With the last of the leaves making their annual fall, that means one thing: It’s time to bust out the winter jackets and shovels for that impending first dump of snow. Each year, Minnesotans spend a lot of money on keeping warm during the winter months. But did you know that there are several steps that you can take right now (some of which are very simple) to get ahead of the cold weather and all the havoc it can wreck on your home and finances? The following is a list of things that should be on your to-do list.
1. Schedule a furnace tune-up. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your furnace tuned up. During a tune-up, a technician inspects wiring, combustion systems and air flow. Additionally, I recommend replacing your furnace filter monthly during heating season as this will assist your furnace in operating more efficiently. Lastly, instead of having to head to a hotel on a blistering January evening while you are placed on a long list of other unfortunate individuals, look into signing up for a ‘service program’ through the utility companies.
2. Hire a chimney contractor for wood burners. It’s important to have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep before you start throwing in logs. Even if your chimney ‘looks’ clean, you never know what is happening inside of your chimney. Better to be safe than sorry!
3. Seal all exterior cracks and gaps. Take a walk around the outside of your home and look for cracks and gaps around windows and doors as well as broken glass. Sealing these cracks will help to prevent heat loss. On older homes with single-pane windows, I recommend removing screens and adding storm windows.
4. Clean your gutters and window wells. Having your gutters cleaned will help improve drainage away from the structure and reduce the likelihood of water getting into your basement. Furthermore, having clean gutters helps cut down on the formation of ice dams. Leaves should be removed away from the structure and from any window wells as they are considered a fire hazard why dry.
5. Turn off exterior faucets and remove garden hoses. Hopefully this goes without saying, but water inside of pipes will freeze during the harsh Minnesota winters and can leave you with one hefty repair bill. Turn off the water from the interior shut-offs first and then go outside and open the exterior faucets until they drain completely.
6. Check your attic insulation. One quick way to determine if your attic insulation is adequate is to look across the span of your attic. If your insulation is just level with or below your floor joists, you should add more. It is important that the insulation be evenly distributed with no low spots; sometimes there is enough insulation in the middle of the attic and very little along the eaves (which contributes to ice dams forming). Having an adequate amount of attic insulation makes your home more energy-efficient and helps cut down on your heating bills.