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A Winter Preparation Consumer Guide to Help You Brave The Cold

Winter Preparation Consumer Guide Introduction

Winter is just around the corner and depending on where you live it may have already found it’s way to your front door. Knowing how to prepare for the Winter months, so you can navigate through it smoothly, is something every homeowner should know about.

There’s a lot to think about to prepare for as these chilly temperatures slowly creep into your city.

Is your home properly insulated?

Are both the indoors and outdoor plumbing properly winterized?

What about outdoor pools, hot tubs, and fountains?

Is the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC) ready to take on the Winter months?

Lastly, what to do in the event you get frozen pipes.

This topic of winterization of your home could go on forever and ever but I’m going to try to pack in as much useful information as possible so that you can bookmark it and refer to it as often as you like. We’ll address the topics mentioned above plus much more.

In order to winterize your home, you must take a proactive approach. Just an ounce of preparation now will save you a pound of headaches in a few months. I want you to not only protect the contents of your home but I want to help you keep most of the money in your bank account as well.

Winterizing your home and protecting your pipes and plumbing against the coldest Winter is not a difficult task as long as you do it ahead of time before blistering weather makes its way to your doorsteps. This winterization guide and a little bit of sweat equity will be all that you need to empower yourself to feel safe as the temperatures begin to plummet.

Let’s Get You Ready for the Thundersnow

Tips on How to Insulate Your Home

insulating your hoome
Think of insulation much like that Winter coat you have hanging in your closet. Insulation is like your coat or a pair of gloves in that it helps to keep the heat in the place you desire it the most.

Heat is always flowing from a warm area (the place are trying to keep it in) to a colder area. Essentially it’s doing the exact opposite of what you want it to do and insulation helps correct this phenomenon.

How often have you sat around having a conversation about the pipes that exist in your home? Perhaps not much or not at all. Since the pipes are not in plain sight they tend to be forgotten about.

A quick inspection of your home’s pipe can determine if more insulation is needed. Since these pipes have for the most part been neglected for part of the year a cold Winter freeze could easily burst or freeze these pipes.

How To Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing

freezing pipes
Let’s talk pipes. As mentioned earlier frozen pipes can be a big mess not to mention a costly problem.  There are some simple things you can do to not only protect your home but also your wallet.

The freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and as long as your pipes have 72 degrees Fahrenheit water running through them they will not freeze.

Even a small crack can lead to big problems. A burst pipe can spew thousands of gallons of water into your home destroying floors, furniture, and appliances. Plenty of families have their home ruined and their lives disrupted each Winter all because of water pipes that freeze and burst.

So if you were to leave for work in the morning at 8 am, the pipe burst at 9 am and you don’t arrive back home until 5 pm. Guess what? You’ve got a big mess on your hand. Typically, about 14 gallons of water per minute can flow through a pipe that has burst. So we’re talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of a whopping 14,000 gallons of water within a 24 hour period.

The damage from a burst pipe can take weeks or months to clean up. Frozen pipes are not just a problem in cold weather areas like New York or Chicago. Houses in warmer places are at risk too because pipes tend to run through areas that aren’t well insulated like attics and crawl spaces. If you happen to get a cold spell you might also get some frozen pipes as well.

The most vulnerable pipes in your house lie right under your kitchen sink because these pipes run along an outside wall. So one simple thing you can do is turn a faucet on until it’s just dripping. You need to get both the hot and the cold turned on. All you need is a small pencil lead size drip. What this does is allows the pressure to be relieved.

When the temperature dips outside, especially below 20 degrees, it’s also a good idea to open up your cabinet doors. This allows the warm air in your home to get in and circulate around the pipes to help keep them warm. Even if your home is at nice warm and cozy temperature because the pipes under the sink are connected to an outside wall it tends to get very cold under there.

Even if when you’re away from home don’t turn down the thermostat too low. This can be dangerous and easily cause frozen pipes. Typically, you don’t want to turn it down below 55 degrees to keep your pipes from freezing.

Make sure you insulate your pipes especially in places like the attic and crawl spaces. Pipe insulation is rather inexpensive less than a few bucks for 6 feet. You can also use pipe wrap which will run you about $5.00 for a roll. It’s really easy to do and you don’t need to hire a professional. The most important thing is to make sure that you cover every section of the exposed pipe.

Tubular sleeves are also quite handy for covering pipes and very easy to install. These sleeves are normally 6 ft in length and you’ll need to cut them to the appropriate length to fit the pipe you’re covering. You can always use duct tape to fill in any gaps.

If you have a water hose detach it from the side of the house and allow the spigot to drain. Open up the pipe and allow all the water to drain out and then you’re in good shape. Once you disconnect your hose you need to make sure that tap is closed first. Then go on the inside, close the line from the inside and drain everything out. Also, make sure you drain all the excess water out of your hose as well so it remains in good shape.

What happens if you leave the hose attached? The water remains trapped inside the pipe. As the temperature drops the water in the pipe freezes, expands and burst the pipe. You won’t even know you’ve had serious damage caused to the pipes until the spring arrives and you turn on your faucet for the first time. At this time, it’s too late because the pipe will need repairing.

After the hose has been disconnected, pipes drained place an insulated faucet jacket over the faucet to protect it against extreme temperatures. This will also protect the pipes leading into your house as well.

How to Tackle the Cold Draft Problem in Your Home

sealing window drafts
Items needed for this project:

  • Window insulation kits, enough to cover all of your windows. Keep in mind there are both interior and exterior insulation kits available.
  • Cleaning supplies. Depending on how dirty the molding is around your windows this could mean a dry rag or a bucket of soapy water and a rag.
  • Scissors.
  • Tape measure.
  • Hair dryer.

This tip will show you how to save money on your heating bills. Instead of turning the thermostat up, concentrate on keeping the warm air in instead of throwing it out the window. Air can leak in around the window pane so you want to create an extra air-tight seal with heat shrinkable plastic from window jam to window jam.

Since tape doesn’t stick well to dirty surfaces you’ll want to expect the molding around each of your windows. If it is just dusty, wipe with a dry rag until clean. If there is more than just dust then you’ll want to clean the molding with soapy water and a rag. Make sure that the molding is completely dry before applying the double-sided tape.

Now put double-sided tape all around the window jam, not on the wall or the glass. So you don’t gum up the tape you may find it easier to work in small sessions. Make sure all window seams are inside the tape area to stop drafts which is the whole purpose of insulating windows in the first place.

Using your tape measure, measure the height and width of your window using the tape you just placed as a guide. Measure to the outside of the tape and then add one to two inches to each side. Take your heat shrinkable plastic and roll it out and cut it to a manageable workable size or to the dimension of your first window.

Remember to make sure that’s still bigger than the window. You will always be able to cut the excess later but if you cut it to small then you’ll have to scrap the plastic and cut a brand new piece.

Next, peel the backer off the double-sided tape just along the top. Grab your plastic and affix it to the top. If you remove the backing from the tape all at once you run the risk of having the plastic stick to the wrong places. Position the plastic over the window, lining up the top of the film with the top of the tape.

Make sure your plastic is centered. Once you have it in position, firmly place the film down along the top line of tape. Remember to pull the plastic somewhat tight to remove the bigger wrinkles along the way. The hair dryer will take care of the remaining wrinkles in the final step.

Next, move to the sides. Remove the backing of the tape half down on your window. Work in small sections as you firmly place the film down on the tape. Repeat this on the other side. If you’ve done the top and sides as described above the bottom should now be a piece of cake. Remove the back of the tape from the bottom of the window and work from the center to the edges pressing the plastic down firmly.

Before you use the hair dryer take your fingers and press the film down over the tape one final time along the entire window. This will ensure the best seal. Now, turn on your hair dryer. Start in a corner and move your hair dryer in a diagonal path to the opposite corner of the window. Make sure that you don’t touch the plastic with the hair dryer.

This process will remove the rest of the wrinkles in the film making it especially smooth and tight. With your scissors trim any excess plastic around the edges of your window. One window down. Just repeat the entire process for the remaining windows in your house.

To do a complete quality seal its also to do the outside windows as well. Usually, it just may need some more caulking. Also, take a look at the weather stripping around exterior doors of the house which includes the door sweep.

If insulating your windows becomes too much of a hassle or you still notice drafts you should consider investing in energy-efficient replacement windows. Stanek Windows are some of the best quality replacement windows on the market today. Best of all the are custom made to fit your windows precisely. With Stanek Windows, you will never have to deal with insulating window film again.

What To Do When Your Pipes are Frozen

bursted pipe

We’ve already covered how important have well-insulated pipes to protecting your home during a wintry freeze. But what should you do in the case your pipes have already burst or are frozen?

Locate the location of your home’s main water shut-off valve. In the case of burst pipe being able to quickly turn off the water can be the difference between a small amount of damage and a major catastrophe.

Every member in the house should know the location of the main shut-off valve in the case of an emergency. The shut-off valve is a quarter turn ball valve. Simply turning it a quarter of a turn to the left will shut the water off to the entire house. So if you do have a leak this would be the value that you’d want to get to in order to stop the leak.

If you’re trying to tackle a frozen pipe problem you can use a simple hair dryer, electric heater or heat tape to unfreeze the pipe. If you do use one of these items do not leave them unattended and make sure there are no combustible items (nail polish remover, hair spray) around the pipes that might start a fire. Continue to heat the frozen pipe until water begins to run from the faucet again.

Keep in mind that water and electricity do not mix well together. Be sure to plug your hair dryer into an approved Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GCFI). All this means is an outlet that prevents electrical shock in wet areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and outdoors.

Protecting Your Outdoor Components from a Wintry Freeze

For many homeowners, the backyard tends to elicit thoughts of serenity and peace. Winter can be a time when you begin the process of dreaming up new ideas for the spring – a fountain, hot tub, pond, pool or automatic sprinkler system. However, great care must be taken now if you already possess these items. Let’s talk about winterizing each of these items individually.

Winterizing an above ground pool

above ground pool winterization
Winterizing your above ground pool is necessary because your pool water won’t be circulated for the next several months. Water chemistry is important to the longevity of your liner and any other parts water comes in contact with during this period.

For example, copper or iron in your water can stain your liner. Improper pH may be very destructive to the pool and its equipment. Algae will be easier to get rid of than in the spring.

Approximately 48 hours prior to closing your above ground pool take in one quart of your pool water to pool cleaning specialist in your area for analysis. Use a clean plastic container. Do not use empty chemical containers. Also that a list of your chemicals that you use in your pool with you to the store.

oIf you have a solar blanket, remove by slowly lifting it over the edge of the pool being careful not to catch or tear it. Rinse any debris off of the blanket and use a cover cleaner to clean and deodorize it before storing for the Winter. Gently brush the cleaning solution over the entire surface. Rinsing is not necessary but leaving the cleaning on the surface will reduce odors and protect the cover.

Fold the cover carefully and store in a 20 – 30 gallon Rubbermaid tub with a lid. It should not be stored in a shed or garage where ants or mice may destroy it.

Vacuum your pool of debris and remove leaves with a leave net because they can stain your liner. Clean your liner above the water with the proper pool cleaning solution using a pool scrubber. Gently rub the liner in a circular motion. This will remove harmful dirt, grease, sun tan lotion and air pollutants. Do not use corrosive home cleaning agents.

Add all the ingredients from your pool’s winterizing kit that you picked up from the pool supply store. Make sure you add each item separately and that your filter is running.

If you have a fiber optic light unscrew the light from the outside of the pool and replace it with a threaded plug. Remove the clear dome fitting from inside your pool and install another threaded plug. Finally, remove the threaded plug from outside your pool and the eyeball return fitting. Now install a threaded plug or a Winter plug inside the pool as required. Make sure the o-ring rubber gasket is in place and not split or cracked.

Drain the filter tank and pump completely free of water. Disconnect the hose from your skimmer and to your pump. Disconnect the hose from your filter to your chlorinator if you have one. Disconnect the hose from your filter or chlorinator to your return fitting.

If you have a sand filter, backwash your filter, remove the drain plug and move the value handle to the Winter or closed position. If possible remove the value. Disconnect the hoses from the filter system and the pool. If possible move your filter inside.

Now turn off the electricity to your pump and disconnect the ground wire. Disconnect the union between the pump and filter. Remove the pump and filter from the base. Remove the ladder from the deck flanges. Remove the drop in stairs. Remove the sandbag from the stairs. Remove the flanges.

Take the motor, pump, filter, hoses, ladder and any other accessories out of the weather. Do not store any of your equipment with your chemicals. Try to store your filter or your accessories in your cellar if you have one.

Inflate the pillow 3/4 full of air by using a wet/dry vacuum. Always use cold air because hot air will cause your pillow to deflate. Secure the pillow in the pool with kite string. The pillow may deflate during the Winter.

Now carefully place the cover on the pool with the black side down. Secure the cover until it is tight around the pool. Use water bags to secure the cover on your deck. To prevent wind damage add a small amount of water on the cover to add weight.

Winterizing an in ground pool

winterizing in ground pool

No more cannonballs, no more underwater tea parties, no more chicken fights, no more water polo marathons – at least not until next Summer. It’s time to close your pool again.

Whether you completely cover your pool or just reduce maintenance proper winterization can save the cost of extra maintenance during Spring opening by preventing possible problems up front.

There are many pool products on the market that help you prepare your pool for the off-season. Proper wintering will help keep your pool looking its best all Winter long by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and algae. You be happy that you did when you have sparkling clear water in the Spring.

Winterizing your pool also protects the pool’s surfaces and equipment from freeze damage and the effects of water that is out of balance. Be careful not to close your pool too soon, wait until the water temperature drops below 65 degrees.

When you’re ready to close your pool that a sample of the water to your local pool expert so they can perform a water analysis. Balance the pool water according to your pool expert’s instructions. It’s important to completely balance your pool’s water and take care of all problems before closing. The problems that you cover up will be right there waiting for you when Spring arrives.

You’ll want to brush and vacuum the pool, keeping debris out of your pool is an important part of this process. Once the pool is free of debris, clean the waterline and inside the skimmer. You want to remove the ring of oil and dirt that could potentially become a breeding ground for bacteria if not treated.

Chemically clean your pool’s filter with the right chemicals to remove greasy oil from your filter’s media. Use a cleaning solution to remove rust, dirt, debris and scale in hard water areas. Cleaning the filter now will extend the life of the filter and promote greater filtration efficiency when you start up again in the spring.

Clean your pool with an off-season Winter kit. This kit will oxidize and clarify the pool throughout the off-season. It will also prevent the growth of all types of algae. Run the pump for 24 – 48 to allow each product to work effectively. Once you’ve have run the pump continuously winterize any additional equipment according to manufacturer’s directions.

Finally, follow recommended water draining and covering procedures that are appropriate to weather conditions in your area. Doing a little maintenance on your pool in the fall will mean less work and reduced maintenance costs in the Spring. Will you be ready for opening day?

Winterizing your irrigation system

winterizing irrigation system
The first thing you need to do is find your pressure vacuum breaker (PVB) which is usually located on the side of your house. Turn the valve that runs vertical (North and South) completely off.

That’s your supply line so you want to prevent the water from moving through your irrigation system so you need to turn it off.

On the side of your valve are petcocks (small drain valves) and you want to turn each one of them with a flathead screwdriver to a 45-degree angle.

What this does is release the pressure from the system and drain the water out of the housing. The housing becomes very vulnerable when water is trapped inside because when it gets cold it will freeze, expand and burst a pipe.

Wrap exposed pipes with foam insulation. Make sure it’s nice and secure and covers all the exposed pipes. Go to the controller which is typically located inside your garage or mounted outside of your home. Open the box and manually go to each zone and relieve the pressure.

The goal is to remove the pressure inside the pipes. There may still be water inside but you don’t want the water to be under pressure. Go to each station and manually remove the pressure. It should only take a couple of minutes. When done turn it to the off position. Close and lock the box.

Return to the PVB and turn off the supply line to your irrigation system. In the off position, it should be vertical facing North and South. The last thing to do is to place a jacket or a towel over housing to try and keep it as warm as possible.

How to blow out your sprinkler system and make it Winter ready

sprinkler blowout

You’ll need a 5-gallon air compressor that delivers at least 5 cubic feet per minute. Locate the main shut-off valve to your sprinkler system possibly located in your basement or a crawl space.

Once you find it follow it along until you find another shutoff the cap that’s going to allow you to blow out the sprinkler system.

See whether your valve has an air compressor fitting, if it does you’re set. If it doesn’t you will need to pick up one at your local hardware store. The one you buy at the store will have two sides, an air compressor fitting and 1/4 inch threaded fitting.

Then you’ll need an adapter to go from a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch threaded. Buy whatever parts you need to connect the 1/4 inch air compressor fitting into your valve.

Pick up some Teflon tape because every time you attach the fittings you’ll want to wrap it with 2-3 rounds of tape to give you a tight seal. connect your air compressor hose and turn off the value to your sprinkler system. Make sure your air compressor is fully charged and turn on the air.

Now at the controller you want to set the sprinkler system to run each zone for 4-5 minutes. You’ll need to look at your control and manual to see what your particular sprinkler system recommends.

Since you have the air compressor turned on and the water turned off it will blow air through the system instead of water. You know you’re done when the sprinklers are only blowing air.

How to winterize your spa

winterize hot tub
Many people enjoy and use their spa in the winter but for those of you who don’t it’s very important that you evacuate all of the water out of all the plumbing – heaters, pumps, and blowers (anywhere in the spa that’s going to trap water that could possibly freeze and cause damage).

The first thing to do is to drain the spa. If you have a spa with a blower you’re going to want to turn the air blower on after it’s drained to water out of those pipes.

Secondly, any pumps will have a drain plug on them and you’ll want to remove the drain plugs. Disconnect any low-lying pipes with unions to evacuate the water out of them. Suck the water out of both the water jets, filter and filter ports.

How to winterize your pond

winterizing koi pond

If you have aquatic plants around your pond you’ll need to trim them back them back to the surface of your pond. What this will do is help to eliminate all of the excess debris that’s going to start falling and decomposing in your pond in the Winter time.

The less of the organic buildup you can have in the bottom of your pond for Winter the better. It creates a healthier environment for the fish to be in. Shut down the pump that’s running your waterfall for the Winter months because it will start to get an ice buildup.

Unplug your water pump and your backyard is going to become silent for the first time in awhile. So the pump that you have running your water feature you’re going to want to disconnect and remove it from your pond for the Winter. This will allow all of the water that’s in your system to back drain back into the pond.

This will winterize your pipes and alleviate you having to deal with burst pipes when Winter arrives. There won’t be any freezing water to accumulate in the lines.

Now remove your pump and store it in a bucket full of water for the Winter. Some pumps have rubber seals on them and you want to keep them wet all Winter long. Your fish will go into hibernation much like a black bear does in the Winter. Their heartbeat goes down to about one beat per minute but they still need to be able to breathe so they need to be able to get fresh oxygen.

So you need gasses that build up in the bottom of your pond from decomposing leaves and other plant material to be able to get out for the Winter. You have to keep an end of the pond open. A good way to do this is to use a 1,000-gallon aerator pump.

Place it in approximately 12-16 inches of water and plug it in. As the temperatures start to get extremely cold the bubbling water produced by the pump will form an igloo of ice but its still working. So there’s no need to beat it with a hammer to open it up.

As the temps will open the dome of ice back up. But for the majority of the Winter, you’ll see bubbling water to let you know that the pond is still being oxygenated.

If you live in an area where you have really cold weather you can put a floating heater deicer in the pond. When you put the heater in the pond always put it on the opposite end of the pond from where your aerator is located.

The reason is because the aerator is moving the water a lot and the heater will heat the water directly around it. It doesn’t heat the entire pond and if you’re constantly moving the water away from it the aerator won’t function properly.

Following the above tips will ensure that you pond makes it through the Winter, your fish survive and you’re ready to go next Spring.

How to prepare your heating and ventilation system for Winter

Winterizing your heating and air conditioner is an important step. Many homeowners mistakenly believe that turning the unit off is all that needs to be done. If that is all you do, there’s a big chance that only hot air will blow out of your unit when Spring rolls around.

To do to avoid, drain your AC pipes and completely shut off your water valves. Switching from the AC unit to heating for the first time is akin to starting a car for the first time after it’s been idle for several months. Your system needs to be prepared for initial usage.

First, replace all filters including in the air conditioner, the humidifier (if applicable), and the furnace. Second, make sure your thermostat is working properly.

Do this before Winter arrives. If you encounter problems, you can get your unit serviced before you need heat. Once your HVAC system is working properly, you’ll be all set to be warm and cozy during the coldest months of the year.

Conclusion

Our Winter preparation consumer guide’s purpose is to arm you with the education needed to protect your home and give you the confidence that your family will be protected during the colder Winter months. We also want to show you how an ounce of preparation can prevent a pound of regret and costly expenses.

We know of one family who had a busted pipe that ended up costing them $25,000 in damage and took them a complete year to get everything fixed. We don’t want this to happen to you. A tiny hole in the pipe that has burst can wreck havoc on a home in as little as 24 hours flat.

Winterizing your home is the best way for you to minimize such catastrophes happening to your family. All that is required is a little time and a focused approach. Follow the steps detailed in this guide and you will be just fine. We realize that some of the preparation steps may seem overwhelming in the beginning but most of them can be over and done with in one evening.

You shouldn’t feel obligated to do everything all in one day. Instead, spend a couple hours each day crossing a couple of these items off your wintering to-do list. In no time at all, you will have finished winterizing your home. In the process, you will be smiling from ear to ear, knowing that you have taken care of your home and your family.

 

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