Despite the relatively mild winter conditions we’ve experienced this year in certain parts of the country, home and condo owners should not get complacent about winter maintenance. From burst pipes to ice dams, adding a few chores to your ‘To Do’ list can actually save you money in the long run and avoid those winter emergencies that every home owner dreads.
Maintain your Furnace
Get your furnace serviced annually and clean or replace filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Furnaces and filters which have accumulated dirt may compromise the longevity of your unit and cause your furnace to use 5-15% more energy. If you are mechanically inclined, you can service your own furnace.
Regularly check your ducting for leaks as the average household loses 20-30% of its heated air through duct leaks. This increases your winter heating bill and makes your furnace work harder.
Ice Dam Prevention
Where small gaps in your attic insulation occur, warm air leaks out and heats your roof. This melts the snow on your roof, but the water has nowhere to go and pools on the shingles where it freezes overnight. The resultant ‘ice dams’ expand and push up under the shingles, causing damage and leaks. When moisture gets into your attic, mold and mildew cause further damage and pose a health risk to building occupants. When insulation is wet, it loses up to a third of its R-value which means you use more energy to keep your home warm.
You can prevent ice dams by ensuring that your roof is adequately insulated and that no gaps exist through which warm air can escape. Adequate attic ventilation will help to keep your roof from heating up and melting the snow. Should any moisture get into the attic, adequate ventilation will prevent the formation of mold and mildew.
Prevent Burst Pipes
Plumbers are responsible for insulating pipes and protecting them from winter freezes that could cause ruptures. However, they aren’t always there at the end of a build or when homeowners make changes to the structure during renovations. When this happens, pipes may be outside the thermal envelope of the home or they have been exposed to cold temperatures by touching steel beams or walls that extend outside the building. Where pipes are in danger of freezing you can use insulation or install a shut-off value and drainage system.
Water Heater Maintenance
Over time, sediment from your municipal water supply will collect at the bottom of your water heater reducing its efficacy. Drain the sediment annually to ensure that your water heater is working more efficiently and to increase its longevity. Simply turn off the power, gas or oil and locate the drainage valve near the bottom of the unit. Attach a hose to the drainage tap so you can direct water to a drain or bucket. Open the valve and flush the sediment. Keep the valve open until the water runs clean. Close the drainage valve and turn the power or pilot light back on.