16 Tips to Winterize Your Home

Ottawa received a small blast of wintry weather this week…a mix of hail, snow and freezing rain made an appearance throughout the day in parts of the National Capital Region. Ottawa typically endures long, harsh and frigid winters. When the mercury dips below zero, and arctic air brings extreme cold and low temperatures to our region, it is important to pay special attention to areas of your home that may be more vulnerable to wintry weather. In the first of this 2-part series, I offer 16 useful tips to winterize your home.

Doors & Windows: Check all doors and windows for air leaks. Finding ways to reduce cold air getting into the home goes a long way in reducing the costs to heat your home.

Ceiling Fans: Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but did you know that many ceiling fans come equipped with a switch that reverses the direction of the blades? Counter-clockwise rotation produces cooling breezes, while switching to clockwise makes it warmer. Air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space, and this can help reduce your heating costs by as much as 10 percent!

Heating: Keep the house heated to a minimum of 18 degrees Celsius. The temperature inside the walls where pipes are located can be substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 18 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.

Insulation: It may not seem sexy, but insulation is one of the best ways to save energy and money at home. It can make a big difference to add more insulation between walls, and make sure your attic floor and basement ceiling are well covered. Consider using green alternatives such as cellulose and spray foam versus traditional insulation. 

Furnace: It’s good practice to clean your furnace filter every month and replace it every three months. Furnaces should be checked and serviced each year by an HVAC professional before the winter.

Chimney: If you have a wood burning fireplace, it’s important to make sure your chimney is swept to remove soot and other undesirable obstructions like creosote. I also recommend installing a cap or screen on top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds. Do also inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing. 

Firewood: Whether you buy firewood or chop your own, be sure to store them in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.  This reduces the risk of a fire spreading to your home. Also, firewood attracts mice during the wintertime, keeping it away from your home prevents rodents from sneaking in.

Faucets: During extremely cold weather, consider opening hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes may prevent freezing. Make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.

Foundation: Remove all debris from your foundation. Seal up entry points or cracks to keep small animals from crawling under or into your home. Mice can slip through spaces as thin as a dime. Do also inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation, and secure crawlspace entrances.  

Pipes: Drain the pipes from your air conditioner to protect it over the winter months. It is also good practice to drain the pipes if you plan to go away. This can be done by first shutting off the main water line and then draining all lines by opening the taps and closing them once the water runs out. Flush the toilets to remove water from the tanks. Be sure to have someone check on your home while you’re away to ensure the heat is being maintained as well.

Water shutoff: Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home. Find out how it works in case you have to use it. In the event of burst pipes, this will help mitigate the risk and reduce the damage in the unlikely event of a water rupture or burst pipes.

Roof, Eaves Troughs and Downspouts: Consider replacing worn roof shingles or tiles. Clean out the eaves troughs and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to keep them free of obstruction.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Check that your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace or water heater, or both. Buy a fire extinguisher or replace one that is older than 10 years.  

Gardens, Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces: A winter storm can ravage the outdoors and cause substantial damage to gardens and landscaping. Trim your trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires. Prune your trees and plants to prevent winter injury. Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks. Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area. 

Winter Equipment & Tools: Check all your winter tools and equipment to make sure they are ready when you need them. Service or tune-up snow blowers, replace worn rakes and snow shovels, sharpen ice choppers, and remember to stock up on bags of salt or sand. For other seasonal equipment, like a lawn mower, make sure to drain the gas to avoid rust. Clean, dry and store your summer gardening equipment.  

Emergency Kit: Prepare an emergency kit and keep it in an accessible place in your home. Click here for a list of items to include in your emergency kit in the event of a power outage. 


What other home winterization tips do you have?

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Stay tuned for the second of this 2-part series where I’ll offer useful tips to help winterize your car!


“All opinions and views expressed in this blog are of my own and do not represent the views of Allstate Insurance Co. of Canada.”