How to prepare your home for the winter

7 minute read Published on Feb 9, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Photo of front yard of home during the holidays with fresh snow fallen that morning.

At the first sign of changing leaves, you know that the winter season is not far behind. As a homeowner, there are several ways you should prepare your home, and it is best to start before the cold weather hits. However, if you’ve already had your first snowfall, it is still not too late to start and contact your insurance broker for the best home insurance policy to stay safe all year round.

Tips and tricks to winterize your home

Follow BrokerLink’s home protection tips checklist below for our tricks on how to winterize your home:

1. Clear out your gutters

Technically, you should do this a few times a year, especially if you live in a neighbourhood with several trees. Leaves act like a dam in your gutter and prevent water from draining out of the downspout. When winter comes, any remaining water will freeze. As ice is heavy, it puts excess strain on your gutters, which can cause them to sag or fall out of alignment and eventually fail. Plus, the water from melting snow won’t have anywhere to go except over the edge of the frozen gutters and onto your flower beds, porch or sidewalk. So make sure you clean them out before the temperatures drop below freezing!

2. Check on your roof

While you are already up there cleaning out your gutters, don’t forget to do a visual assessment for any roof damage. Check for any missing or damaged shingles (e.g., cracking, bending). Inspect any panels for rust or missing screws. These can both cause potential leaks and energy loss.

Another thing to consider is adding waterproof membranes to the bottom edge of your roof. This is to prevent ice dams from forming along the edge of your roof and allowing water to get inside the roof and interior walls. If you aren’t sure whether you have issues with ice dams, the easiest way to tell is to think back on last winter and whether you had icicles hanging from your roof. If you did, then you had an ice dam.

3. Flush your sprinklers and garden hoses

If you have a sprinkler system built into your lawn, you will need to shut off the water and drain it before the winter season begins. If any water is left in the pipes, it will freeze when temperatures drop below 0’C. Since frozen water expands, it will put pressure on your pipes and risk them bursting. You can do this by turning off the water and then turning on the sprinkler system to empty out whatever water is left. Don’t forget to also do this for any garden hoses!

4. Cover your air conditioning system

To prevent snow and ice from affecting your air conditioner, place a cover over it during the winter. If you don’t have an AC cover, even a waterproof tarp will do. Before you place the cover, consider clearing your AC of any dirt, debris or fallen leaves from on and around the unit so that it is ready for next summer.

5. Seal your windows and doors

If you have any cracks or gaps in your walls, windows and doors, the cold winter air can seep in and cause your furnace to work overtime to try and heat up your home. Double-check that all of your windows are locked, and try using a caulking gun to seal air leaks around the window and door frames to help you keep that heating bill down.

Another way to seal leaks is by using weather stripping around your doors and any windows you may need to open during the cooler months. This is another great way to prevent heat loss. While drafty windows are obvious places for heat loss, it is best to have a qualified technician do an energy assessment on your home to help you find the less obvious air leaks before you start applying weather stripping.

6. Get a chimney inspection

Many homeowners like to use their fireplace or wood stove to keep warm on cold winter nights. As it has likely been sitting unused since last winter, it is best to inspect your chimney before you fire it up for the first time this year. Have your chimney cleaned if it is blocked or full of old soot. This step can prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

7. And a furnace inspection

Your heating system should also be inspected once a year just to make sure that everything is working properly. Early inspection will help give you time to purchase a new one, should you need to, before the cold weather hits. This is also a good time to change your air filter if you haven’t yet this season, as they should be changed every three months, and have your air ducts cleaned to help your heating system to run more smoothly.

8. Test your smoke detectors

Both house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning are at a higher risk during cold weather. Always test and make sure you have fresh batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors before cranking up the heat or igniting an open flame in your wood stove or fireplace.

9. Protect your pipes

To keep your water pipes from freezing, make sure you insulate any exposed pipes in cold areas efficiently, such as your garage, basement, crawl space and attic. Water pipes that burst due to freezing are one of the common winter claims. If you have any pipes that run along exterior walls, you can cut a hole in the drywall and run fibreglass insulation between the pipes and the wall to help protect them from the cold air.

10. Protect your hot water heater

One way to prevent your hot water heater from heat loss is to cover it with an insulated blanket. Check your local home improvement store for a hot water heater insulation blanket to help you save on heating costs.

11. Clean and adjust your ceiling fans

If you have any ceiling fans in your home, they can help out during the winter months as well! During the summer months, they help to circulate cool air by spinning counterclockwise, but in the winter, you can reverse the spin of the blades and keep them on the lowest setting to have them push the warm air down from the ceiling. Although, if you have not used them all year, make sure you clean the blades first before turning them on. Otherwise, you will blow a year’s worth of dust around your room!

12. Prepare ahead for winter storms

If you live in an area where severe winter storms are common, make sure you plan ahead and stock up on any items you may need to help get you through it, such as bottled water, candles or flashlights, staple foods, warm blankets and a first aid kit. Also, make sure you have some of these items stored inside your vehicle in case you get stuck out in a snowstorm.

Another great item to have on hand for surviving a winter storm is a portable generator. If your area loses power, a portable generator can help keep your home warm until the power comes back on. As they take some setup and assembly, make sure to follow the weather forecasts so you can prepare ahead. Also, double check you have enough extension cords and that they are long enough to reach the appliances you wish to power with the generator.

WARNING: Never use a portable generator indoors. Gas motors produce deadly noxious carbon monoxide fumes. Place them outside your home, away from windows and doors.

For areas with high amounts of snow, having a snow blower for snow removal can be a huge time saver. If you already have one, it’s time to do some basic home maintenance on it since it’s likely been sitting dormant since the last significant snowfall. Check the air filter and change the motor oil. Then turn it on to make sure it runs smoothly. Don’t wait until the first snowfall to find out your snow blower isn’t working correctly.

13. Install a programmable thermostat

Another way to save on your heating bill is to upgrade to a programmable thermostat. It allows you to program when to lower the temperature of your house while you are away and start warming back up before you get home. You can also program it to do this while you sleep, as you can wear warm blankets to keep warm through the night. The lower the temperature in your home during the winter, the less heat loss you will have. Hence, the longer you can keep your home at a lower temperature, the more energy you will save. If you use one correctly, it can help you save up to 10% on heating costs.

Stay warm this winter with help from BrokerLink’s checklist

Standard homeowners insurance is built to cover most winter-related damages. However, your claim may be denied if the damage is caused by something preventable or an ongoing issue. As such, it is important you take these steps to protect your home from the harsh winter weather. It is also a good idea to check in with your home insurance company to review your home insurance policy to ensure you are protected from common winter-related perils, such as burst pipes and ice dams.

Contact BrokerLink for a free home insurance quote

Here at BrokerLink, our fully licenced insurance advisors are ready to help you insure your home. You can reach out to us by phone, email, or in person at one of our 200 locations throughout Canada. You can complete an online quote in just a few minutes, and we’ll call you back at your convenience.

If you already have insurance with us and have questions about your home insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Regardless of how you choose to contact us, BrokerLink’s team of insurance brokers is ready to assist you.

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