It is now time to pull out those favourite sweaters from the back of the closet and dust off those wool blankets, because cool, wintry days are just about upon us.
The autumn is also the right time to prepare your home for Old Man Winter.
With advice from some Lower Mainland experts, The Sun has compiled a number of fall “to do list” chores. Their advice will ensure you get your home ready for the cold weather ahead, avoid costly heating bills and even worse — possible expensive repair bills.
Roof and gutters:
The changing colours of the leaves are beautiful but once they die off, they can make a mess of your roof and gutters.
“As the leaves fall, you need to keep them off the roof because as they decay, they will break down your cedar shingles,” says Richard Kalnins, service and maintenance manager at Cambie Roofing and Drainage. “Your roof needs regular maintenance. However, no one should get up there unless they know what they are doing, otherwise, it can be dangerous.”
The roof should be swept or gently blown off to remove any loose debris.
“Also, try to get as much of the rooted moss off your roof, and to avoid that problem in the future, buy some zinc strips,” says Kalnins, adding most Lower Mainland roofs are made of cedar shakes or asphalt. “You place them under the ridge caps and the peak of your roof.”
Then, flush out your gutters with a garden hose or vacuum.
“Once the roof and gutters are cleaned properly, inspect for leaks and misaligned pipes,” Kalnins adds. “Then, check your roof for curled, warped, cracked or buckled shingles, as they will need to be replaced.”
A smooth-running furnace can save a lot of headaches later on, so the first order is make sure to change your filters often, every six weeks or so, says Mark Cooper, president and CEO of Shakespeare Homes & Renovations.
“Do a furnace inspection and stock up on furnace filters . . . if your filter is clogged, your furnace won’t run as efficiently, which costs you more money to heat your house,” says Cooper. “Have a furnace inspection and cleaning done yearly to keep it in good working order.”
Wait for a windy day, then, with a lit incense stick placed close to windows, door frames, electrical outlets and recessed lighting, slowly move it across and see if there’s movement, says Simi Heer, media relations for BC Hydro, Power Smart.
“If it moves, that’s a clear indicator that there’s a draft or leak,” Heer says, adding drafts are expensive and a waste of energy. “They can be easily fix it with caulking or weather stripping . . . super-easy fix and not expensive.”
Another simple way to save on your heating bill is to keep your southerly window covering open during the winter, to allow the sun to heat your home, says Heer.
Meanwhile, years of wear and tear can cause doors to allow heat escape.
“An easy solution is to seal any gaps or cracks by installing weather stripping and caulking at the bottom of the door and on the sides to block off air,” says Heer. “Heat can also escape through your wood-burning fireplace.
“A slab of Styrofoam, covered with cloth and pushed into the rectangular front of your fireplace can correct heat loss.”
To keep cool air out, keep your chimney damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use.
“You can also purchase a protective cap with a screen for your chimney, keeping foreign object, like birds, out,” she says.
According to Heer, thermal insulation, when correctly installed, slows heat from escaping your home in winter and from entering your home in summer, making your home more comfortable and saving money on energy bills.
Cooper echoes Heer and adds: “Check your attic and basement’s insulation to make sure it’s properly in place … then, update to a more energy-efficient insulation or increase the amount of insulation you have, because you can be losing lots of heat.”
Outside pipes:
Wrap those pipes — a burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a costly nightmare.
“Before the first frost, you must unplug your garden hoses, drain them and shut off your turnoff valve inside your house,” says Heer. “In our B.C. weather, you can install Styrofoam cups with a screw attachment to help insulate spigots.”
-Michelle Hopkins, Vancouver Sun