Smart Design With Suzette: How To Prepare Your Home For Winter

Insulate attic. Courtesy photo
Insulate water heater. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos
As a Realtor® and Interior Designer, I love working with first time homebuyers. Their excitement for this new phase in their life is contagious. However guidance is needed in what to do to maintain it. Now that fall is officially here, it’s time to prepare your home for cold weather. These steps, most of which you can do yourself, will help lower your utility bills and protect your investment.
Tune up your heating system. Consider having your heating system inspected and maintained. Replace old filters. For about $80 to $100, a technician will inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. Add a programmable thermostat.
Turn off and drain exterior faucets, store hoses indoors, and drain your irrigation system.  
Clean out the gutters. If your roof is full of debris water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim – plus cause leaks and ice dams. It’s about $70 – $250 to have gutters cleaned on a single story house depending on its size. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.
Divert water. Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
Replace smoke detector batteries.
Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. If there is a gap between the siding and window or doorframes (more than the width of a nickel) you will need to reapply exterior caulk. Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and is impervious to the elements. Check window glazing putty too, which seals glass into the windowpane. Add weather-stripping around doors as needed making sure you cannot see daylight from inside your home. Paint or stain exterior wood.
Wrap water pipes in your basement or crawl spaces with insulation sleeves to slow heat transfer. Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater, especially if it’s in an outside closet.
If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed when not in use. Make sure your chimney and vents are clean and in good repair before first use.
Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking your home’s heating vents.
Insulate the attic floor well to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.
Reverse your ceiling fans. If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. The fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings and it might allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.
Hit the roof. Or at least scan it closely with binoculars. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If need be, hire a handyman to repair a few shingles ($100 to $130) or a roofer for a larger section ($100-$350 for a 100 square foot area). Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, as many are in the Southwest, rake or blow off fall leaves and pine needles, which hold moisture. Don’t sweep aside the pebbles – that will expose the asphalt to damaging sunlight.
Mulch leaves when you mow. Mow your leaves instead of raking them. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter.
Use your lawn mower without its bag and optionally swap the cutting blade for a mulching blade ($15-$25). The process may take several passes.
Don’t prune trees or shrubs until late winter. You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, but horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter when they’ve been long dormant and just before spring growth begins. However one exception, remove deadfall or trim limbs close to your home or power lines that could cause problems in a winter storm. You may need to hire an arborist to do this.
As a side note, I want to let homeowners know that if you have not gone down to Los Alamos County to pick up your old house plans, do it now. They will be getting rid of older plans so if you have an old house – and most of us do – then fill out the form to get them back. You will be happy you did.
Suzette Fox is a local interior designer and real estate broker at RE/MAX First. Visit her website, find her on Instagram, and on Facebook.
Caulk windows. Courtesy photo
Furnace tune-up. Courtesy photo
Clean gutters. Courtesy photo