The BBB is home to a host of service providers and resources offering tips to help homeowners keep their houses running efficiently all winter long. The following to-do list will help get your home ready for winter — and make sure your abode stays cozy even during the chilliest months of the year.
Furnace and ducts. An inspection of your furnace and heating ducts will make sure warm air is traveling throughout your home effectively. With 21 positive reviews on their BBB profile, Accredited Matrix Basement Systems reports that homes with central heating can lose up to 60% of their heated air before it even reaches the vents, particularly if “duct work is not well-connected and insulated, or if hot air must travel through unheated spaces such as basements and crawl spaces.” If your home hasn’t recently been reviewed by a heating and cooling pro or duct expert, now is the time to make the call.
Chimney. Don’t start a fire until you’ve had your chimney cleaned and inspected. A professional chimney sweep can make sure that your chimney is free of pests and organic debris like twigs and leaves from nearby trees.
Trim trees. Heavy snow and ice can cause limbs to break off of the trees surrounding your home, sending branches crashing onto your roof. To avoid potential damage, trim large branches and have dead trees removed from around your home.
Gutters. Speaking of leaves and tree debris: Are your gutters clean? Making sure your home’s gutters are clear can help prevent ice dams from building up, so when spring comes, melting snow has a safe route to run off your home.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. BBB Accredited United States Alliance Fire Protection, based in Lake Forest, recommends testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and replacing batteries a couple times a year. Particularly during winter months, when windows are closed and furnaces and fireplaces are working overtime.
Caulking and weather stripping. Poorly caulked and weather-stripped doors and windows lead to chilly drafts and energy inefficiency. Check that your doors and windows close tightly and that no cool air is coming into your home. If you detect a draft, it may be time to replace weather stripping or get out the caulking gun.
Protect your pipes. Cold temperatures can lead to frozen pipes. Make sure your plumbing is insulated and that outdoor spigots are covered and any attaching hoses are drained and removed before the first freeze hits your area.
Check your ceiling fans. Did you know that changing the rotation direction of your home’s ceiling fans to run clockwise in winter can help keep your energy costs down? Creating an updraft redirects warm air downwards from your ceiling, making the room feel warmer during cold weather.
Swap out screens for storm windows. For homeowners with older houses, this is the time of year to swap out your screens for stronger storm windows to prevent all that cozy, warm air from escaping when the mercury plummets.
Get a home energy audit
The U.S. Department of Energy encourages homeowners to schedule a home energy audit with an accredited professional. Doing so can help you identify areas in your home where you can update appliances to save money — and energy. What is a home energy audit? BBB Accredited five-star rated Insight Property Services explains, “A Home Energy Audit is one of the first steps to understanding your home's energy usage. … Using a combination of high-tech tests and common sense evaluations, a good auditor provides homeowners with a list of energy and money saving steps, explains how and why your house is costing you money, and then prioritizes steps to knock down those costs over the long haul.”
Have questions? Let us help!
If you’re not sure what you need to do to keep your home safe this winter, or if you notice something odd that you’re not sure how to handle — like interior condensation or a draft you can’t locate — don’t be afraid to call on a professional for help. "When the homeowner does not have the experience or could make the problem worse, then it is time to make that call. The first step in doing that is to check out any contractor with the BBB through the direct link to Business Reviews at askbbb.org,” recommended Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.