A Song of Ice and Heating Bills

As the days grow shorter, and the temperature starts to fall, you’re going to want to get your home ready for the icy embrace of winter. That means checking your doors and windows for drafts, getting your lawn mower ready for the long nap, making sure your furnace is functioning at full capacity, and a slew of other housekeeping chores.
If all that sounds kind of tedious and boring, at least take solace in the fact that your adversary is just good old Mother Nature and not an apocalyptic horde of icicle zombies hellbent on ushering in an eternal winter of death and desolation (i.e. White Walkers). Suddenly, caulking a few windows doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Don’t worry, with these top tips you’ll be ready for the cold march of winter with no fuss (though a little bit of muss, if we’re honest).

1. Cover Your Air Conditioner

Whether you have an in-wall unit or central air, you’ll want to get both covered up before winter arrives. For in-wall units, you can find all kinds of covers at your local hardware store that are designed to fit snugly around the outside of your AC unit. As for central air conditioners, you can use any vinyl or plastic cover you have handy. This will keep the unit protected from falling ice and prevent rusting over subsequent winters. Just be sure to clean any dust, droppings, or dirt off the unit before bundling it up.

2. Clean Out Your Gutters

090902-N-2888Q-003 COLUMBUS, Ohio (Sept. 2, 2009) Petty Officer 3rd Class Debby Warden, from Navy Operation Support Center Columbus, and Sgt. Matthew Smith, from Navy Recruiting District Ohio, clean the rain gutters on a home as part of a Rebuilding Together Central Ohio project. Sailors and Marines from Navy Operation Support Center Columbus and Navy Recruiting District Ohio volunteered to help a local homeowner who needed home repairs and maintenance. The community service project was part of Central Ohio Navy Week, one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Lucy M. Quinn/Released)

De-gunking your gutters should usually be done two to four times a year, depending on how many trees you have. But it is especially important to get the crud out of there before the cold sets in. As soon as the temperature drops below freezing, all those dead leaves and pine needles are going to freeze into a solid chunk of organic mush. By clearing out that putrid potpourri in the fall you’ll ensure that the snow on your roof has a clear path to the ground come springtime.

3. Seal Gaps in Your Doors and Windows


Jack Frost and his merry band of White Walkers just love sneaking in through cracks and crevices; but you’ve got a secret weapon, a caulking gun. Check around the outside of your windows for cracks in the framing or trim and seal them using your caulking gun. As for the front door, weather stripping is your best friend. Head to your hardware store, grab a roll, and lay a strip of it down between the door and the molding, then pause for applause from your family.

4. Assess Your Roof’s Integrity

DMahalko, Asphalt Shingle Roofs, licensed under CC by 3.0.
Aside from offering it a bribe, the best way to determine your roof’s integrity is to do a visual inspection. Once you’ve scrambled up the ladder, you’ll want to look for sections of the roof where the shingles are cracking, bending, or just plain missing. Loose screws and rusted panels should also be investigated to see if there are some potential leaks in the making.

5. Reverse Your Ceiling Fan

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If your ceiling fan can run backwards, it must have good coordination. But seriously folks, running your fan in reverse will redistribute the warm air from your furnace as it rises towards the ceiling, providing a more uniform temperature. Some fan models include a switch on the outside of the unit, while others are built into the housing itself. You may need to unscrew the casing around the fan motor to access the switch, but it takes no more effort than changing a light bulb! (apart from the unscrewing, dismantling, and potentially voided warranty)

6. Stow Your Yard Equipment

Any yard equipment you used during the summer should be cleaned up and drained of fuel before winter. If the fuel in your lawn mower or other motorized implement uses a preservative, you can siphon it off and store it in a gas canister for later use. After draining the gas tank, run the motor to use up any remaining gas in the fuel lines. For mowers, you’ll also want to scrape off any grass that is caked onto the blades. This can be done with a putty knife or wire brush. You should also take this time to change the oil, air filter, and spark plug so there’s one less thing to do in the Spring.

7. Make Sure Your Snowblower is Working

 Jared C. Benedict, Snowblower, Licensed under CC by 2.0.
If you haven’t run your snow blower in awhile, you’ll probably want to change the motor oil, spark plug, and air filter before firing it up. Once that basic maintenance is out of the way go ahead and turn it on to ensure that everything is running smoothly. You should also lubricate the chute, levers, and linkages throughout the machine so that everything turns easily once you’re slinging snow.

8. Flush Your Sprinklers

JJ Harrison, Sprinkler, licensed under CC by 3.0.
If your lawn has a sprinkler system you probably already know to shut the water off before the ground freezes. But there’s also the small matter of flushing the existing water out of the pipes. To do that, open up the manual valve and flip on the system or, alternatively, use a compressor to blow the remaining water out of the system. (I’ll take any excuse to play with an air compressor)

9. Check Your Furnace

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Without a functioning furnace you’ll be huddled around the TV for its warmth instead of enjoying reruns of your favorite fantasy epic. Furnace filters should be changed at least every three months, though some recommend changing them as frequently as once a month. The best thing for your furnace is to call an HVAC professional to come out and inspect it for you to make sure everything is operational. During their inspection, they’ll clean the furnace and change the filter for you. It’s also worth paying a little more to have them clean out your ducts while they are there.

10. Look for Peeling Paint


Give your home’s exterior the once-over to make sure there’s no paint chipping off the side of your home. Flaking paint is usually a sign of water damage and should be fixed before winter sets in. If you do find areas of the house with peeling paint, scrape it off until the surface is smooth. Then, sand down the surface of the house in preparation for a single coat of primer and two coats of latex paint. Wait 30 minutes between each application of primer/paint.


Bonus Tip:

11. Get as Far South as South Goes

Seriously, just run. Leave the house behind, hop on a boat, plane, or horse headed south, and wait for this whole winter thing to blow over.