While it’s not exactly a winter wonderland, Portland, Oregon, residents can generally expect to experience cold and rainy conditions from about mid-November until late March or early April. There’s still plenty of winter fun to be had at Mt. Hood and other popular snow-sports locations, but it’s also important to ensure that your home is adequately prepared to handle the colder temperatures, rainy weather, and fewer hours of sunlight throughout the winter months.
Longer nights and colder temperatures are hard on the body and mind, and fluctuating temperatures – especially around the freezing point of water – can be especially tough on homes, cars, and infrastructure as well. However, there are a few preventative measures that homeowners can take to make life a bit easier when Old Man Winter rears his head.
Preparing a list of goals or objectives you would like to address before winter sets in can also help you build a to-do list or a timeline so that everything is taken care of before the temperatures plummet. Making sure that both you and your home can get through the winter can be challenging, even for people who don’t mind the cold, so here are some key winter maintenance tips to help keep your home warm and comfortable this winter season.
Assess Windows and Doors for Tight Seal
One of the most common ways homes lose heat during the winter is through crevices or cracks that lead to the outside. Even newer homes can lose heat quickly through poorly insulated areas and around thresholds, so be sure to inspect the attic and/or crawl space for any insulation that might have fallen or any other holes or cracks through which warm air could potentially escape. Hardware or home improvement retailers also sell weather stripping and window seal kits that can be affordable temporary solutions to help your home retain heat throughout the winter – potentially saving hundreds on energy and heating expenses.
If your home has a chimney, it’s essential to have it regularly cleaned and inspected, especially if you rarely use your fireplace. If a fireplace is not in use, warm air from inside the home can rise and escape out the chimney flue. Similarly, cold air from the outside can make its way inside. Having a professional come to inspect your chimney can ensure that it is clean and that the damper (or plug) works properly to reduce or eliminate any drafts from your fireplace.
Trim Away Excess Shrubbery and Tree Branches
This tip is really only helpful if there are a number of mature trees on your property, but it’s still an important tip nonetheless. While much winterization prep work happens inside the home itself, there are also things you can do around the property to help protect your home in the event of a heavy snowfall or ice storm. Even if trees are healthy and the branches appear to be sturdy, snow and ice can be very heavy and can cause even the strongest limbs to break.
To avoid damage to your home or property, consider trimming back branches that hang over the home or driveway. While it may seem costly to have a professional landscaping crew out to help, that’s likely much more affordable than the repair bill after an ice-laden branch falls through your roof.
Schedule Furnace and Vents Tune-up
Winter weather typically means additional use of heating systems, so it’s important to have a heating and cooling specialist come inspect your vents, ductwork, and the rest of your heating system to ensure that your home stays warm and energy-efficient as possible. HVAC specialists can identify leaks in ducts or vents, and they can provide your furnace – electric or gas – with a tune-up to confirm that the system kicks on when it’s supposed to. It’s generally best to schedule an appointment like this before the weather gets too cold; there’s not much worse than having to wait in a cold house for a heating specialist to arrive.
This is also a good time to check the batteries of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), additional heating methods, holiday decorations, candles, and winter storms all help to “contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months” and winter months also see a rise in carbon monoxide poisoning.
Roofs work hard year-round protecting your home from the elements; they absorb the sun’s warmth, keep out precipitation and wildlife, and during the winter, they also help to keep warmth inside your home and colder air out. That’s why it’s important to regularly inspect your roof for loose shingles, holes, buildup of debris, and other issues that could result in less efficient heating throughout the winter.
A simple visual inspection ought to tell you everything you need to know. The best ways to inspect and protect your roof include keeping gutters clear of debris and checking for any signs of excess wear where leaks could happen, or warm air could escape the home. It’s also best to perform your regular roof maintenance before the weather gets too cold and icy; no one wants to be out on a slippery roof in freezing conditions.
One of the best ways to help improve your home’s energy and heating efficiency is by investing in a programmable thermostat. Many modern thermostats are adjustable via a mobile app so you can control the climate of your home from wherever you are as long as you have a reliable Internet or network connection. This is especially beneficial for people who may travel during the holidays; set your temperature to a lower degree during times when no one will be present to save money and energy.
Similarly, you can program the temperature to rise and fall to sync with the circadian rhythms of people living in your home, which can help people get better sleep at night and feel more energized throughout the day.