August 12, 2011

Ease into Winterizing Your Home

The days are getting shorter. School is back in session. Even though the August sun is still beaming her warm summer rays, there's no denying it. Fall is almost here. With October being only 7 weeks away, Wallmark Homes has laid out a few tasks that you can easily conquer each weekend to help prepare your home for this coming winter while still leaving you plenty of time and energy to enjoy the beautiful Vancouver fall.

Get the Fireplace and Furnace Ready
Inspect the fireplace damper to ensure it opens and closes properly and screen or cap the chimney top to prevent nesting birds and rodents. Scheduling a professional inspection of your fireplace is recommended so you have the opportunity to address any safety issues before the weather turns cool. Soot and creosote buildup will also need to be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. Store firewood in a dry place at least 15 meters away from your house to prevent fire and termites from coming close to your home. Make sure there are no flammable materials stored too close to your furnace and change your filters each month. Clean any lint surrounding your clothes dryer as a great number of house fires are sparked by unseen lint buildup behind the dryer.

Insulate your Hot Water Tank
Hot water heaters are proven to be the least-efficient appliance in your home. This is especially true if your tank is located in an outdoor storage room, basement or garage. The tank works overtime to keep the contents warm when temperatures drop; some of the heated water will go unused and will eventually require reheating for future use. This costly waste of energy, also known as standby heat loss, can account for 20% of your total water heating costs. Adding an extra layer of insulation like a thermal heat blanket can help reduce these standby losses by 25 to 45%, and water heating costs by 4 to 9%, depending on the R-value of your existing tank.

Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is produced from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. In the home CO can be formed by open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or a running car inside a garage. Unlike smoke from a fire, carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless and odorless. Prevention and detection of CO poisoning in a home environment is impossible without the alarm from a carbon monoxide detector.  The best places to install these detectors depends on the unit you purchase so be sure to follow the instillation directions. Technological advances have extended the life of carbon monoxide detectors for up to six years. Hard-wired and 2-in-1 smoke alarm/CO detectors are also available. A monthly functionality test is recommended; the batteries in smoke alarms and CO detectors also need to be changed at least twice a year, when you turn your clocks at Daylight Savings Tome, change the alarm batteries as well.

Check your Windows and Doors
Use weatherstripping around doors and caulk windows to prevent air from seeping in around the cracks. If you are not sure if your windows need additional caulking, you can always use the good old fashioned candle trick. On a windy day when your HVAC and house fans are off, light a candle and place it near your window. If air is seeping in around your windows, the candle's flame will flicker when a gust of wind picks up. If you installed summer screens on doors and windows, replace them with the glass equivalents that have been stored during the summer. Installing that extra pane of glass will provide an additional layer of insulation against the colder temperatures.

Prepare an Emergency Kit
What happens when you experience a power outage in your home? Do you stumble around in the dark and mutter to yourself, "Where are the candles? I know I have some SOMEWHERE. Where is a lighter? Where is the flashlight?" Losing power in the middle of a dreadful winter storm can not only be scary, it can be dangerous. Adding an Emergency Survival Kit to your stock of blankets, water and flashlights will not only add to your piece of mind but may also be a saving grace if you find yourself without power for an extended period of time.

Check Foundations
Look for foundation cracks or holes around outdoor fixtures such as vents, cable outlets and mail chutes and seal with a caulking gun. These spaces, as small as they may be, allows the cold outdoor air to enter your wall space and causes your indoor heating to be less effective.  This will also help to keep small animals from crawling into or under the house. Mice can slip through spaces as small as a dime! Debris, fallen leaves and edible vegetation around the foundation is a warm invitation to these little critters so be sure to also rake around the base of your house.

Service Weather-Specific Equipment
Make sure your snow blower is tuned-up and functioning properly sooner than later. Service technicians are still in their slow season; you don't want to get stuck on a waiting list while you're stuck in your driveway. Lawnmowers are expensive pieces of equipment and not winterizing them properly could easily result in costly repairs. Clean the lawnmower and drain the oil and fuel. Not cleaning your lawnmower before the winter allows for build-up to rust the deck and other parts while the oil may drain into valves, filters, the muffler, carburetor, and so on.