As days get increasingly shorter and colder, we know we can expect our thermometers to start showing single digit temperatures.
Our homes need love and attention, they don’t just fix themselves, so if you want to spend the holidays comfortably and not depend solely on the warmth emanating from the hearts of loved ones, you better start taking measures to get your home ready.
You don’t want the heating bills to leave you cranky and unable to experience the Christmas cheer.
Clean Those Gutters
Once the last leaves have fallen off the trees it’s time to clean the gutters. Their whole purpose is to collect rain water and divert it down the drain. If there are twigs, leaves or other forms of debris clogging them, you risk damage to the roof, walls and foundation of your house.
In order to protect your investment, climb up a ladder with a plastic scoop and start taking everything out. Avoid doing it by hand, it’s not just icky, it’s also rather ineffective.
Afterwards you can flush them out with some water to make sure you dislodge anything you might have missed.
If you really dread doing it, consider getting some gutter covers. They’re usually made from foam, wire mesh or you can get metal grates that you just clip on. Then you won’t have to do it again next year.
Check the Plumbing
Water pipes, if left undrained, can freeze, which will cause them to burst as the ice expands. First disconnect the hoses and shut off any exterior faucets, then drain the water that remains in the pipes, valves or in-ground sprinklers which will be exposed to the cold weather.
For the hot water pipes, you’ll need to insulate them with sleeves of neoprene or polyethylene foam. This will not only prevent a hot water pipe from bursting when you need it the most, but it will help you save hundreds by reducing the amount of heat lost. Non-insulated pipes make the water 2 to 4 degrees colder requiring the boiler to work harder and use up more gas or electricity.
Do a Maintenance Check on the Boiler
You should also have someone take a look at your boiler. The older it is the more vigilant you need to be. As a rule, your boiler should have a maintenance check at least every two years. To keep your boiler in good condition you need to keep the pressure between 1.2 and 1.5 bars. If it’s higher than this range, you’ll need to purge some of the radiators to reduce it or get one that can deliver higher performance.
Repairing or buying a new boiler for a big house can be quite costly. To prevent incurring unexpected high costs during a time when you’re already spending a lot on buying presents and organizing holiday dinners, consider getting some insurance. This way you won’t have to worry about any emergency breakdowns and having to spend a lot of time without hot showers or heating. If you want to find out more about this option click here.
Don’t forget to purge the radiators of any air. If they’re colder on top than on the bottom, it means that there’s air trapped in. All radiators have a purging valve, when you twist it, you’ll hear a whistling sound and you need to wait until water start to come out. Then you’re done, but it’s better to be prepared with some sort of container so you don’t soak up the carpets.
You can check if you’re losing heat through cracks in the window frame either with a candle or a burning incense stick. You simply move them around the frame slowly, from corner to corner and, if the flame or smoke moves, you’ll know there’s a draft.
A fairly inexpensive solution to reduce your heating cost is to trim down the window frames with some self-adhesive weather sealing strips and add a draft snake made out of a fabric tube that matches the width of your window. You can fill the tube with rice or polyester stuffing. Top everything off with some heavy curtains.
Test the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
In winter you’re using gas or the fireplace to heat your home, you’re insulating your windows with heavy curtains and you’re also less likely to be keeping any windows open for ventilation. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are crucial to keeping you and your family safe during the cold months.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
You can save a lot of money in winter by installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to a lower temperature while you’re at work and during some of the night hours when you’re in bed, under heavy, warm blankets. They’re not very expensive and you can just follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set them up.
Take a Look at Your Roof, Attic and Crawl Space
If you suspect your roof of having any loose or damaged shingles, you can have a roofing contractor inspect it and make the necessary repairs before it starts snowing. Snow piles up and the weight can cause loose shingles to shift and let water and moisture go through the roof and into your attic.
Also, you don’t want any critters setting up camp in your attic. Squirrels and birds can cause not only damage to your home, but also give rise to health problems. The trees near your house need to be well trimmed and the gable vents need to be in good condition. Consider adding a screen behind the gable vent and take a look at your soffit and fascia as well.
An insulated roof means losing half of the heat from inside the house, so adding insulation to your loft can really help bring the energy bills down.
The insulating material is laid out between the joists and the rafters and if you have easy access to the attic, you can do it by yourself.