Extreme cold, ice, snow, severe winds are some of the hazards we face every year once winter comes around. Like your family, your home needs to be equipped and ready to survive this precarious season. However, with some preparation, you can keep your homeowners premiums, electric bills, and overall costs down through the winter months and beyond.
Preparing Your Homeowners Policy For Winter Conditions
Preparing to prevent seasonal weather from damaging your home is crucial, even if you carry sufficient homeowners insurance. Certain damage may be beyond the scope of your insurance coverage, leaving you with high out-of-pocket costs and occasionally in unsafe situations.
Ice damage, falling tree branches, burst pipes, and even house fires pose a serious existential threat to your home during stormy months. Reinforcing your house’s outer defenses and internal systems could save you a lot of money and headache over the long run, especially if the house is in an area heavily impacted by winter weather.
Crucial Steps For Preparing Your Home
Prepping your home for an onslaught of precipitation starts with the outside of your house and ends with a few tweaks to the interior. Follow these crucial steps, and you’ll be in a much better place by the time rain and snow begin to fall:
Get A Roof Inspection
Your roof is one of the most protective elements your house has. Come winter, hail, wind, and ice dams can slowly deteriorate a healthy roof and expose the interior of the house to the elements. Ice dams form when snow melts and refreezes near the edges or gutters of your roof, ultimately resulting in mold and leakage each time the ice melts again.
Inspect your roof for loose or broken shingles and minor pre-existing leaks, and seek professional help if anything seems awry. A professional roofer might offer to lay down heat cables or rubberized shingles to prevent ice dams from forming at the onset. Avoid scraping snow off your roof alone, as the friction might weaken your roof over time.
Clean Your Gutters
You should clean your gutters every few months, but this is particularly important come winter as clogged gutters during the wet season directly lead to home water damage. As the snow melts and refreezes day, this damage could rapidly worsen and cost you thousands of dollars.
Make sure rainwater and ice melt have a clear pathway to drain away from your house. Clear debris from your gutters, inspect them for leaks, making sure the downspouts redirect water at least 10 feet away. You should also be on alert for heavy icicles, as they can pull your gutters out of the wall.
Trim Nearby Tree Limbs
Heavy storms bring large deposits of ice and snow, which can build up on the trees surrounding your home. Tree branches can snap at any moment under the strain of precipitation and come crashing through your roof, causing both exterior and interior damage to your house.
Inspect the perimeter of your home and look for tree branches hanging over or near your roof. If you are incapable of safely trimming these back yourself, find a professional to assess the situation. Some insurance companies might deny covering damages resulting from a fallen branch if they can prove that you neglected to maintain a secure tree line around your property.
Get A Chimney And Furnace Service
Burning wood in your fireplace creates a build-up of creosote, which is not only cancerous but highly flammable. The hot smoke from a fire can ignite these creosote deposits and start a chimney fire. Believe it or not, most house fires start as chimney fires.
Get your chimney routinely inspected and swept out before the cold season, even if you don’t plan on burning that much wood. You might even consider installing a steel liner inside your chimney to help contain fires should one suddenly erupt.
Winterize Your Outdoor Water Sources
During the cold season, the water inside your outdoor faucets can freeze and expand. This process exerts tremendous pressure on the pipe and can sometimes even cause it to burst, leading to costly water damage in and around your home.
To “winterize” these outdoor water sources, start by shutting off the valve controlling the water supply and check around for leaks. Disconnect any hoses connected to your faucets, drain them, then put them away. Drain any water remaining in the outdoor faucet, then cover it with insulation.
Ensure Pipes Are Protected
Frozen interior pipes have the potential to swell and eventually burst, leaking into your home and causing severe water damage. If a leak goes undetected long enough, wood and building material can rot in your walls, and large mold colonies can spread rapidly. Property damage from burst pipes can easily amount to around $5000, if not higher.
Flowing water is less likely to freeze, so consider letting your faucets drip during exceptionally cold days. Insulate exposed pipes with blankets or anything else that might be lying around, such as old newspapers. If a pipe does freeze, shut off your water and thaw the frozen section immediately using a hair dryer.
Most home insurance plans cover damage from burst pipes as long as you show that you took the proper precautions in preparing for the cold.
Insulate Windows, Attic, and Crawl Spaces
If your home is poorly insulated, the temperature inside will fluctuate dramatically with the seasons, making the winter cold inescapable. Your energy bill will reflect this, as you’ll be inefficiently using your heating system to compensate for all the heat escaping through the weak insulation.
Caulking your windows every year will prevent water damage and heat loss. You’ll also want to check the insulation in your attic and crawlspaces to ensure you’re not losing valuable heat through the floor or ceiling. Sealing areas in your attic where warm air might leak can also prevent ice dams from forming on the roof.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
The blades on a ceiling fan are slightly angled and designed to blow cool air downward by spinning counter-clockwise, which is ideal for keeping cool in hot weather. If you don’t change the direction of your fans by wintertime, however, your heating system might end up working harder than necessary, ultimately costing you money.
Because warm air rises, reversing the direction of your ceiling fans creates an updraft so that the cool air gets sucked up toward the ceiling, and the warmer air generated by your furnace gets forced back toward the floor. Not only will you feel this warmer air blowing back down, but the sensors on your thermostat will also notice this, allowing it to moderate the temperature more efficiently.