Winter Checklist: 27 Things Every Homeowner Should Get Done Right Now
You’ll definitely regret not checking these items off of your to-do list BEFORE winter arrives.
Cut the Power to Your A/C or Waste Energy and Damage Your Compressor
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. Plus: Check out these common air conditioning mistakes you might be making.
Protect the Air Conditioner
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
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 and remove the wrap in spring.
Swap Out the Gas in Small Engines or Replace the Carburetor in the Spring
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.
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.
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
Winterize Your Pressure Washer or Ice Might Destroy It
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. — Mark Peterson
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.
Inspect Outdoor Lighting
Disconnect Garden Hoses or Risk Major Water Damage
A garden hose that’s left connected to a spigot will trap water inside the spigot. When that water freezes, it can bust open the spigot, the hose or both. Sometimes the pipe behind the spigot bursts and sprays hundreds of gallons inside the house. This can happen even with a frost-proof spigot and even if the water supply is off. So always disconnect garden hoses before winter arrives. To install a new frost-proof outdoor faucet, follow these five steps.
4 Critical Places to Lube Your Car Before Winter
When cold weather is right around the corner, that’s the time to get your car ready for winter driving: lube locks, latches, hinges, window channels and weather stripping. Proper lube can prevent binding and freezing and save you the cost of a busted regulator. You can lube your entire vehicle in less than 20 minutes. All you need is dry Teflon spray, spray lithium grease, a rag and glass cleaner.
Start with the window channels. Lower the window glass and shoot dry Teflon spray down the front, rear and top window channels on each door. Soak the channels. Then run the window up and down several times to spread the lube. Finally, raise the window and clean off overspray with glass cleaner.
Then shoot the door and trunk/hatch lock cylinders. Use the spray straw to force the lock ‘door’ open. Then inject a quick shot of dry Teflon spray into the lock cylinder. Insert your key and rotate the lock to spread the lube.
Next coat all the weather stripping with dry Teflon spray. Then spread it with a cloth. Finish the job by lubing the hood, trunk or tailgate latches with lithium grease. Then spray the door hinges. Operate the latches and doors several times to spread the grease.
Empty Flowerpots or They Could Break
Mulch Around Trees
Add a base of woodchip mulch around fruit trees to discourage competing grass and weeds. Wait until after a hard frost to spread the mulch so moles and field mice don’t take up residence in the woodchips beforehand. Add 2 to 3 inches of woodchips, spreading the mulch as far as the dripline (the outer reach of the tree-branch canopy). Keep woodchips several inches away from the tree trunk to avoid causing issues with insects and disease. Learn about different types of mulch in our Mulch Guide.
Check for Air Leaks
Check the Roof
Insulate your garage door
If you have water lines in the garage, insulate the garage door, if not the whole garage. Consider a combination of heat cable and insulation as well. If it’s really cold, put a portable heater in
Clean the Chimney
Install Heat Cable
Heat cables are a perfect solution for vulnerable pipes. They have an integral thermostat that senses pipe temperature, turning the heat on and off as needed to keep the pipe from freezing. You’ll need an accessible outlet to plug in the cable. Heat cables are available at home centers for $15 to $40, depending on the length.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
Test the Sump Pump
Seal Driveway Cracks
Ready Shovels, Check Snow Blower
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Family Handyman editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Contact us, here.