Neglecting to disconnect my garden hose from the outside spigot before the first freezing night last winter resulted in an emergency phone call to the plumber. Due to the water in the garden hose and spigot freezing, the pipe burst and water was soon squirting everywhere resulting in an unexpected plumbing bill.
Maybe you’re much more diligent than I am about making winter preparations, but it never hurts to have a checklist to make sure nothing is overlooked that could cost you extra money or headaches. In addition to disconnecting garden hoses, there are a few easy ways to avoid disaster and save money.
- Windows, doors, and vents. Caulk around windows, doors, and vents to keep out cold air. Masonry cracks can be filled with masonry sealer (sold in in tubes similar to caulk) to prevent further damage.
- Gutters and downspouts. Clean and repair gutters and downspouts, making sure the water drains at least 10 feet from the foundation of your home. Ice dams can form in clogged gutters and water can seep backward into your home under the roofing, resulting in a big, expensive mess.
- Trees. Overhanging tree limbs should be removed so they don’t break under the strain of ice or snow and damage your gutters or roof.
- Heating. Have a licensed HVAC company check out your heating unit. The technician should do an inspection of your heating system and clean, repair or replace faulty parts. Every area of your home should be tested for carbon monoxide leaks. Install a carbon monoxide detector if you have a gas furnace.
- Duct work. While the HVAC technician is inspecting your furnace, it’s well worth the effort and cost to have your home’s duct work thoroughly inspected for holes and cracks. Make sure your heat and your money are not escaping through hidden leaks in ducts. My duct work had a basketball-sized hole which had to be repaired.
- Water pipes. Purchase flexible, self-sealing foam rubber sleeves that slip right over the exposed water pipes to prevent them from freezing and bursting. Inexpensive Styrofoam protectors (shaped like big cups) attach easily to outside spigots to keep them from freezing. All are available at home supply stores. This can also be used in other plumbing services such as drain repairs.
- Fireplace. If you plan to use your fireplace, it’s a good idea to have the chimney inspected by a CERTIFIED professional chimney sweep. Years of creosote can quietly build up and be the cause of a chimney fire.