5 steps to get your home winter ready

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Whether you own your home or you live in an apartment, getting it ready ahead of winter can help keep you safe and healthy. It can also save you from immense heating and repair costs. The best time to start inspecting and repairing is toward the end of fall while it’s still mild out.

The areas you should check:

How to winterize your home from Home Channel TV.

  1. Inspect doors and windows for leaks and gaps

    Leaks and gaps on doors and windows are the biggest sources of cold air getting inside your home. These also cause your heating to escape, thus wasting energy and money. To check for gaps, put your hand near openings to feel for drafts. You can also do the following:

    • Visual inspection – See if light seeps out of the edges of windows and doors. If you can see light, then there’s a leak. Try to rattle them. Movement also means possible air leaks. Check weatherstripping or caulking around windows from the outside of your house. If they’re old and cracking, it’s time to fix or replace.
    • Do the candle or incense test – Turn off all fans, furnace or heaters and close windows and doors. Turn on your kitchen or bathroom exhaust vents. Hold a lit incense or candle close to the spaces around windows or doors. If you see smoke moving or swirling, then you have found a leak.
    • Leave it to professionals – If you suspect that there could be more sources of leaks in your house, e.g. electrical outlets, electrical and gas service entrances, attic hatches, cable TV or phone lines, etc. or insufficient insulation, call a licensed home inspector (accredited thermographer). Inform your landlord/building manager if you live in an apartment.

    Repairing leaks can be as easy as re-caulking or weatherstripping windows and doors, or using pre-cut foam pads to seal gaps. Depending on the extent of the leak, use your judgement whether you can do the repairs yourself or if you need a professional.

  2. Check your furnace

    Turn your furnace on to see if it is working. Check your air filters if they need to be changed. Experts suggest changing it every two to three months to keep your furnace working efficiently. Also, make sure that big pieces of furniture are not blocking your home’s heat vents. Adjust your thermostat to an energy-efficient setting. This will, of course, depend on your tolerance to the cold. In general, 22°C during the daytime is good (when someone is at home during the day), but aim for 20°C. At night, you can lower it to 17°C to 19°C.

    Did you know that you shouldn’t turn the heater off if you’re leaving your home for an extended period? If you’re going on vacation to escape the winter months, turn down your heat to at least to 10°C. Otherwise, your water pipes can freeze and burst. You may come home to a flooded basement or apartment (and angry co-tenants).

    Is your home equipped with carbon monoxide detectors? Carbon monoxide is given off by furnaces and other heat sources. Too much of this gas can cause poisoning, depriving one of oxygen. Detectors test the carbon monoxide levels in your home and alerts you when they rise. If your home has this, test the detector and change the batteries regularly. Also, check your smoke alarm. With all the open fireplaces, holiday candles and electrical and flammable décor we use during the season, it’s no surprise that winter is the worst season for fires in Canada.

  3. Clean out your gutters and protect your garden

    Leaves and dirt can accumulate in your roof’s eavestroughs and downspouts in the fall. These can block melting ice and snow and stop the water from draining properly. This can cause massive damage to your roof. Clear them out before winter starts. Did you do extensive gardening in the summer? Now is the time to clean up your garden and protect the plants from extreme cold. Consult the gardener at your local supply store about wrapping your shrubs and other protection for plants. Also store your summer yard equipment. Important: Turn off your exterior water and drain hoses. These can burst if there’s water left in them.

  4. Get your garage in order and tune up your snowblower

    Clean your garage and leave space for your car to protect it from the cold. Don’t wait for a snowstorm to test out your snowblower. Dust it off and check if it is working. Make sure you have a shovel and a supply of salt or sand for de-icing your driveway (or eco-friendly alternatives).

  5. Keep pests out

    Pests like mice and small insects will be looking for a warm refuge in winter. Unfortunately, they can choose your home. They can enter through cracks or gaps, so make sure to plug these. Always keep your home and surroundings clean. Make sure that garbage bins are covered. Garbage attracts rodents as they stockpile food scraps and other things they find for the winter. Read How to keep your home pest-free in winter for more tips.

If you see something, say something

If you live in an apartment, alert your landlord if you see anything that may pose a hazard to you and others. For example, report it right away if you see a patch of black ice near the entrance of the building or icicles forming in entryways. Help keep the surroundings clean and uncluttered at all times. Assist others near you who may not know how to prepare their homes for winter. By being vigilant and helpful, you can ensure that everyone will have a safe and worry-free winter.
Article updated October 28, 2021.
Sources: The guide to getting your house ready for winter, Think Insure.ca; Prepare your apartment for colder weather, Rentseeker, Apartment Living; 7 tips to get your home ready for fall, Brian McKechnie, Global News; and What temperature should I set my thermostat to for the winter? Direct Energy. Accessed November 1,2018.

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Community Resources

New Journey Housing has free workshops for newcomers on “Home repairs and renovations” and “Preparing your home for the winter”. Check schedules here: Worskhops.

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