Living in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont can be a very chilling experience. Especially for Northern New England property owners whose property is exposed to below zero temperatures all winter. Did you know the most important home investment you can make in the winter season is preventing damage from frozen and burst pipes? Head off serious water damage by doing these 10 things.
- Insulate any pipes exposed to the cold.
- Keep temp inside your house at 55 or above even when you are gone.
- Leave faucets on with a tiny trickle of water when temperatures drop below zero.
- Locate the water shut off valve in your home before you need it.
- If you do not have it already add insulation to your crawl space or basement when the weather warms up. Install battery powered leak alarms (cost is around 15$ each).
- Make sure that your sump pump is working.
- Make it habit to check pipes for tiny leaks before they become major issues.
- Search out pipes that are not insulated and insulate them.
- Look for hidden pipes in unheated attics, basements, crawl spaces and garages then insulate them before they freeze and burst.
- Check with your local home supply store for heated pipe wrapping especially if the pipes are in an exposed crawl space where wind chill can quickly send air temperatures below zero.
Need more Winterizing Tips for your Berkshire Home this winter? Read on...
1. Seal the deal
The easiest way to keep the heat inside your home is to seal air leaks. If you're in an older home, hire a professional to test your home for leaks, which costs about $150. To do it yourself, ensure the caulk around windows and weatherstripping around doors are in good condition and replace where necessary. For unused or older windows, seal them using a plastic window-sealer kit, available from most hardware stores for about $20.
If you live in an older home, installing storm windows will also give you another layer of protection from the elements.
2. Get ready to heat
Furnaces should be checked every year especially if you live in the Berkshires where furnaces get a real work during blustery winter days. You should have your furnace serviced yearly to change the filter and nozzle in the burner to make sure it's working as efficiently as possible.
For those using oil, the annual checks may be tied into your contract with your oil provider. Call your Berkshire County oil provider to see if you qualify for a free furnace check.
Every Berkshire oil/furnace fuel provider recommends topping your fuel tank early in the season to guarantee keeping warm all winter. Make sure your oil furnace tank and the propane tanks for your propane fireplace are topped up early, before the snow and ice come. Ask that the supplier turn on your furnace and propane heaters to verify that they are in good working order before they leave your property.
On the cooler side of things, air conditioners need attention, too. Partially cover freestanding units, ensuring they can still breathe. For window units, cover them tightly with a cover, and caulk the gaps between the unit and the frame to prevent leaks. Depending on how big your unit is, and how big the gaps are, you may be better off removing it from the window all together until the nicer weather arrives.
If you have an air exchanger -- a system that filters and cleans the air inside your home, exchanging the old, inside air with outside air -- it also needs some winter care. Normally in the summer, a lot of people don't run those systems, so the fall is the best time to change filters and clean it to run properly for the winter. Some filter changes require a service technician. Calling one in the fall is better than waiting until Jack Frost is upon the Berkshires.
4. Look up at your roof It's also important to inspect your roof. If you don't have a ladder, use binoculars to visually inspect the roof, making sure there are no sagging or missing shingles.
Alongside the house, ensure gutters and eaves troughs are clean. You can have your eaves troughs cleaned professionally or, you can invest in the Gutter Blaster, an eight-foot extension for your garden hose. The U-shaped end fits into the trough and blasts out unwanted build-up using the regular pressure from your hose.
5. Look at pipes and holes If you have pipes, drainage or otherwise, that run outside, keep them warm to prevent freezing. You can buy heat tape, foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation for pipes exposed to extreme cold.
Inside, make sure you plug every hole you can find. So, for every electrical outlet in the house, buy a liner that acts as extra insulation and fits between the wall and the cover. And even if you don't have kids, plug the outlets with plastic socket inserts.
6. Check your insulation The largest amount of heat that escapes your house leaves through the attic -- almost 45 percent in fact. So, to prevent your warm air from taking off, ensure your house has adequate insulation. Experts agree that an R-30 rated insulation is the minimum requirement. Newer homes usually have this standard, but older homes may need some new insulation.
7. Pack an emergency kit Don't be caught without supplies for you and your family -- pack an emergency kit before the bad weather arrives. The Red Cross recommends that every kit include: four litres of water per person per day, enough canned food to last for a few days, a first aid kit, blankets, sleeping bags and a crank-operated radio. Don't forget the flashlight and extra batteries. If power outages are normal for your area, check into buying a gas generator.
Homeowners are notorious for leaving this little detail to the last minute, which means everyone scrambles to the hardware store at the same time if there's a rough winter storm that knocks out the power. We don't expect unusually cold weather for Winter 2011 but forecasting the weather isn't something we do well at Harsch Associates Berkshire Real Estate, so we recommend following the guidelines above to keep safe and warm this winter.