12 Things Homeowners Should Check in Winter
Be prepared this winter by keeping an eye on these things in your home.
When temperatures start to drop below freezing, your plumbing may be in danger. Pipes where water tends to linger, unprotected by the insulation that guards the rest of your home, can freeze on particularly cold nights. The expanding ice can even crack pipes and flood homes—a disaster you definitely want to avoid. Make sure that pipes in cold areas are properly insulated and protected when you expect the temperature to drop below freezing. If your pipes do freeze, check out these tricks to thaw frozen pipes so they don’t burst.
Air leakage points
Outlets, switches, and light fixtures can allow air to pass through. Over time, these small gaps and leaks can lose a lot of heat. Fortunately, an easy DIY insulation project to properly seal them will prevent that problem. Find out the 14 things all smart homeowners should do once a month.
Carbon monoxide season
You’ve got a house full of guests, so the oven and stove are working overtime, the water heater is struggling to keep up with demand, the fireplace is burning and the furnace is fighting the cold. It’s the perfect setting for carbon monoxide buildup. So if you don’t already have a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector, put it at the top of your shopping list. Detectors are available at home centers and discount stores.
Check for high water pressure or wreck fixtures and appliances
A technician was assisting a water softener installer who was replacing a fairly new softener because the first one had ruptured and filled the pipes with little zeolite beads.
The installer didn’t seem too worried about why the first one failed, but the assistant did a little investigating. A water pressure test gave a reading of more than 110 lbs. psi. The culprit was the 20-year-old pressure-reducing valve. After a new valve was installed, the pressure went down to about 75 lbs. Pressure-reducing valves are usually found near the main water shutoff valve, but not all homes have them. It depends on your municipality.
High water pressure can harm pipes, connections, and appliances. It also creates water hammer and waste massive amounts of water. Checking for high water pressure is an often overlooked maintenance item, and one that’s easy enough to perform. A new pressure-reducing valve and a simple pressure gauge like this one that hooks up to a spigot or laundry tub faucet are both available at home centers. Here are the things all smart homeowners do once a year.
Winterize your gas grill
If you’re not a winter griller, now’s the time to pack away your grill before it’s covered with a foot of snow. In addition to giving your grill a thorough cleaning to remove grease and food scraps, take these steps to help prevent any unpleasant surprises when you fire up your grill again next spring.
Shut off the gas at the LP tank, unfasten the burner, slip the gas tubes off the gas lines and lift out the unit. Coat the burners and other metal parts with cooking oil to repel moisture that can build up over the winter and to prevent rust. Then wrap the burner unit in a plastic bag to keep spiders and insects from nesting in the gas tubes during the winter. This is a common problem that can make for balky starts, uneven flames or even a one-alarm fire the next time you light your grill.
If you’re storing your grill outside during the winter, just keep the propane tank connected (but shut off) and put a protective cover over the entire grill when you’re done cleaning it. If you’re storing the grill indoors, don’t bring the tank inside, even into the garage or a storage shed. A small gas leak can cause a huge explosion if the tank is stored in an enclosed space. Instead, disconnect the tank and store it outside in an upright position away from dryer and furnace vents and children’s play areas. Tape a plastic bag over the grill’s gas line opening to prevent insects from nesting. See why light snow is just as dangerous as a regular snowstorm.
Winterize your pressure washer or ice might destroy it
I once owned an electric pressure washer. I refer to it in the past tense because a few years ago, I left it in the garage over the winter without draining the pump. The water froze and expanded, and when I fired up the washer the following spring, water sprayed from every part of the machine except the end of the wand. After you check your garage, keep your car clear of these things this winter.
I should have disconnected the hoses and sprayed in a pump antifreeze/ lubricant like Pump Saver from Briggs & Stratton. That forces the water out and replaces it with antifreeze and lube. Pump antifreeze/lubrication is available at home centers. And if your air compressor stalls out, here’s how you can fix it yourself by replacing the unloader valve. — Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor
Swap out the gas in small engines or replace the carburetor in the spring
Standard gas at the pump can gum up a carburetor on a small engine in just a few months. I’ve had to replace a few carburetors for this reason. Now, when I know that it’s the last time I’m going to use a tool for the season, I suck out the gas from the tank with a turkey baster and run the engine dry. Then I add a bit of nonoxygenated gas, which has a longer shelf life but is too expensive to burn all year. I also add a splash of fuel stabilizer and run the engine for a while on the good stuff before storing it. Find out what small engine mechanics say about how stale gas could be killing your small engines. — Josh Risberg, Contributing Editor
Proper insulation will keep your home warm in the winter, cool in the summer and cut down on energy costs. It’s also a place mice and bats like to call home. And when the weather turns cold, do a check of your insulation—especially in your attic—to ensure there are no unwanted guests.
Check for air leaks
Act now on your home maintenance checklist to save on heating costs during the winter months. And check for air leaks around windows and doors, including cracks in caulking or weatherstripping. Also, replace caulk and weatherstripping if necessary. See what else all homeowners should check during the winter.
Reverse ceiling fans
If you have ceiling fans, there should be a switch to make the fan blades run clockwise. Running the blades in a clockwise position during the colder months can push heated air down. This home maintenance task makes rooms with high ceilings more comfortable.
Prepare for a storm
Power outages are common during winter storms, so make sure you’re prepared with a survival kit. Your winter home maintenance checklist should include stocking up on bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, first-aid supplies, batteries, and a smartphone charger. Don’t miss these 10 things you need to know about winter power outages.
Prep the humidifier
If your home has a whole-house humidifier, make sure the drain line is clean. And replace the media panel, which mixes water with the flow of hot air from the furnace. This should be done twice each season. Finally, check to make sure the solenoid valve is working correctly and clean the humidifier’s fan. Next, find out the 35 things every homeowner needs to know.