Respect your appliances Arrange for a professional inspection of your furnace if it is more than 5 years old. This thorough inspection will not only save you from chilly nights if the furnace ever breaks but also catch any potential dangers associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cover central air conditioning units to protect the blades and components from rust.
Peruse your pathways Grab an asphalt or cement patch kit and fill in any cracks you see on sidewalks, walkways and driveways. This will prevent water from seeping in, freezing and creating larger cracks and potholes. If you have an asphalt driveway that looks gray, cracked and full of fissures, it's time to get it resealed. Davis recommends doing this every two to three years.
Wooden decks can benefit from an annual water seal. In climates known for their rain, snow and ice, cover the deck with plastic. The same goes for wooden outdoor furniture.
Special Considerations for Your Manufactured Home
With their crawl spaces, anchors and water lines, manufactured homes require some special attention during winter. Make sure you inspect the following:
To avoid frozen pipes, turn off spigots and disconnect hoses, says Davis. In extreme areas, cover spigots with insulation cups or use heat tape.
Following a rainstorm, check your crawl space for dampness or leaks and repair any that you see.
Make sure your crawl space is well-insulated, adding fiberglass insulation at the water pipe if necessary. "The biggest problem with manufactured homes is that the main water line underneath the home is not insulated," Davis cautions.
Tighten loose anchors and replace corroded ones.
Prepare your fireplace If your fireplace is more than 10 years old, get it professionally inspected, Davis says. This is especially important if you use your fireplace often because obstructions can cause carbon monoxide to back up into the home. Replace worn-out firebrick liners and metal flues, and inspect the chimney cap to make sure it will keep out rodents.
Improve your insulation Unless your home is new construction, odds are it can benefit from extra insulation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Inspect the insulation in unheated spaces, such as attics, and in the walls by removing electrical outlet covers. The amount of insulation to add is based on your ZIP code. The Department of Energy's ZIP-Code Insulation Program web site lets you look up how much insulation you need based on your area.
Grab your caulk gun and seal the spaces around mail chutes, cable and TV lines, and dryer vents.
Add weather-stripping to doors and windows. Also, make sure your windows are locked. "Even the slightest crack can allow in a draft, especially in older windows," warns Frazier. "When windows aren't latched they lift, causing a draft."
Nip seemingly small problems Taking care of problems as soon as you discover them can save you from large, costly repairs in the long run. Davis knows someone who took the "I'll get to it someday" approach to a small, brown water spot on his ceiling. Then one night, his entire dining room ceiling caved in. His rooftop evaporative cooler had been leaking. "He could've caught the warning signs and solved the whole problem with 25 bucks, and instead, it's $2,500," Davis says. "So, be vigilant."
With a little preparation, you and your family can stay warm and safe this winter and every one thereafter.