OK, last weekend was the end of daylight savings time and if you are a homeowner you know what that means; it’s time to make sure your house is ready for winter. We are pretty fortunate on our side of the Hood Canal Bridge because we don’t often get the weather that sometimes plagues the passes east of Seattle or the other side of the Cascades. Still, we need to spend a bit of time making sure our homes are maintained for their own safety and the safety of others.
Inside the home you’ll want to check the thermostat to make sure that is working properly. It’s a good time to consider energy savings and whether or not a setback thermostat or a timer might help you save on your heating bill. Programmable thermostats that will allow you to set different temperatures by day and time of day can put a big dent in utility bills. If you have a pellet stove or other stove that works with the thermostat, you can even put programmable thermostats on these.
If you have a fireplace it’s time to clean it, the flu and the spark arrester at the top of the chimney. Make sure all your dampers are working properly and fitting correctly. You also need to check the mortar between the bricks on the chimney and look for any cracks in the fireplace or the chimney. It is particularly important if you have any form of exposed heating indoors that you check out all your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and put in new batteries for the season. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, get one; they are a great safety investment. You don’t want to be taking a chance on needing your Washington home insurance.
Make sure the house is tight. Check the door and window insulation in the house and garage and check for air leaks under doors, and where pipes or wires come into the house. Caulk or repair any leaking areas as necessary.
Outside the house, check around the foundation and fill in any cracks. This will help prevent damage from water getting into the cracks and freezing. It’s time to clean the leaves from the gutters and make sure the downspouts are clear and not leaking. This will help prevent the formation of ice dams and possible damage to the roof. Survey your roof for worn spots or missing shingles now and at the first snow, take a look at the roof again to see if there are areas of uneven melting that might indicate insulation problems.
There’s time now before our first cold snap to check outdoor faucets, fix any leaks and insulate outside faucets and drains. Our western Washington climate is relatively mild so inexpensive faucet covers will take care of most potential freezing problems. On the deck and in the garden, put away any hoses, take in or cover patio furniture and prepare a sprinkler or watering system for winter. Make sure pools or hot tubs are prepped for winter.
Many folks ion the Olympic Peninsula like to get away during the winter to warmer climates. If you’re going to leave your house vacant for some time there are a couple of additional things you should do. If you are going to turn off the water, try to drain the pipes if possible to prevent possible damage from freezing. If not, consider leaving some water running in a slow trickle to reduce the chances of freezing. If the heat will be turned off, consider insulating the water heater. Putting a small amount of antifreeze in the tank and bowl of each toilet can help prevent freezing and cracking these fixtures.
If possible, try to have a friend or neighbor check your house on a regular schedule. Unexpected things can happen in an empty house and it is best to identify problems as early as possible before they cause major damage. If you are going to be gone for a long time it is worth talking to your insurance agent and checking your insurance policy. Insurance companies may take issue with covering damage to a house when the owner has been absent for a long period of time. Fortunately, there is additional coverage available that can protect you during periods of absence.