Winterization is the process of preparing a home for the harsh conditions of winter. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived.
Winterization protects against damage due to bursting water pipes, and from heat loss due to openings in the building envelope.
Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage. Even during very small ruptures or ruptures that are stopped quickly, water leakage can result in mold and property damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.
Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.
Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.
Leaks in the Building Envelope
Leaky window frames, door frames, and electrical outlets can allow warm air to escape into the outdoors.
Windows that leak will allow cold air into the home. Feeling for drafts with a hand or watching for horizontal smoke from an incense stick are a few easy ways to inspect for leaks. They can be repaired with tape or caulk.
On a breezy day, you can walk through the house and find far more leaks than they knew existed. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.
Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping.
Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather.
The heating system is used most during the winter so its a good idea to make sure that it works before its desperately needed. The following inspection and maintenance tips can be of some help to homeowners:
Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat.
Replace the air filter if its dirty.
If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.
Chimneys and Fireplaces
The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoon have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn't, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.
Adequate winterization is especially crucial for homes that are left unoccupied during the winter. This sometimes happens when homeowners who own multiple properties leave one home vacant for months at a time while they occupy their summer homes. Foreclosed homes are sometimes left unoccupied, as well. The heat may be shut off in vacant homes in order to save money. Such homes must be winterized in order to prevent catastrophic building damage.
In summary, home winterization is a collection of preventative measures designed to protect homes against damage caused by cold temperatures. These measures should be performed in the fall, before it gets cold enough for damage to occur.
Indoor plumbing is probably the most critical area to consider when preparing a home for winter, although other systems should not be ignored.