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Winterizing a home means readying it for the cold and precipitation of long winter months in frigid climates. Sometimes, residents leave a "summer" home unoccupied and practically unheated for half the year. More commonly, you want to occupy your home and make sure it is snug, well maintained, and waterproof through wind, snow, rain, and freezing temperatures.
Many of the chores to be done before the first storm or the ground freezes involve simple maintenance and cleaning. Outside, your roof and gutters should be in top shape. Make sure there are no loose tiles or flashing, because that might cause leaks. Keep your gutters clear of sludge and check to be sure they're firmly attached to the house. If you have a fireplace, a chimney sweep should clean the chimney and ensure the flue functions properly. If you have a wood deck or patio, you might want to apply another coat of weather-resistant polyurethane.
Inside, there are other things to clean or replace. Central heating vents must be dusted with a vacuum. Replace air filters yearly. Doors and windows are easily weatherproofed to keep down drafts and improve insulation. Install weather-stripping to the bottom and sides of exterior doors. Caulk around window panes to seal them from leaking cold air. Wrap basement water heaters in insulation to make them more energy efficient.
Other major preparations involve a larger up-front cost, but over time they can save you money in energy bills. For instance, since hot air rises, putting high-rated insulation in your attic or crawl space keeps heat from escaping through the ceiling. Installing a humidifier might not lower heating costs, but it can make dry winters more bearable and improve your immunity to colds and the flu. A sump pump in the basement makes sure that during especially heavy rainfall, or the spring thaw, your basement doesn't flood. Buying and attaching storm windows prevents against violent storms and provides an extra layer of insulation.
If you must leave your house completely unoccupied for weeks or months, a few additional measures will make sure your furniture doesn't split or pipes don't burst. Your house and everything in it are usually designed to be kept at a minimum temperature of 40° F (4° C). Most importantly, you must turn off the main water source and then drain every pipe and faucet of water. If the temperature drops to 32° F (0° C), this water could freeze, expand, and split the pipes, causing expensive damage. Don't miss outside faucets, hoses, and water outlets. It's safe to set the thermostat at its lowest setting, usually around 50° F (10° C). When you return in the spring, your home will be ready to welcome you.
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