Tips to Keep Your Home Warm & Safe This Winter

 Mikal Hoffman By Contributing Jane
Mikal Hoffman
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Okay, you've been saying to yourself for months now that you have to make sure your house is ready for winter, right? So, no better time than the present - because if it hasn't started already, before you know it, white stuff, wet stuff, wind, frost, ice and more will be landing on your roof!So, to help out this season, we've outlined a few steps you should take to keep your home a warm, comfortable, and safe place to be this winter.

1. Heating: "Just Chillin'-in my nice and toasty house."

Vent Heat Systems:
Even though we're all about doing things yourself, it's usually a good idea to get a professional to check out your furnace before the season gets under way. You'll want to be sure that everything is both functional and safe. After all, the last thing you want is your furnace giving out on you on the coldest night of the year! Cats and dogs love to sleep with their owners, but not when we start using them as blankets!
If you haven't already, be sure to set up an appointment early on, or even before the season. As you might imagine, the colder it gets outside, the hotter their business gets inside!
A typical inspection will consist of the following:
  • Check the thermostat for proper operation and function. 
  • Filter will be inspected and either changed out or cleaned. 
  • All of the electrical components and controls of your heating system will be thoroughly checked.
  • A generous oiling of the motors and mechanical equipment as necessary 
  • Inspection of the heat exchanger for possible cracks - JANE TIP: Be sure to insist that they do this inspection, as cracks in the heat exchanger are where carbon monoxide will get inside your home. 
  • They'll also check the air flow to see if it is diminished, or if it's necessary to clean the evaporator coil
  • Lastly, they should double check the mixture of air and fuel.

If possible, try to be home when this inspection takes place so that you can be sure that the above items have been completed. Never be afraid to ask - remember, whomever you hire works for use the hose to flush out the gutters a final time after they have been cleaned. This is an excellent time to check for and repair any leaks. One way to cut down on future debris is to cover your gutters with wire or plastic mesh.

- Inspect your roof for any missing or damaged shingles and have them replaced. You can safely inspect your roof the same way a typical Home Inspector does by simply using binoculars to inspect the shingles and flashing on your roof without ever having to get up on it.

  • Piping In The Warmth

    - You should make every effort you can to prevent the risk of your pipes freezing, which can cause a blockage of your water supply, and in the worst case, lead to the cracking or breaking of one or more of your pipes .
    When pipes freeze the flow of the water becomes completely blocked. When water expands as it turns into ice, the pipes are very likely to burst. Obviously, this can be an expensive problem to fix, and a disastrous occurrence in the frigid winter months.

    - Outdoor pipes aren't the only ones at risk as pipes that may run along exterior walls or crawl spaces that are exposed to colder temperatures are also susceptible. Contrary to popular belief, both hot and cold-water pipelines alike can freeze, so be sure to protect both.
    The best way to go about this is to utilize foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, wrapping the insulating material around the pipes. For extra protection in the areas of your home where heat doesn't go, pipes may first be wrapped with special heating strips, and then outer insulation wrapped on top of that. .

    - Faucets that are attached to the outside of your home should be turned off for the winter at their source. Turn off the valve that feeds the faucet and then empty the line of any remaining water by turning the faucet on. This will help protect your external pipes throughout the duration of the colder months.

    Problems that might arise show symptoms rather early, so keep your eye out for them: For example, is the water pressure becoming reduced? There is a good chance the water in your pipes is starting to freeze and you should take action immediately.

    If an extreme cold front will be moving through and you fear your pipes are going to freeze, despite what efforts you have taken, there is still a last-resort trick. Leave one of your faucets, preferably one that is farthest from the supply of your home's water, open and running slightly. If the water is running, it will be less liable to freeze. Additionally, it may thaw out any water that already may have frozen in the pipes. It might seem like a waste of water, but in an extreme case it is a better alternative than the thousands you might be forced to spend to repair a busted pipe.

  • My Pipes Froze, Now What?

    1. First, shut off the water supply to the problem pip
    e. If you do not have a valve for a specific frozen line, then you'll have to shut off the water flow at the main water valve of your house. You will now need to check to see if the pipes are leaking or have burst. If you do indeed find a busted pipe, then you will need to have the pipes repaired before you can attempt to thaw them.

    2. Open a couple faucets in order to provide a location for the melting ice to flow. Be careful when using any thawing method that the pipes are not heated too quickly and that the water in the pipes does not boil, as the pressure of the resulting steam could cause them to burst. Be sure to wear protective gloves in case the pipes become hot to the touch. If the pipes are plastic then use special caution as they are prone to melting.

    3. When thawing the pipes, work from the faucet end back toward the frozen area. Here are a couple of different methods to try:
    • Take a hairdryer and focus it on the frozen area of the pipe. It is crucial to remember to work from the faucet toward the frozen area.
    • Find some old rags and wrap them around the pipe where it is frozen. Then, slowly pour hot water on them. As the rags cool, make sure to keep pouring more hot water to keep them hot.
    • Wrap a grounded heat-strip around the frozen pipe.

      Remember that if you locate a leak or a burst pipe do not continue the thawing process.
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