A Checklist for Winterizing and Weatherproofing Your Home

There’s no doubt about it – winter is coming. Freezing temperatures, cold air, ice and snow make the warmth inside your house cozy and inviting. At least, that is, when your house is up to the task.
Winterizing your house isn’t only about staying warm, however. Winter is notorious for busted pipes, invading pests or furnaces that suddenly fail to function, for instance, but winterizing your home helps prevent such unexpected surprises. Additionally, a house that isn’t winterized will consume more energy, and energy costs continue to rise dramatically every year. Failing to winterize your house will progressively cost you more money on top of repair headaches.
Save more, worry less and stay comfortable by systematically checking your home’s condition and performing simple tasks around the property to ensure it is winter-ready. You can easily perform an effective, efficient weatherproofing job yourself over a weekend or two. Best of all, the work requires little investment beyond your time and perhaps a few basic supplies. Even the cost of additional insulation, if needed, pays off every time you open your utility bills.

Servicing Furnaces and Ductwork

  • Check the house thermostat to ensure it works properly. Replace old thermostats with newer, programmable models that allow you to set a lower temperature while you are away or asleep and raise the temperature only when you need it. According to experts, lowering the temperature about 10 degrees for eight hours a day may save you up to 10 percent a year.
  • Change your furnace filter. Always follow the recommended filter change schedule according to the furnace and filter type. This may vary from monthly to perhaps every six months.
  • Check the furnace pilot light to see if it is lit. Turn on the furnace and blower to ensure the furnace ignites and completes a full cycle, from warming up to blowing heat and shutting off the blower again. Hire a professional to evaluate the furnace and determine if it operates safely and efficiently.
  • Shine a light into your ducts to look for evidence of mold, pests or accumulations of dirt and debris. The EPA states that there isn’t yet enough evidence to suggest regular cleanings are necessary. Instead, clean ducts when moldy or excessively dirty. Consult a professional for more information and cleaning assistance.
  • Inspect the heating ductwork. Look for holes and loose connections, tightening, taping or replacing pieces as necessary. Problem areas often occur where ducts meet the floor, ceiling or go through the wall.
  • Insulate ductwork that runs under your house or through unheated areas. Special blanket insulation makes insulating around the ducts easy, simple work. According to Energy Star, the typical house loses about 20 percent of the air flowing through the ducts due to holes, leaks and loose connections. Factoring in heat loss through uninsulated ducts, the amount is likely even higher.

Inspecting Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Chimneys

  • Inspect the chimney if you have a fireplace or wood stove. Look for obstructions such as bird nests or leaves blocking the flue. Place screen and a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to prevent future problems.
  • Clean the chimney to remove any creosote buildup. Scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or wood stove when finished.
  • Check the fireplace or wood stove to ensure it operates properly. Hire a professional to assess the equipment if preferred.
  • Test the interior portion of the wood stove flue, between the stove and the wall where it exits. Make sure the connections are secure and the pipe is sound.

Cleaning Your Gutters and Roof

  • Clean the roof completely to remove the year’s accumulation of dirt, debris and leaves. Especially in areas with deep snow accumulations, the excess weight may stress the roof. Plus, accumulating organic matter encourages rot to invade your roof. Typically a shovel or broom – even a hose from the ground in some instances – makes short work of the job.
  • Inspect the roof during the cleaning to identify areas where shingles are missing, damaged or otherwise in need of repair. Look for other problems such as soft areas, chimney or vent damage and separating gutters. Hire a professional to perform the inspection and repair work.
  • Clean the gutters surrounding the roof. Move to the downspouts and ensure they are clear and in good repair.

Weatherproofing Your House Exterior

  • Rake away leaves and rotting vegetation from your house foundation.
  • Squirt expanding foam insulation or caulk into gaps and holes in your exterior house wall, such as around pipes or wires.
  • Check window wells surrounding basement windows. Remove debris and ensure the window is safe from potential damage. Install special plastic window shields as necessary.
  • Ensure your wood supply, if applicable, is separated from the house by at least 20 or 30 feet and covered with a plastic tarp or other moisture barrier. Open trash or recycling containers, woodpiles and similar collections invite rodents and pests to invade your home and enjoy the heat.
  • Inspect outbuildings and areas such as sheds and cellars or crawlspaces. Note any damage or potential problems. Secure windows and doors in these areas.
  • Drain garden hoses and insulate exposed water pipes as applicable.
  • Blow out or drain sprinkler systems.
  • Cover central air units with heavy protective material to block snow and ice. Have a professional open the unit cover and turn off the disconnect switch first to prevent accidental use in winter. Clean the outside of the unit, removing dirt and leaves, and allow it to dry before covering.
  • Remove window air conditioner units or cover permanently installed units.
  • Trim tree branches hanging over your house, electrical wires or outbuildings. Remove dead and damaged trees and branches.

Preparing Your Windows and Doors

  • Inspect windows to ensure the glass is in good condition and secure in the window frame. Check doors for structural stability. Replace or repair windows and doors as necessary. Upgrading old windows with newer, energy-efficient models will boost your utility savings.
  • Look for air gaps around window and doorframes. This proves easiest when it’s light on one side of the wall and dark on the other. Fill voids with a little low-expansion spray foam insulation designed for windows and doors. Once the foam cures, it is simply trimmed flush with the wall surface. Doors, especially, tend to leak air from around the frame and trim.
  • Replace or install weather stripping under entry doors and around windows.
  • Take down summer window screens and screen doors. Replace with storm windows and storm doors.
  • Hang plastic over windows or use shrink-wrap. Large windows, in particular, lose a tremendous amount of heat, especially older windows. Plastic sheeting placed over the inside of the window, if performed with care, doesn’t look that bad and will significantly lower your heating bill.

Winterizing With Insulation

If your house is fairly new, the insulation level is likely sufficient for your climate. Older homes, however, often installed insulation somewhat haphazardly – if at all – and you may pay for it with your wallet.
The easiest, most reliable method to ensure your insulation is up to keeping you warm is to have an energy audit performed. Some utility companies offer courtesy energy audits, or you can hire a professional. It’s also possible, in some cases, to verify the level of insulation by measuring the material and determining the total R-value by multiplying the depth by the insulation’s R- value per inch. Add more insulation, of the type desired, to obtain the R-value recommended for your area. Checking the insulation level in the attic is likely the easiest place for the DIYer to start, and one of the most important places since heat rises.
While adding insulation, if necessary, may prove the most costly step of your home winterization, you won’t have to do it again anytime soon. Better yet, you will get the money back, month by month, and in some areas rebates may be available. For more information, consult a professional.
Don’t forget about your water heater. Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and cover it with blanket insulation or a cover, as specified by the manufacturer. If your water heater is in an uninsulated area, this is even more important.

Interior Weatherization and Safety

  • Open any register vents or air returns inside your house. Vents may be wall mounted, in the floor or in the ceiling. Repair or replace damaged or loose vents.
  • Feel the wall around electrical outlets, pipes or wires leading to the outside. Seal and insulate as appropriate. Expanding foam insulation for windows and doors provides the benefits of both.
  • Reverse your ceiling fans to help circulate warm air that gathers near the ceiling. When the fan blades rotate clockwise, they push the warm air down to “reheat” the lower areas.
  • Mount smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, if you don’t already have them, or change the batteries if you do. Test each one to ensure it operates properly. The winter season, when heating appliances may emit carbon monoxide and burning fires and other potential hazards are common, is a good time to schedule this annual task as part of your winterization process.

9 fall heating maintenance tips

As the winter fast approaches, it’s time to start thinking about heating your home. Before you just turn your system on, performing proper maintenance can ensure that it runs efficiently, so you don’t spend any more than you have to heating your home. Here are nine tips to make sure you heating system is ready for the winter:

  • Thermostat. Check your thermostat to make sure it’s operating properly. If it’s defective or older, consider upgrading it to a newer, programmable one. Not only do they provide better temperature readings, but they can be set to go on or turn off at specific times, ensuring you only pay for the heating that you use.
  • Air filter. Air filters make sure the air that is pumped throughout your heating system is clean. Clogged or used filters can hinder that process, adding air contaminants into your home. In addition, because they are dirty, your heating system will have to work harder to pass air through the filter, using more fuel and costing you more money. Replace the filters as needed.
  • Vents. Walk through your home and check all of the air vents. Blocked air vents will make your system work more than necessary, and will also prevent rooms from getting warmer. As you’re clearing the vents, remove the vent cover and clean both it and directly inside of the vent, as dust and sediment can gather there when not in use.
  • Ducts. As ducts age, gaps can form in joints, causing air to escape from the system, which is another cause of inefficiencies. Inspect the ducts thoroughly. Get some metal tape or high temperature silicone and plug any holes you find.
  • Dampers. If your home uses the same ducts for both heating and cooling, make sure to reset the damper during your duct inspection. This is especially important in two story homes. Because hot air rises, the dampers regulate airflow to send more cold air upstairs in the summer and more warm air downstairs in the winter. Set the damper to the proper season.
  • Burners. Turn your furnace’s electrical system off and remove the door of your furnace and inspect the burners. Once you find where the burners are, turn the electrical system back on and slowly raise your thermostat until the they come on. The flames should have an even consistency and be blue. If the flames are yellow, that indicates the burners are dirty and need maintenance. For safety, contact an oil furnace repair professional.
  • Blower. Use a ratchet and appropriate sized socket to remove the blower so that it can be cleaned. Once removed, clean with a vacuum and small brush. Be very careful when cleaning around the blades, as it is possible to cause an imbalance and damage the fan.
  • Bearings. Typical furnaces require the internal motors be properly lubricated annually. Clean around the oil caps before removing them. Then, apply two to three drops of lightweight machine oil in each motor. Be careful not to add any more, as over lubricating is just as bad as not using enough.
  • Fan belts. Over time, fan belts may shift or become damaged, causing them to break or work less efficiently. Locate the fan belts to see if they are properly in place and check them for any cracks or frays. If they look like they’re in good shape, simply readjust them. If damaged, install a replacement.

A Brief History of Heating and Radiators

Early man would build a fire in the center of his combustible hut or damp cave. Even when coal came into regular use the efficiency of each open fire place meant that most of the heating went up the chimney, (it would have been warmer to sit on the roof), with added danger of chimney fires or sparks causing the home, especially dwellings with a thatched roof, to burn to the ground.
Whatever supplies crude heat in the home it needs a watchful eye as it is likely to get out of hand with moving logs or coal as they burn then fall out of the hearth. Then there is the danger of sparks settling in nearby upholstery with the obvious consequences.


Even with the introduction of man made coal gas,(before natural north sea gas was introduced) there were further dangers, as it was itself highly toxic killing many home dwellers if the flame went out leaving the home owner to die as the gas supply would be still running. Man needed something better, more efficient and safer to warm the family hence the ingenious development of controllable heat in the form of piped circulating hot water held in cast iron vessels that radiated the heat where and when you wanted it.
Cornering the worlds share of the cold stuff, Russia reins supreme, it’s the coldest place on our planet. The poor old Russians wrapped up in bear skins, as otherwise they would last a few minutes, or less in their bare skins. The scientific measure for cold per day for a typical Russian per person is about -14 degree Celsius. In hot Canada it is about -11 degrees Celsius.
So with the bitter cold giving him a wonderful incentive to warm up his cold bones the Polish-born Russian, businessman, Franz San Galli invented the heating radiator in St Petersburg between 1855-1857. That’s two years of cold fingers fiddling with bits of cold metal before he could take his hat off and thaw out his Vodka using his new Radiator. His invention was taken up by the wealthy Victorians as the ‘must have’ of the day, although the Radiator sensation in Great Britain really took off during the early 20th century. Although there are earlier beginnings of radiator development in the 1830’s the concept we see today is mostly based on designs by the inventive  Americans, Joseph Nason and Robert Briggs in around 1863 with later design additions of the cast iron ‘Bundy Loop’ by another American, Nelson H Bundy in 1872. All the radiators of the day were run by steam, rather than hot water today. Steam works at great pressures hence all early radiators were fitted with steam valves which might suddenly release their steam should the pressure rise too much.  One can imagine soup being gently ladled out on to the waiting plates sitting at the Victorian dining table when all of a sudden the steam valve blows causing the startled servant to throw the soup over the equally startled guests. All this changed by using hot water to heat the Radiator instead of steam.


Victorian radiators are constructed of cast steel. This is known as a sealed steel hollow container filled with hot water feed with piping supplied by an electric pressure pump.  All radiators need an efficient boiler to heat the circulating water as it makes it way around all the radiators. Each radiator gives a generous amount of warming heat whether they are run on either tank held Calor gas, natural gas (LNG) or tank held oil, all to provide fuel for the boilers that heat the water.  LNG as it’s known (Liquified Natural Gas) is temporary liquified for transport reasons as it only takes up 1/600th of volume of natural gas in its gaseous state. It is odourless, non-toxic and non-corrosive and is the most used fuel for Radiator boilers, followed by oil pumped from storage tanks near its property.
As the water circulates around the radiators its temperature rises and falls. When new water is added to a central heating system, a certain amount of air also enters the system. The action of the impeller of the pump will also ‘create’ a certain amount of air. As air will rise in water, it will collect at high points in the system, this is especially noticeable within radiators and in high level circulation pipework. All the range of Victorian radiators have an air bleed valve to remove trapped air in the radiator. You can tell if a radiator has trapped air as parts of the radiator, mostly at the top, will feel cold.
The fashion and elegance of Victorian and later in Edwardian homes, was reflected by the Victorian cast iron radiator designs which included intricate scrolled detail into the iron casting of the Radiator which the manufacturers were able to create. Of course today’s modern flat utility and blandly designed Radiators manufactured from pressed steel sheet are unable to create such interesting design, which is why people are increasingly opting for more traditional column radiators or heated towel rails in their Victorian bathrooms.
 

 

Why You Should Schedule Fall Heating Maintenance

Fall is almost upon us, and soon you’ll be turning off your air conditioner for another year. Though you may not be using your heating system right away, you should be sure to schedule maintenance for it before the winter begins. This is because the added stress of daily use during the winter will make it far more likely for problems to occur in your system. Let’s take a look at the benefits of fall heating maintenance.

Preventive Maintenance

We often advise homeowners to schedule prompt repairs after noticing a problem with their heating system. This is because heating issues are often progressive, and will inflict more damage to the system the longer they continue. While prompt repairs will mitigate the damage these problems cause, they will not prevent them completely. No matter how fast you react to problems, you will still be giving them time to damage your system.
Preventive maintenance is a proactive effort. It gives us time to find and fix any developing problems before they manage to cause any serious harm to your heater. This kind of proactive repair can save you thousands of dollars over the years, as it will prevent a great many problems that would otherwise have shown up. Preventive maintenance also makes sure that your heater is in the best possible shape to cope with the demands that winter will place on it.
You’re going to want to make sure that you schedule preventive maintenance for your heating system at least once every year, preferably during fall. This should be enough to keep your heater in top condition for as long as possible.

9 fall heating maintenance tips

As the winter fast approaches, it’s time to start thinking about heating your home. Before you just turn your system on, performing proper maintenance can ensure that it runs efficiently, so you don’t spend any more than you have to heating your home. Here are nine tips to make sure you heating system is ready for the winter:

  • Thermostat. Check your thermostat to make sure it’s operating properly. If it’s defective or older, consider upgrading it to a newer, programmable one. Not only do they provide better temperature readings, but they can be set to go on or turn off at specific times, ensuring you only pay for the heating that you use.
  • Air filter. Air filters make sure the air that is pumped throughout your heating system is clean. Clogged or used filters can hinder that process, adding air contaminants into your home. In addition, because they are dirty, your heating system will have to work harder to pass air through the filter, using more fuel and costing you more money. Replace the filters as needed.
  • Vents. Walk through your home and check all of the air vents. Blocked air vents will make your system work more than necessary, and will also prevent rooms from getting warmer. As you’re clearing the vents, remove the vent cover and clean both it and directly inside of the vent, as dust and sediment can gather there when not in use.
  • Ducts. As ducts age, gaps can form in joints, causing air to escape from the system, which is another cause of inefficiencies. Inspect the ducts thoroughly. Get some metal tape or high temperature silicone and plug any holes you find.
  • Dampers. If your home uses the same ducts for both heating and cooling, make sure to reset the damper during your duct inspection. This is especially important in two story homes. Because hot air rises, the dampers regulate airflow to send more cold air upstairs in the summer and more warm air downstairs in the winter. Set the damper to the proper season.
  • Burners. Turn your furnace’s electrical system off and remove the door of your furnace and inspect the burners. Once you find where the burners are, turn the electrical system back on and slowly raise your thermostat until the they come on. The flames should have an even consistency and be blue. If the flames are yellow, that indicates the burners are dirty and need maintenance. For safety, contact an oil furnace repair professional.
  • Blower. Use a ratchet and appropriate sized socket to remove the blower so that it can be cleaned. Once removed, clean with a vacuum and small brush. Be very careful when cleaning around the blades, as it is possible to cause an imbalance and damage the fan.
  • Bearings. Typical furnaces require the internal motors be properly lubricated annually. Clean around the oil caps before removing them. Then, apply two to three drops of lightweight machine oil in each motor. Be careful not to add any more, as over lubricating is just as bad as not using enough.
  • Fan belts. Over time, fan belts may shift or become damaged, causing them to break or work less efficiently. Locate the fan belts to see if they are properly in place and check them for any cracks or frays. If they look like they’re in good shape, simply readjust them. If damaged, install a replacement.

 

TIME TO WINTERIZE YOUR CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONER

Your HVAC unit—also called an outdoor or central air conditioner—keeps your home dry and cool during hot, humid months. As the warm summer days fade to chilly fall weather, it’s time to winterize the HVAC unit to safeguard against snow and ice. Winterizing your central air conditioner also prevents rust damage and keeps critters from nesting inside mechanical parts.
Winterization of your HVAC unit is a straightforward do-it-yourself home improvement project. It takes just a few minutes of your time to complete. By following these simple steps, you can help keep your central air conditioning unit clean and in top working condition for summers to come.
The best time to prep your HVAC unit is early fall, just before you close the windows and turn on the heat. Watch the weather and pick a sunny day when your outdoor air conditioner can air dry completely. If today is the day to prep your AC, put on your work gloves and let’s get to it…
Here’s a list of what’s needed to winterize your HVAC unit: a garden hose, a clean rag, tubular foam or rubber pipe insulation, tees and elbows, and an outdoor air conditioning unit cover.

  1. Remove leaves, twigs and grass clippings. Use a garden hose to rinse the outdoor air conditioner, removing droppings, bugs, dirt and dust. Allow the HVAC unit to dry completely.
  2. Locate the electrical circuit. It usually has a plastic or metal lid. Remove the lid and flip the switch to cut power supply. This prevents the unit from turning on during a warm winter day, which keep water out of the unit that could freeze overnight and damage your HVAC unit.
  3. Install tubular foam or rubber pipe insulation with tees and elbows around pipes to protect against freezing. Cut the foam to fit by length and diameter of the pipe. Place tees and elbows first. Frost King foam pipe insulation is self-adhesive, making it easy to install.
  4. Cover the HVAC unit with a waterproof air conditioner cover. Our covers are made to fit outdoor air conditioners, but some DIY homeowners prefer to use bungee cords, vinyl tie-downs and even plywood+a brick to further secure the cover and protect the unit.
  5. Throughout winter, be sure to remove snow, ice and debris from the top of your HVAC unit. Adjust the cover to keep in place. Plus do what you can to remove dead leaves, small branches and any hibernating animals from underneath your outdoor air conditioning unit.