Houston said hello to the first serious cold front of the season this week. BRRRRRR! In southwest Texas, we are fortunate enough not to have to prepare for extreme cold or snow. However, there are still a few things that every Houston homeowner should do to prepare for winter.
Protect Your Pipes
In order to prevent frozen pipes that lead to busting (and costly repairs), wrap your exposed exterior water pipes, disconnect garden hoses and wrap outdoor spigots. Pipe insulation, which looks like a pool noodle, can be found at most hardware stores. You cut to length, place over the pipes and tape to secure. If you’re in a bind and need an alternative, try old bed sheets or towels. For the spigots, put a sock over and tape, Do not forget about your sprinkler system! After you have turned off the system and wrapped exposed pipes, shut off water at the main valve and drain. Contact your landscaping company or the sprinkler system’s manufacturer for a complete step-by-step guide.
Check Your Chimney
Before you start roasting chestnuts on an open fire, make sure your fireplace is clean. Day-to-day maintenance for wood-burning fireplaces include clearing debris and ashes and cleaning the glass doors (if you have them). Once a year, you should have the fireplace, chimney and chimney cap professionally inspected and cleaned. This can help avoid costly damages and most importantly, prevent a fire. A gas fireplace requires little to no day-to-day, but should be inspected once a year. If possible, contact a company that sells the brand you have at home. The technician will inspect the controls and igniter and clean the fan, air passages and the inside surface of the glass cover. Don’t make Santa use a dirty chimney.
HVAC Fall Check
Houstonians use their AC and use it often. But the furnace may not be used for years. If a chilly fall/winter is predicted and you cannot remember the last time the furnace was used, schedule an HVAC maintenance check. A technician will come out and inspect the furnace assembly, lubricate any moving parts, clean the ignition, elements and heat exchanger, check the gas supply for leaks and confirm the system is operating correctly and efficiently. Occasionally, the tech can spot something that is not an issue yet but will be in the near future. This allows you to prepare for the cost ahead. Be sure to hire a reputable service company. The average cost for this type of inspection ranges between $75 to $150. Many companies will offer a discount if you sign up for a Spring AC inspection as well.
Upgrade Your Thermostat
When you are out of the house for hours at a time, avoid wasting money and energy with a programmable thermostat. If you don’t already have one, this worthwhile upgrade prevents the HVAC system from running all day in an empty house. A few models (such as Nest) can “learn” when to adjust the temperature based on past patterns. Houston has a history of unpredictable weather so consider a thermostat that can easily transition from heat to AC. For example, the AC would turn on anytime the temperature hits 76 inside while the heater would run if it cools down below 65.
Keep Things Hot
Maintain the weatherstripping around your windows and doors. Cold air can blow through damaged or missing stripping, causing the heater to work harder to keep your home toasty and warm. This inexpensive and fuss-free maintenance will keep the cold out and prevent higher electricity bills. If you live in an older home with the original single-pane windows, consider replacing them with an energy-efficient option, one that offers more protection from the elements. Heavy drapes or blinds can help stop cold air sneaking in through closed windows. The majority of heat loss takes place in the attic, make sure you have plenty of insulation and add more if needed.
Don’t Forget Outside
Home maintenance is not exclusive to indoors. Do not overlook the great outdoors! If your landscaping is not well suited for cold weather, plan ahead and keep heavy blankets on hand. On cold nights, cover and secure the vulnerable plants. If you can, move potted plants indoors. Be sure to water your yard to prevent the chilly wind from drying out your landscaping. If you have a pool, be sure that the pump(s) is running when freezing temperatures are expected. Call your pool maintenance company to confirm all the proper steps have been taken.
Keep your BBQ pit, outdoor furniture and other Summer items stored in the garage till Spring. If you don’t have the extra space, invest in high-quality covers to protect against the cold and wet weather. Before storing your gas grill, disconnect the propane and close the valve. Grass grows slower in colder months, cutting down how often the yard needs to be mowed. However, this time of year still requires yard work. Rack fallen leaves to prevent brown patches in your grass, keep pine needles and other debris off your roof and keep an eye on the gutters. When gutters become full, this can lead to interior water leaks, pest problems and more.
Ready for Winter
Follow these tips and your home will be ready for winter! FEMA, the City of Houston and Ready.gov offer great material about preparing for inclement winter weather. Tackle theses tasks now so you can relax by the fire without a care.
Featured Image c/o GeorgiannaLane, Etsy.