(updated Nov, 2011)
If you’re a first time home owner, you might not know what you need to do to protect your new investment this winter season. Fall is an especially important time of year for home maintenance because the Canadian winters are so hard on our homes. How you winterize your home today will determine how comfortable, or how costly your winter will be.
Here is the first installment of the 10 most important jobs every homeowner needs to do to winterize their home.
1. Change your furnace filter:
The one thing everyone thinks of at this time of year is the heating system. If you have a forced hot air system, (a furnace) your heating and cooling equipment use the same filters. If they're dirty then filthy air will be circulating around your home. Also, it reduces the efficiency of the furnace, since the air doesn’t circulate as well through a blocked filter. Filter changing (or in some cases, cleaning) is one thing a homeowner can do themselves to winterize their home.
2. Check your gas furnace:
If you have gas heat, your qualified service person should check the pilot light, burner and chimney flue. That's one place where carbon monoxide byproducts originate and you want to make sure that it is not building up in your home. The same applies to hot water heating systems (boilers) and gas fireplaces and anything with an open flame.
3. Make sure you have sufficient smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (and check the batteries):
I am still surprised (and a bit alarmed) when I visit homes that have no carbon monoxide alarms installed. This isn't just about the right way to winterize your home, it’s now the law that you have a CO detector outside every sleeping area. Basement bedrooms or apartments are especially vulnerable since there is often a furnace next to living space. If there is a furnace malfunction which produces Carbon monoxide, it could result in death.
There are now combined smoke/CO alarms that are reasonably inexpensive. The best products are ‘hard-wired’ into the electrical system with backup 9V battery. They cost a bit more, but they are ‘always-on’ and they work even when the power goes out. Of course you still need to change the batteries annually. Now, as the clocks are set back and you're doing the other winterize jobs, is a good time to do it.
4. Drain and store garden hoses:
Outside hoses need to be drained and stored. It’s ok to leave them outside if you first drain the water from them first. Always disconnect the hose from the tap before winter. If you don't, it could cause a burst pipe inside the house.
5. Turn off outside hose bibs (taps):
These need to be shut off from inside the house and the residual water needs to be drained so the pipes don’t freeze and burst inside the house. In some cases, using a ‘frost free’ valve that extends to a heated area inside the home will eliminate the need to drain the water pipes inside, but I’ve seen these freeze up during extreme cold. It's so much easier to winterize your home than it is to hire a plumber to fix burst pipes inside a wall or ceiling.
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