Ask the Expert: What should homeowners do to prepare their homes for cold weather?

| by Teena Hammond
Ask the Expert: What should homeowners do to prepare their homes for cold weather?

Summer is the best time to work on projects to prepare your home for winter weather. With that in mind, we turned to one of our experts at ProudGreenHome to give homeowners advice:


 Ted Clifton, founder of Zero-Energy Plans LLC, and CVH Inc:


Water is the number one destroyer of homes. Take the following steps now to avoid water problems this winter:

  1. Check the caulk around every window, door, electrical and plumbing penetration, and every other penetration through your siding.
  2. Make sure flashings are properly employed above each protruding wood trim or molding.
  3. Start at the top of each section of roof, and make sure water that will run down that section will run into the gutter, and not behind it, or into un-flashed gaps at roof-to-wall joints, skylights, or other roof penetrations.
  4. Follow each path of water all the way to the ground, make sure that downspouts are connected, and in good condition. Make sure that there are splash blocks, or other drains directing the water away from your foundation.
  5. Clean your gutters. Depending on the type of vegetation you experience on your roof, you may need to wait until the leaves have all fallen from the trees before doing this, though it might not hurt to do it twice.
  6. Make sure your bath fans and kitchen fan are operating correctly. Check that they are vented all the way outside, not just into the attic. If the job is not finished, finish it. Check you dryer vent, also, it too must be vented all the way outside.

The next big destroyer of homes in many areas are small animals and birds. Take the following steps to assure that they are not "having their way" with your house:

  1. Check that screens are in place at all bird-blocking or other attic ventilation openings. Close any openings, and clean up any mess that has been left behind. Replace any insulation that has been fouled, this can be a cause of serious disease. Make sure all re-sealed openings, and any similar openings nearby are really securely fastened, with durable materials. Birds can be very persistent, if they believe their home has been stolen!
  2. Check crawl-space openings and ventilation for evidence of rodent intrusion. Call a professional if you find evidence of continued habitation in your crawl space. Rats and other vermin can also be very persistent, and they will chew through almost anything to get back into what they perceive as their home.
  3. Take steps to eliminate sources of water that might attract rodents or other vermin under or around your home. It is not always possible to eliminate all water from beneath a crawl space where high water tables exist, but where it can be done, it should be done.

Now that your house is less likely to be destroyed, look for energy savings in the following areas, remember that air intrusion is the largest single cause of heat loss in the average home:

  1. Air-seal every available exterior opening. Start with the big ones, like around windows and doors. Do the existing seals need replaced? If they have not been replaced in the last ten years, they are probably shot.
  2. See item #1 under Water Problems above, caulk every penetration.
  3. Seal from the inside around all electrical boxes, both in interior and exterior walls. Why the interior ones? Because those stud cavities are usually open at the top to the attic, or at the bottom to the crawl space, where wires and pipes protrude. These can be major sources of heat loss.
  4. Look under kitchen sinks and bathroom vanities, caulk every plumbing penetration. Make sure you look behind the chrome escutcheon the plumber probably installed, you will most likely find a large hole there.

Last but not least are the obvious maintenance items:

  1. Have your heating system professionally serviced every year. Period! You will typically save more than the cost of the service, and will assure that your system lasts as long as it should. You will also most likely avoid that pesky failure that always seems to happen on the coldest night of the year. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
  2. Change all your smoke detector batteries. It is far less taxing to do this on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, than trying to figure out which one is beeping at 3 a.m. Even worse, would be the smoke detector that fails to go off, as your Christmas tree is catching your house on fire!
  3. Check EVERY light bulb in the house, including the garage, crawl space, attic, etc. You never know when you might need the one light that burned out last year. If you don't check, you won't know. Don't wait for an emergency, do it now! For most applications, select compact fluorescent bulbs with a Kelvin temperature of 2700?.

Every house is different, some will have air filters, water filters, outside drainage issues, etc., so take a few minutes to think about what happens in the winter, and how it might affect your house. It will be cold, rainy, and possibly snowy, how will this affect drainage? Comfort? Which things about your house will you NOT want to deal with in the most miserable of weather? Do those things now, while they are easy.

For more information, see our Energy Efficient Windows and Doors Research Center.

Topics: Heating & Cooling, Landscaping, Lighting, Windows

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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