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Winter Checklist: Things Every Homeowner Should Get Done Right Now

Posted on November 7, 2018 at 10:40 PM

Cut the Power to Your A/C or Waste Energy and Damage Your Compressor

Cut the power to your central air conditioner before the weather turns frigid. Your compressor could be damaged if your A/C accidentally gets turned on in low temperatures. Also, some A/C compressors have a crankcase heater to keep the oil warm. Running this heater in the winter is a waste of money, and the warmth could attract mice. 

Flip off the breaker if the A/C compressor has a dedicated circuit, or rotate the disconnect block upside down into the ‘off’ position. The disconnect block is located in the small panel outside near the compressor. Reenergize the unit 24 hours before startup. That will give the oil time to reach operating temperature.

Protect the Air Conditioner

Even though the condensing unit is built for outdoor elements, it can still be damaged by falling icicles and other debris. You don’t need to invest in a waterproof cover (in fact many manufacturers recommend against it, because it creates a warm space for critters). Just place a sheet of plywood held down by a few bricks on top and your AC should be ready to work again in the spring. Don’t forget! Your winter home maintenance checklist should also include removing and storing any window air conditioner units.

Caulk and Cover Room Air Conditioners

A room air conditioner keeps a section of the house cool. The problem is, it’ll keep the room cool all winter long if it isn’t covered properly. If you have a window unit, the best solution is to remove it so the cold air won’t flow through and around it. If you decide to leave it in or you have a permanently installed wall unit, grab some removable caulk and a window air conditioner cover to keep out the cold.  And if you have a central air conditioner unit, cleaning it annually can also save you energy and money.

Place the cover over the outside of the air conditioner, fitting the sewn-in corner straps over the bottom corners. Wrap the middle straps under and up the sides of the unit, then hook them over the top. Inside the house, apply removable caulk around the air conditioner where it meets the wall or window. If the air conditioner is a built-in unit, permanently seal it with latex caulk.

Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready

Depending on the type of heating system you have, there are a few home maintenance things you should do before the temperatures really start to dip. If you have a high-efficiency system, PVC vent pipes need to be cleared of any obstructions. And those with a boiler system should have their system cleaned every year. Those with gas should have a cleaning about every three years.

Protect All Fruit Trees Against Frost Cracking

In cold areas of the country, fruit trees and other thin-barked tree species are prone to frost cracking, or southwest injury. It happens when sap warms up where sunlight hits the trunk on a warm winter day, only to freeze suddenly when temperatures drop. This causes unsightly trunk cracking that hurt the tree’s ability to take up moisture and nutrients and leaves an opening for insects. Protect the bark with tree wrap and remove the wrap in spring.

Cover Hose Bibs

Insulated covers slow the heat loss from a pipe as it travels through the wall out into the cold. They provide some protection for very little cost. Buy it now on Amazon.

Swap Out the Gas in Small Engines or Replace the Carburetor in the Spring

Standard gas at the pump can gum up a carburetor on a small engine in just a few months. I’ve had to replace a few carburetors for this reason. Now, when I know that it’s the last time I’m going to use a tool for the season, I suck out the gas from the tank with a turkey baster and run the engine dry. Then I add a bit of nonoxygenated gas, which has a longer shelf life but is too expensive to burn all year. I also add a splash of fuel stabilizer and run the engine for a while on the good stuff before storing it. Find out what small engine mechanics say about how stale gas could be killing your small engines.

Shut Off Outdoor Faucets

Turn off outdoor faucets at their shutoff valves. Open the faucet and then open the bleeder cap on the shutoff valve to drain any water out of the pipe. If you don’t drain the pipe, it can still freeze and crack. Leave the bleeder cap open with a bucket underneath to catch any drips. If the dripping continues, your shutoff valve needs to be replaced.

Switch to Winter Wiper Blades

It’s snowing hard and you turn on the wipers. The blade supports get packed with snow and the wiper blade either causes streaks or misses large swaths of your windshield. Regular blades often become clogged with snow and ice. The rubber covering on winter blades prevents that problem. The entire blade is wrapped in a rubber boot that prevents ice and snow from sticking or packing. They make for much better visibility and safer winter driving. Here’s how to replace your wiper blades.

Change the Furnace Filter

Homeowners should change their furnace filters once a month, according to experts. And changing the filter regularly not only helps extend the life of your furnace, it helps with air quality in your home and keeps energy costs down.

Winterize Your Pressure Washer or Ice Might Destroy It

I once owned an electric pressure washer. I refer to it in the past tense because a few years ago, I left it in the garage over the winter without draining the pump. The water froze and expanded, and when I fired up the washer the following spring, water sprayed from every part of the machine except the end of the wand.

I should have disconnected the hoses and sprayed in a pump antifreeze/ lubricant like Pump Saver from Briggs & Stratton. That forces the water out and replaces it with antifreeze and lube. Pump antifreeze/lubrication is available at home centers. And if your air compressor stalls out, here’s how you can fix it yourself by replacing the unloader valve.

Check Insulation

Proper insulation will keep your home warm in the winter, cool in the summer and cut down on energy costs. It’s also a place mice and bats like to call home. And when the weather turns cold, do a check of your insulation—especially in your attic—to ensure there are no unwanted guests.

Clean Attic Venting or Invite Ice Dams

Poor attic ventilation can cause ice dams in the winter months, increase cooling costs, create a home for mold and reduce the life of shingles during the dog days of summer.

Over time, the vents located in your soffits and on some gable-end wall vents get clogged with dust and debris and lose their effectiveness. Clean them with a leaf blower or compressed air. You could use a pressure washer, but stick to a couple quick passes because you don’t want to saturate the attic insulation with water. Clean the vents every few years, unless you live near a lot of trees with floating seeds, which can clog vents in one season. For much more on preventing ice dams, check out this guide.

(To be continued)

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