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Preparing Your Home for Winter Weather

Posted by Justin Havre on Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 at 9:42am.

How to Prepare Your Home For WinterWinter weather can wreak havoc on a home. Preparation could make the difference between a comfortable season and a nightmare. These tips help homeowners know what they will need to do before it gets too cold.

Sprinklers and Irrigation

One of the simplest things that homeowners can do is to shut down any unnecessary systems that carry water. The irrigation system for the yard is a good example. Pipes left with water in them can freeze and burst if they are not properly drained. Once they are no longer needed for the fall, homeowners should shut off and drain pipes and hoses. Hoses need to be disconnected, emptied and put away.

Indoor Plumbing

Frozen pipes could be a source of significant hassle and damage for homeowners, if they encounter it during the winter. Any exposed pipes are susceptible to freezing, even if they are located inside unheated parts of the home.Pipes exposed on the home's exterior may need additional insulation, or the advice of a professional plumber.

Homeowners can check the temperature in the attic, basement, or garage, to confirm that the pipework running through unheated areas can sustain a temperature above freezing. Sometimes, just opening cabinet doors makes the biggest difference in temperature. Sometimes, just great home insulation can can keep the pipes warm and protect them from freezing.

Home Exterior

Every home is designed to protect from the winter temperatures, but it may need some upkeep before it can do the job well. Homeowners should invest time to look at the roof and clean out the gutters. Clogged gutters can cause an accumulation of snow and ice on the roof.

Improper insulation under the roof contributes to ice dams. Trimming trees and bushes near the home can prevent a heavy snowfall or windstorm from triggering damage to the home.

Heating Systems

Regulating Your Temperature During WinterThere are two aspects to heating that homeowners should keep in mind: efficiency and efficacy. Scheduling professional maintenance for heating systems will help to ensure that they are in good condition for the winter cold. People who use a fireplace during the winter should have it cleaned and inspected, for safety as well as function. Improving the insulation and sealing air leaks around windows and doors will make all forms of heating more efficient.

Put the Freeze on High Heating Bills

If winter gets a frosty reception at your house in Calgary, keep the chill at bay and keep your heating bill down. It's never too late in the season to think about turning up the heat without touching your thermostat.

Uninsulated Spaces

Do you have areas in your home that aren't insulated? Your garage, for example or your attic or crawlspace. Without insulation, any heat in these areas will disappear as quickly as it arrives. If you must heat your uninsulated garage, do so only when you need to.

Unused Rooms

If you have rooms you don't use, such as guest rooms or storage areas, keep the doors closed and close the furnace vent. No need to keep unused space warm on a daily basis. Put door “socks” along the space under the door (socks or material stuffed with dry beans, birdseed or sand) to prevent drafts.

Cold air is sneaky. It can creep in through your electric and cable outlets. If you find a leak, install a gasket under the wall plate.

Bundle Up

As simple as it sounds, put on extra clothes or slippers when you're cold in the house. It's easy to reach for the thermostat and difficult to be mindful of the extra money you're spending as soon as you turn the dial. Plus, once you turn up the heat you might forget about it and leave the temperature higher than normal for several days.

They say people sleep better in a cooler room, but if bedrooms are too cool use extra blankets or an electric blanket rather than cranking up the heat for the whole house.

Promote Air Circulation

Do you have a ceiling fan, especially in a room with a vaulted ceiling? Turn it on but change the rotation to the opposite way. Hot air rises, and a fan will push the warm air down.

Upgrade Old Windows and Appliances

Upgrading Your Home in WinterIf you have windows that are 25 to 30 years of age or older, you can cover them with insulating plastic wrap, or bite the bullet and replace them. Today's glass is double and triple glazed and can be installed in under an hour which, even on the winter's coldest day, isn't long enough to completely cool off your home. Close your curtains at sunset.

Turning off lights seems to be a difficult thing for some family members to remember, especially children and teenagers. Today's SMART homes are virtually controlled with phone apps, or are equipped with motion sensors in rooms so lights turn off with inactivity. Timers in your wall sockets can help turn lamps on and off but make sure to adjust them as the daylight hours change from October to April.

Install a programmable thermostat and program it to turn the heat way down to 15 or 16 degrees if you're away from the house all day and 17 degrees while you're sleeping. You can reduce your energy bill by about 2% for every degree you drop.

Maintain Your Supplemental Heating Appliances

Do you use an electric space heater to supplement your home heating system? It's important to clean them and keep the elements free of dust and pet hair to reduce the risk of fire.

Keep your furniture at least 12 inches away from your heat vents. Make sure your drapes or vertical blinds aren't in the way and keep your vents and duct work free of dust and debris. Check occasionally for socks and toys which have been known to make their way into your duct work.

What to Know About Fireplace Safety in Winter

A good fireplace can add feelings of warmth and comfort to a home, so it's little wonder that many home buyers seek properties with fireplaces. Knowing how to get the fireplace inspected and knowing the kind of maintenance the fireplace will require after moving in can help buyers decide whether or not a home with a fireplace is right for their needs. 

Fireplaces Need A Separate Inspection 

A typical home inspector may give a passing glance to the fireplace, but most home inspectors will not inspect the fireplace in a meaningful way. Damage to fireplaces can be hidden and expensive to repair, so it's important to have the fireplace inspected during the escrow period. This is especially true if: 

  • The home is in an area prone to earthquakes. Earthquakes can do serious damage to chimneys, rendering them dangerous to use. 
  • The fireplace is very old. Old fireplaces may lack modern safety features, like a chimney liner. Knowing in advance that the fireplace needs an upgrade in order to be safe can help you negotiate a lower price for the house. 
  • The fireplace has not been used in a long time. Fireplaces can sustain damage even when not in use, and if the fireplace has not been used in many years, the chimney could have deferred maintenance that will need to be addressed right away.

When looking for a contractor to inspect your fireplace, seek someone who specializes in chimney repair and who has a reputation for excellence in the community. 

Fireplaces Require Annual Maintenance 

Home buyers who have never had a home with a fireplace should be aware of the annual maintenancethat chimneys require. Chimneys must be cleaned at least once per year and may need to be cleaned more often if they're used regularly. A typical chimney cleaning will cost between $100 and $250, depending on the size and location of the chimney. In remote locations, home owners may pay more for contractor travel time and may have fewer options when picking a contractor. 

Home buyers who plan to use the fireplace regularly and aren't sure how many times of year to clean the chimney may consult with a chimney repair professional. Chimneys that are never used should still be seen by a contractor annually because birds can build nests and animals can die in chimneys, therefore getting the chimney cleaned and inspected can prevent problems in the home. 

Invest in Tools Before the First Use

New homeowners who have never had a chimney will need to buy the right tools before lighting the first fire. At minimum, new homeowners will need to purchase the following:

  • A Screen. The fireplace screen is an important safety feature that prevents embers from flying out of the firebox and onto the hearth. 
  • A Poker. The poker is useful for shifting logs while the fire is burning.
  • Tongs. Fireplace tongs can be used to add more logs to the fire and can also be used to move logs around while a fire is lit. 

Without these tools, burning a fire may be dangerous. Some other useful tools include the sweeper, ash bucket, and shovel, all of which are helpful when it's time to clean up the mess after a fire has burned out. 

Fireplace Safety in Winter

What to Know About Fireplace Safety

A wood burning fireplace is such a treat during the holidays. Some of us must turn to the holiday fireplace channel on cable TV to enjoy the crackling sound of burning logs. But if you enjoy the warmth and magic of a real live fireplace, make sure you use it wisely. 

Most homeowners are aware of safety procedures but it never hurts to have a refresher. If you are new to our colder climate and have purchased a home with a fireplace, you’re in for a delightful experience. However, acquaint yourself with safety procedures to keep you and your family protected.

One of the most important reasons to use your fireplace or wood stove property is to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide (CO). This is an odorless, deadly gas with occurs when the ratio of air to gas isn’t properly balanced. This most often occurs with gas fireplaces, which many modern homes have.

If insufficient air is not supplied for combustion then the amount of carbon monoxide that enters the home can be deadly. Poor air supply could be caused by an obstruction in the chimney.

Fireplace Usage Tips

  • Open the fireplace damper when you’re planning on using the fireplace. This will allow smoke and gases to exit. It is a lever either on the outside of your fireplace, or just inside.
  • Before lighting the fire, make sure there’s a continuous flow of fresh air. Open a window a crack and keep it open until the fire is completely extinguished, even if it’s overnight and even if it’s -20C outside.
  • You can close the damper once the ashes or the chamber of your gas fireplace has cooled.
  • Keep a mesh fireplace screen closed so sparks and embers don’t jump out of the fireplace.

Keep Fireplace Smoke to a Minimum

  • Dry wood will burn cleaner. It is advised to get your wood about six months before you want to use it so that it dries out, so it takes planning. You want the moisture content of your fireplace wood to be less than 20%. If you store it outdoors, make sure it’s covered.
  • Maintain your chimney to prevent the buildup of soot and creosote. Hire a certified chimney sweep. How often you need to clean your chimney is completely dependent upon how often you use it.
  • Regular maintenance of your gas fireplace includes checking the gasket and other parts that may require replacement.
  • Start your fire in a way that discourages smoke. Leave an inch of ash at the bottom, use crumpled newspaper or dry kindling if you don’t have a gas started, and then add split pieces of wood. You can put large dry wood on crosswise, as you want to have adequate airflow around your pile of logs. The goal is to have a fast fire so it burns hotter rather than a slow burn which will just smolder.

In the case of a wood burning chamber, air is required to fuel the fire. Air flow comes from the home and goes up the chimney. This flow of air must be continuous. Selling a Home in Winter

Just like anything else in life, the home selling process is what you make of it. So if you plan on selling a home in the Fall or Winter months, here are some tips and tricks to use to help sell your home more quickly and for top dollar.

Owning a South Calgary home means some maintenance work before the snow and cold temperatures arrive. By following these guidelines, homeowners can reduce stress and improve their comfort.

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