April may bring showers, but winter weather can bring all sorts of other unexpected and expensive damages to your home. Fall's cool temperatures are a reminder that winter days are on their way - take stock of what you may need to do to prepare your home beforehand, and you'll be ready for the onslaught of ice and snow. Here are several simple, cost-effective tasks you can do now to make the transition into the colder months easier.
1. Clean Out Your Gutters
Once the leaves are off the trees it's time to clean out your gutters. Poorly maintained gutters can damage the roof of your home as well the exterior. When snow and ice mix with clogged gutters, it's a recipe for disaster, inside and out. Leaves and debris will prevent moisture from running off the roof, resulting in ice dams and water leaks. Before flurries form make sure to clear out any waste that's accumulated, and also be sure to note any missing or broken pieces and have them repaired. Remove potentially hazardous branches, or structurally unsound trees that could pose problems under the weight of snow or in the midst of a dangerous windstorm.
2. Have Your Heating System Checked
You don't want to be the person waiting in the frigid cold for a repairman to come when your heater stops in the dead of winter. Instead, have an inspector come in and make sure that the system is well ventilated and running smoothly before the first cold snap hits. Inspections generally run between $70-$100. If you live in an area where winter storms consistently knock out both electricity and heat, consider investing in a small generator. Learn more about what you can do to ensure that your system is operating properly, and give yourself time to make any needed repairs before winter comes and the heating companies are overbooked.
3. Have a Snow Preparedness Kit
It's happened to all of us. Waking up to discover a solid two feet of fluffy white snow layering the ground, only to realize that we've just got one old, dull shovel to dig ourselves free. Before stores are bought out of the necessities, make sure you have everything you need in case of a blizzard: a shovel, flashlights with extra batteries, one or two bags of road salt to coat the driveway, sidewalk, and walkways, and an ice scraper or two. Keep an emergency kit in a designated spot, and when you awake and find yourself trapped in a winter wonderland, you won't be stuck trying to come up with new and inventive ways of unearthing your car tires.
4. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans aren't only useful in the summer months. If your fan has a reverse switch, you can keep your home extra warm in the winter by reversing the cycle of the blades. Having the blades rotate in the opposite direction will create an updraft. Since heat rises, this pushes the hot air down and re-distributes it throughout your house. It's especially useful for homes that have high ceilings.
5. Caulk Doors and Windows
In the depths of winter the average home can lose nearly one third of its heat through drafty windows and doors. If the gap between your windows and doors is greater than the width of a nickel, it's time to reapply some exterior caulk to prevent this heat from escaping. Silicone caulk is highly recommended due to its non-shrinking quality and impermeability to the harsh elements. Block drafts from coming under doors with "draft dodger" door stoppers. You can easily make your own at home. Taking these extra steps will ensure that when the temperature drops, the cold and unforgiving air will stay outside where it belongs, and save you any money you'd be spending on additional heating.