleece jacket around the house. We have “aluminum blinds” on our sliding glass window. I really need to put a heavy “curtain” up to help with the “insulation.”
      Enjoy that Minnesota winter! You all have the great winter sports we don’t have here! Snowmobiles, snowshoeing, and ice skating etc……

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Get Ready for Cold Weather with Jon’s “Winterize your Home” ChecklistMy Profile

    • Hi Vickie,

      We have tried growing some things here in central NC, but the deer eat everything to the ground! We may have
      to try growing things that taste bad to deer? What ever that may be! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.

    • Hi Latoya,

      Sounds like a good idea! Maybe I can get Emily to help stack the
      firewood for this winter! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.

    • Hi Angie,

      Most winters are “mild” here in central NC, but we try to get ready, and minimize our energy bills.
      A few “winters ago” we got a small portable generator (3000 watts) just in case we have one of those “ice storms” where the
      power goes out for a week or so……hopefully we will have another winter where we don’t have to get it out of
      the box. Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.

    • Hi Ruth Ann,

      Yeah, I understand not everyone is “hot” natured enough to live in a Refrigerator!
      Grins! Seriously though, we may tend to be “chronically frugal”, but those dollars add up. When it first gets cold we heat a little more to let everyone adjust to the cold weather, and then start incrementally keeping the house a bit cooler. What I have found is with the heat pump and really cold weather, below 32 degrees, the cost to keep the house at 70 to 72 degrees goes up significantly. When we have had guests in the house (during cold weather), I would increase the temp, and keep the house warm at night, my estimate of watching the “electric meter”, is that it can cost $ 10 a day or more! Whereas keeping the house at a moderate 67 or 68 degrees during the day, and then letting it cool to 64 at night can only cost $3 to $4 dollars a day……again that is with a heat pump in a house of about 2300 to 2400 sq.ft. that was built in the early 1960’s.

      This winter I may have to get everyone a pair of “Bob Cratchit” gloves, you know the one’s from a “Christmas Carol” with the fingertips cut out! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Why You Need to Steer Clear of the HGTV Trap and How to Avoid Its Siren CallMy Profile

  6. Great advice here, we probably won’t get a freeze for at least a couple of months but that is a good reminder to me to get my outside hose taps ready for winter! I also have to protect my plants, get them in sheltered places and cover them with gardening fleece.

  7. We’ve had some seriously early snow here this weekend, and this list has got me thinking… I wish I read it two weeks ago (and wasn’t such a procrastinator…) The most distressing thing was that we didn’t get our chimney cleaned / firewood ready (we really thought we had another month!) – so we had to use the gas all weekend. 🙁
    Thanks for linking up at Share the Wealth Sunday!

    • Hi Carly,

      Brrrrr…..snow already, that is cold. We have a basement fireplace that we have never used! We have been here 6 winters, hopefully this winter I can use the basement fireplace during some of the “cold snaps” here in “Central Carolina” and save some “Dollars” by using the “windfall” firewood from around the yard!

      Definitely a good idea to “clean” the chimney before using!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Why You Need to Steer Clear of the HGTV Trap and How to Avoid Its Siren CallMy Profile

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