The winter season’s wind, snow and ice can wreak havoc on your home without the right precautions. Plus, winterizing your house can help you save money on utility bills.

Use this checklist to ensure your home is properly protected for the winter season and consult a professional to ensure your safety.

1. Tune up your heating system

Once the temperatures begin to drop, you likely rely on your heat to keep your home comfortable and safe. Schedule an appointment with a qualified service technician to give your heating system an annual checkup and make sure your heating system is ready for heavy use.1

  • If you have a forced air system, toss the old furnace air filter and replace it with a new, clean one.2

  • Carefully clean radiators and baseboard heaters. Make sure they're not obstructed by furniture or curtains.2

  • Release trapped air from hot-water radiators. Wear protective gloves and use a rag to catch drips when opening valves.2

  • If you have a wood-burning stove, make sure the firebox and the ash pan are clean. Check for any parts that may need replacement.3

No matter what type of heating system you have, it’s a good idea to install carbon monoxide detectors. These can detect leaks from gas furnaces or water heaters, as well as other household equipment that burns fuel. Install at least one detector in a central location on each floor of the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how high to place them.4

2. Protect pipes from freezing

If water freezes in your pipes, they can burst and cause expensive water damage to your home. To prevent that:

  • Keep the temperature set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit in your house while you’re away.5 If the temperature drops, the water in your pipes should stay above freezing.

  • Insulate exposed water or drain pipes in attics, on outside walls or in crawlspaces. You can usually insulate them with electrical heating tape, then add foam insulation, but ask a professional for their input.1

  • Shut off the water to exterior faucets. The shut-off valve is usually indoors. You might need to drain water from the exterior faucet by opening it after you turn off the supply valve.1

3. Counteract drafts

No one wants to spend more money on their energy bills than necessary. Inspect your windows and doors on a windy day for unsealed openings – you will usually feel a temperature drop or draft. When you spot them:

  • Press rope caulk into the window joints where air is coming through.1

  • Install a doorsweep, which attaches to the bottom of the door and seals gaps.6

4. Prevent ice dams

Ice dams form when heat escapes your home through the roof due to poor insulation or ventilation. As snow melts and water flows down the roof, it freezes again around the eaves if your gutters and downspouts are clogged with debris, snow or ice. When the weather turns warmer, water that backs up behind those ice dams can leak back through the shingles on your roof and damage the home. It can also cause exterior damage to gutters, roofs and siding due to their weight and size.

Before the temperature drops:

  • Clear out your gutters and downspouts.

  • Seal openings in your attic, such as areas around vent pipes, exhaust fans, hatches, light fixtures, etc.

  • Clear the soffit vents along the eaves in the attic.

Keeping heat out of the attic and promoting ventilation is the key to preventing ice dams.7

5. Check the roof

Have a professional scan your roof for damaged, loose or missing shingles, and check that the flashing around your chimney is in place. These could be culprits for leaks when snow melts.

If shingles are damaged or flashing is missing, have them replaced before the weather becomes inclement.1

6. Reverse ceiling fans

During winter, you can reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so they spin at a low speed in a clockwise direction. This pushes warm air down, helping to reduce the thermostat heat and save some money on your energy bill.8

7. Stock up on winter supplies

You never know when a winter storm may strike, so keep the essentials on hand, just in case:

  • Invest in a generator in case a storm compromises the energy that keeps your home warm.6

  • Keep a flashlight with extra batteries handy.6

  • Store snow removal supplies for easy access to help clear snowy walkways and make them safe for visitors.6

Use these winter tips to help make sure your home is safeguarded against subfreezing temperatures. Not only do proactive preparations offer financial savings, they can provide peace of mind.

As temperatures begin to drop, remember to keep outdoor walkways clear of snow and ice by shoveling regularly, salting icy spots and laying down sand for extra traction. Learn how the liability protection in your homeowners policy can help if someone slips and falls on your property.