Man caulks his windows to air seal and insulate his home

The Basic Winterizing Your Home Checklist

Unless you live near the equator, there will come a time in the calendar year when you need to protect your home from cold weather. Even here at the Chariot Energy offices in Houston, we experience enough time with cooler temperatures that we need to make some preparations. When you put our tips for winterizing your home into effect before the temperature drops, you can rest easy no matter where you live.

Your winterization tasks can be lumped into two basic categories: the inside and outside of the home. That checklist looks something like this:

  • Exterior
    • Pipes
    • Roof
    • Gutters
    • Landscaping
    • Winter equipment
    • Summer equipment
  • Interior
    • Windows 
    • Doors
    • Furnace
    • Fireplace
    • Thermostat
    • Ceiling fans

Let’s dig a bit deeper into what each of these steps entails so you know exactly what to do. We also recommend that you plan to accomplish this work in stages so that you aren’t overwhelmed by trying to do everything in one weekend.

The Exterior of Your Home

Let’s be frank — this is the area of your house that needs the most protection from the ravages of winter. The rain, snow, and wind of winter directly attack the exterior, so it’s crucial to begin here. Even more, if you prepare the outside effectively, it won’t be so cold inside, which can lower your energy bills.

Protect Your Pipes

Wherever there is an exposed pipe, you need to wrap it. Your average home improvement store should have insulated tubing you can cut to any length you need. So, whether the pipe is in your basement, on the side of your house, or in the corner of your yard, you need to cover it.

Clean Your Roof

Any home improvement expert will tell you to remove the leaves from your roof every three months. You don’t want leaves to pile up in corners and eaves, because they will trap moisture that will first discolor the tiles and then seeps into the beams to the point that the overall structural integrity fails. 

This goes double for the wintertime because that accumulating water will quickly turn into ice. That creates a double-whammy of damage: the water and ice hitting your roof during winter and the water getting into your roof after the ice melts.

Clean Your Gutters

You should clean out your gutters and downspouts every time you clean your roof — and for the same reasons. If watery leaves accumulate in your gutters, the water will expand when it freezes, causing damage to your gutters. The gathered water will also seep into the wood framing and cause it to rot.

 Prepare Your Yard

Think of this as giving your yard one more good once-over before winter turns everything dormant.

  • Mow
  • Edge / weedeat
  • Trim back bushes from the house and foundation
  • Prune other foliage
  • Spread winter fertilizer
  • Turn off sprinkler system
  • Aerate the grass 

We also recommend that you explore your foundation for any locations where small rodents might enter. Not only do you not want rodents inside your house, but if the opening is large enough for a small animal, it’s definitely letting in rain, ice, and cold into the sensitive parts of your home. 

Your neighborhood hardware store can provide all manner of silicon-based sealants you can add to those holes so that you seal in warmth and keep out the cold, animals, and bugs.

Prepare Your Winter Equipment

By “winter equipment,” we mean any and all devices that will help you care for your home, vehicle, and other possessions during the cold months. You shouldn’t wait until you absolutely need this equipment before you bring them out of storage. This includes items like:

  • Salt for the driveway and sidewalks
  • Snow shovels
  • Snowblowers
  • Ice picks for the home
  • Ice scrapers for the car

To be clear, if you live in Texas or any part of the southern U.S., you won’t need these items, but we did want to discuss them as a point of information for readers who do experience true winter weather.

Store Your Summer Equipment

The room you create by unearthing your winter equipment is perfect for storing your summer items. We recommend putting away the following:

  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Toys
  • Lawn maintenance equipment
  • Hoses (drained of water)
  • Audio-visual entertainment devices

If you do have actual weather-resistant gear that sits under a shelter of some sort, you can leave that outside. We just suggest putting it away, since most people don’t entertain outside during winter at the same levels they do for summer.

Natural gas burns on a stop top

The Interior of Your Home

Once you’ve prepared the outside of your home so the effects of cold winter weather stay away, it’s essential you fix the inside of your home. Your goal should be keeping your family warm without keeping the furnace cranked for the entire winter.

Seal Your Windows and Doors

We encourage this bit of do-it-yourself home repair in both winter and summer as it’s the easiest way you can control the temperature of your home. Simply put, air sealing your windows and doors traps in warm air and staves off cool outside air. This regulates the inside of your home, allowing your heater to work more efficiently. 

  • Replace the cracked seal around your door with fresh weatherstripping
  • Replace the flaking seal around your windows with fresh caulk

Both solutions help to lower your energy usage and thus your energy bill because you can cool your home more effectively.

Review Your Furnace 

This will require you to contract with a trusted HVAC mechanic. You need to have this done before it gets cold outside because you don’t want your heater to break when you actually need it. Also, the colder it gets, the more in-demand those repair shops are. It’s better to get your inspection and potential repairs completed before winter actually arrives.

Review Your Fireplace 

The same logic applies for your fireplace. The closer we are to winter, the more expensive the visit might get. The fireplace mechanic will need to clear the flue, clean the chimney, and ensure any gas lines running to your fireplace are in working order. If you’re going to actually warm your home with your fireplace, you must do so safely.

Lower Your Thermostat

Do you want to keep warm in the winter? Yes. But you also need to set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature that doesn’t send your energy bill into overdrive. We recommend the following:

  • 68 F when people are home during the day
  • 65 F at night and when people are out of the home for more than 1 hour during the day

If people still feel cold at those levels, ask them to put on a long-sleeved shirt or socks. You don’t need to set the heater high enough in winter where people can dress like it’s summer around the house.

Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

In summer, you want your ceiling fans so they blow air down into the room so it circulates and cools people’s skin. In winter, you need to reverse the direction of those fans so air is drawn up into the ceiling and directed into the corners of the room. This creates the feeling of warmth in the room, thereby you don’t need to overwork your heater.

The Benefits of Winterizing Your Home

Homeowners will enjoy two primary benefits of winter-proofing the house:

  1. Preventing damage from the elements
  2. Preventing high energy bills

While you don’t have to be a home improvement expert to accomplish many of the items on our house winterizing checklist, we do recommend speaking with an expert for anything related to a major home system. In our experience, spending a little money on preventative care is better than spending a lot to fix a problem because you didn’t take care of your home before the cold weather arrived.

And if you’re looking for additional ways to take care of your home in winter, consider switching to a new electricity plan with Chariot Energy. You can enjoy a fixed-rate electricity plan and 100% Texas solar power that costs as much as traditional energy from fossil fuels. Protect the earth and your electricity bill today!