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14 ways to winterproof your home in 2020
You’ll be spending more time there this season. Here’s how to make it cozy and safe.
Home. It’s where the heart is. And this year, given the lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also where you are, almost all the time. And guess what? Here comes winter, so chances are, you’ll be seeing a lot of the great indoors over the next few months.
So, for the sake of family happiness and basic sanity, you should consider learning how to make your home winterproof so you can stay warm and safe throughout the season. Below is a list of things to do (many of which you can actually do yourself) to winterproof your house, including some ways to make your place as COVID-safe as possible during the cold weather season. Whether you’re already an avid indoorsman (or -woman), or temporarily embracing being inside due to mother nature, this will help ensure you enjoy the next few months at home.
In this article:
Check your heating equipment
It’s a good idea to have your heating system cleaned and serviced each year to make sure it’s running as well as possible. At the very least, check your HVAC system’s filter and either clean or replace it before the cold weather comes. If it’s clogged or dirty, that will restrict airflow and prevent your system from heating your home as well as possible during the colder months.
Clean your chimney
If you have a chimney, make sure it’s clean, and not just because Santa will be using it later this year and he doesn’t want to get filthy. A dirty chimney is a fire risk. You should also have it checked to make sure it’s not blocked. (For a nesting bird, a chimney is prime real estate.) You should also get in the habit of closing the flue once the fireplace is cool, as this will help keep your home warm.
Move things away from the radiator
No, don’t just remove that house plant that’s been sitting on top of it since May — you need to actually move everything away from it. This isn’t because of safety; it’s because the heat can’t radiate from your radiator if something is in front of it, absorbing all the warmth. This won’t just mean you stay colder longer — it also means your heating system will have to work harder and less efficiently, driving up the cost of your heating bill.
Clean your gutters
Winter means precipitation. If snow and rain build up in your gutters, they might buckle under the weight (or allow water to build up on your roof, which is… not good). Remove leaves, twigs and whatever else may have found its way in there to prevent clogged gutters. While you’re doing that, consider installing gutter guards, which will make the process easier next year.
Check overhanging trees and branches
Are there any branches hanging over your house that might break if there’s heavy snow? If so, trim them, so they don’t fall onto (or, indeed through) your roof.
Unhook your hoses
You probably won’t be watering your lawn over the winter, so unhook your hoses and sprinkler. Otherwise, the water that remains can freeze and damage your pipes during the colder months. Speaking of…
Insulate your water pipes
Sometimes a cold pipe becomes a frozen pipe becomes a burst pipe. To avoid this, insulate pipes in non-heated areas. You should also know how to shut off your water, in case a pipe does burst.
Insulate your roof, too
You know that old phrase, “If your feet are cold, put on a hat”? Keep it in mind when you think about your home. A poorly insulated roof can account for 25% of heat loss in a house, so even if you don’t spend much time in your loft (or don’t have one), it’s important to insulate it if you want your living room to remain toasty. You may not be able to stop heat from rising, but you can prevent it from escaping.
We’re not suggesting you climb onto your roof and start poking around. (As you know, now is not the time to end up in the hospital.) But there are things you can do on the inside of your roof if you have access to it. First, look for holes and plug them with caulk (small gaps) or pressurized foam (bigger ones). Both materials are cheap, easy-to-use and messy, so dress accordingly and wear gloves. Also, pressurized foam often expands more than you expect, so take a knife with you to cut off the excess.
Next, insulate. Your roof should have at least six inches of insulation on its inside. Depending on your roof’s shape and your level of handiness, you may be able to install insulation yourself. If you do, wear gloves and long sleeves: If your insulation material is made of fiberglass, it’ll be itchy, especially if you work up a sweat. Also wear a mask, which is one piece of home improvement equipment that everybody owns now.
Note that you should also follow this same insulating approach in your crawl spaces and basement.
Seal your windows and doors
You can check your doors for drafts with a special laser gun thermometer (yes, really), or you could just use a candle/any other naked flame. Just move it slowly around the door frame – it’ll flicker like you’re in a scary movie when a draft hits. Use weather stripping to seal the drafty edges and add a door strip (those flexible strips of rubber) at the bottom edge of the door.
Windows can account for 30% of the heat that’s lost in a home, according to the Department of Energy. But thankfully, there are numerous ways to make them more effective at heat retention.
At the expensive end, you could replace your windows with new ones that are more energy-efficient. If you’re considering that, get windows with the ENERGY STAR label and check their NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) score. Also peruse the guidance from the Department of Energy, which can help you work out what kind of glass would be best for your particular climate.
If you’re keeping your windows, there are plenty of easy things you can do to get the most out of them. First, fill any gaps in or around the frames with caulk. Next seal around the windows with weather stripping tape. Also consider putting insulation film (not unlike saran-wrap) over the window panes to keep more heat in.
Also bear in mind that heavy curtains help keep the heat in, especially if they end far below the bottom of the windows they cover, forcing any cold air that does come in downwards.
Crucially, none of these methods involves sealing your windows shut. And that’s because…
Make sure your ventilation and filters are COVID-friendly
This year, winterproofing your home is trickier than usual, because the demands of COVID safety are in stark opposition to the basic principles of a warm house. The most efficient way to make your home warm is to keep hot air in and keep cold outside air out. Unfortunately, the single best way to prevent the spread of COVID indoors is to have outside air coming in and circulating as much as possible. So what to do?
If you’re going to have people over — maybe your kids need playdates; maybe you need to socialize with someone, anyone — the safest thing is to have the windows open so air flows through the house. Even windows that are open six inches make a notable difference in air circulation.
Presumably, though, if you’re spending time with people in your home it’s partially because you don’t want to be outside in the cold, so you may not want it to be parka-weather while you’re on the couch. In that case, look into air filters. (An important caveat: while many experts believe that air filters in the home can help prevent the transmission of Covid-19, nobody believes you should rely on filters alone to keep safe.)
If you have an HVAC system which circulates the air inside your home (as opposed to a system which only brings in air from outside) you may want to upgrade the filter. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) are a way of expressing how well a filter captures particles. Many home systems have a MERV-8 filter fitted as standard — if you upgrade to a higher rated filter (MERV-13 or the highest-rated filter your slot can take), it will have a greater ability to capture particles in the air.
High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are the best ones for removing small particles from the air (they’re what you find on airplanes). It’s uncommon for a domestic HVAC system to be able to accommodate a HEPA filter, but there are plenty of freestanding HEPA filter air purifiers on the market, and they’re also generally useful for cleaning the air if you live in a city (pollution) or have cats (hair in the air). If you get a HEPA filter device, make sure it’s big enough to clean the air in the largest room you’ll want to use it in, just as you’d make sure an air conditioner was powerful enough for the room you wished to cool.
Much like your mom, the federal government would like you to keep warm this winter, so there are tax credits available through December 31st for certain energy-related home improvements. When someone says “have a glass on us” they usually mean booze, but since this festive season is likely to be less festive than usual, you could do worse than let the government help you pay for windows.
Check your homeowner’s insurance policy
If you have homeowner’s insurance, remind yourself what it covers. If there’s a storm, burst pipe or other seasonal mishap, you’ll want to know what you’re covered for beforehand, so you’re not trying to decipher an insurance policy while dealing with a fast-freezing flood. This
2020 has been rough enough already, hasn’t it?
About Michael DavisRead more by Michael Davis
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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
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