How to Prepare Your House for the Winter

After a long summer and mild fall, winter is almost here. Although we don’t always want to research weather-stripping materials or inspect attic leaks – now is the best time to get your house in order. Home improvement projects are certainly on the rise this fall and the effort you make now to prepare your home will bring big rewards throughout the winter.

Like most, you will be home for the winter and ensuring your home maintenance is able to withstand the cold air, reduce heating costs, mitigate air leaks, and ensure your home is energy efficient -- then get ready now!

To make things easier, we have done some of the research for you and outlined what you should prepare for in order to help you save some money, get your house ready, and feel comfortable knowing you and/or your aging loved one’s home is ready for the winter months.

10 Steps to Get Your House Ready for the Winter

Did you know that the average claim for damage from a frozen pipe is about $18,000 (source)? That is just one potential cost and something that can be prevented if the right precautions are taken beforehand. Here are 10 practical steps to help you get yourself ready for the winter months:

  1. Research your local financial energy assistance programs to help reduce or cover the costs for heat.
  2. Check in with your physician to find out if it is safe for you to shovel snow or be outdoors in cold weather.
  3. Remain active even though it is cold outside, by moving around your house (and outdoors if not too slippery).
  4. Stay cautious when walking outside and avoiding icy pavements and roads that can be very slippery.
  5. Take inventory of your winter clothes to make sure you have enough warm clothes for both indoors and outdoors.
  6. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing, gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.
  7. Ask your family, neighbors, or friends if they could call or visit you more often if a period of cold weather makes traveling too dangerous.
  8. Keep simple cold and flu remedies in the house.
  9. Get your car ready for cold weather use before winter arrives.
  10. Order repeat prescriptions in plenty of time to avoid any harmful delays.

Getting Your House Ready for Winter

To prepare your house for winter we recommend the following 4-easy-to-remember sections. These key headlines are based on CDC and FEMA suggestions and have tested true over the many winters. Consider each section in detail, share with your family and consider your local communities emergency management suggestions.

Create contingency plans for potential emergencies, such as:

We all love a good snowfall but as the inches continue to pile up the concern of power loss, electrical issues and road closures can be very real. Pay close attention to your local news network and if any severe winter weather approaches put in place the following 3-easy-contingency plans:

  • Install electrical backups, such as a generator, for any critical medical equipment that requires electricity.
  • Have cell phones and other devices fully charged in the event of power outages
  • Have a transportation plan for a winter storm emergency.

Winterize your home to prevent damage and save energy:

Preparing your home for the winter doesn't have to mean an expensive trip to the hardware store. To start, do an inspection inside and outside your home.

You want to look at your window and doors - do you see any gaps where they should close tightly? Does your air conditioning unit need to be moved to the garage? Some of these identified items can easily save energy and save you money.

  • Prevent drafts in the house by blocking energy leaks under doors.
  • Install storm doors and windows, as well as weatherstripping to better insulate your home.
  • Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
  • Avoid ice dams - where water from melted snow refreezes in the gutters and seeps in under the roof, soaking interior walls. To avoid ice dams ventilate your attic and insulate the attic floor well to minimize the amount of rising heat.
  • Change your furnace filter to make the system works efficiently.
  • Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks to prevent harmful damage from ice and snow.
  • Have your heating system professionally serviced to make sure that it is working properly.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste between 5-30% percent of energy used (source).

Install the following as a safety precaution:

Your older parents’ safety should be a top priority for you and other family caregivers. For those older adults living alone, having indicators (i.e. in case of smoke or high carbon monoxide emissions) could easily save lives and your family home. Inspect and install the following items:

  • Smoke detectors.
  • Safe alternate heating sources and alternate fuels.
  • A carbon monoxide detector to alert you of the presence of this deadly, odorless, colorless gas.

Make sure you have the necessary supplies in case you are unable to travel:

Winter storms can move in quickly and even surprise the unlikeliest of areas. We all know the mad rush to the local grocery store and pharmacy once the news is shared about the snow and ice to come. To reduce your stress and keep you safe during this possible scenario, consider stocking up on the following:

  • Keep extra batteries on hand for flashlights, radio, etc.
  • A minimum of one-week’s supply of food and water, keeping in mind that power may go out.
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • First aid supplies for general needs (Band-Aids, cleaning supplies, flashlights, etc.)
  • Purchase extra pet food and supplies in case of an emergency
  • Maintain a two-week supply of medications, both prescription and non-prescription.
  • Have copies of your medical records, prescriptions, and medical needs readily available.

Getting yourself ready ahead of time will save you time, money, and ensure you’ll remain safe and comfortable throughout the winter.

For more information, check out our blog How to Get Ready for Winter as a Caregiver.