12 Ways to Save Your Home From a Winter-Weather Nightmare

Let's opt out of frozen pipes this year.



Winter landscape seen through the window, and green plant on a windowsill.

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/AnikaSalsera


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With much of the country prepping for dangerously cold temperatures, now's the time to get your home ready before chilling risks become your worst nightmare. (There's nothing more fun than ice dams and frozen pipes!)

Before any first-time homeowners begin to panic, there are a few things you can do to prepare your home for the harsh winter conditions. Industry experts share their top tips on how to avoid costly damage during winter. Take a look:

First, Start Outside



Wooden house with rain gutter in winter. Roof gutter at a wooden garage

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/Astrid Gast

©iStockphoto.com/Astrid Gast

Clean out gutters of all debris and position downspouts away from your home's foundation.

Cut away tree branches that hang over your house. Snow buildup on branches can be heavy and cause them to fall.

— Mark Welstead, Rainbow International

Check Your Windows



"Condensation has built up on a winter window with some moisture freezing in the corner. This is a fairly efficient double pane window. However, the exterior temperature is very cold and the humidity level in the home is too high. Many homes have whole house humidifiers installed as a component of the HVAC system. Humidifiers require automatic or manual adjustment to produce proper humidity levels. In this instance, the humidifier is set too high causing moisture to condense on cold windows. The background is very blurred trees."

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/BanksPhotos


Gaps around the window frames and doors can allow air to leak inside, so make sure the weatherstripping is secure. If not, self-sticking weatherstripping is a useful tool for helping windows close more tightly.

— Kevin Tennant, Glass Doctor

Protect Your Water Lines



A 3/4" copper water pipe is wrapped with braided heating cord to prevent freezing. This pipe is the main supply for a house and the background is blurred oriented strand board (OSB). This would be a typical installation in a house with an uninsulated crawl space or a mobile home.

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/BanksPhotos


Whether your home is an older home or a newer home, you really want to be sure that you're paying attention to your water lines located in the attic or crawl spaces. First-time homeowners should be aware of areas of their piping that can be exposed to harsh winds and cold temperatures. Water lines in crawl spaces should be wrapped in insulation with heat tape. It's also important to be sure that the heat tape is plugged in and working. Some crawl spaces have vents that allow air to circulate within the crawl space, so you'll want to close these in the winter to protect the water lines from cold drafts.

— Amanda Sims, Mr. Rooter Plumbing

Reset the Humidity Level



Humidifier spreading steam into the living room

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/yocamon


Use humidifiers with controls to reset the humidity level based on the outside air temperature. This combination will keep frost from forming as the chosen humidity level will be lowered while outside temperatures fall and be restored to normal during less severe weather. We recommend a normal humidity level of 35 to 45 percent. However, as temperatures dip into single digits, it should be set closer to 20 percent.

— Richard Ciresi, Aire Serv

Get Your Faucets Ready



Orange Cat Playing In Kitchen Sink

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/akirkman


Allow a small trickle of cold water to run from your faucet. This will keep water moving in your pipes, preventing freezing.

Open under-sink cabinet doors to keep warm room air circulating around the pipes.

— Amanda Sims, Mr. Rooter Plumbing

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Program the new smart thermostat for your home.

How to replace a thermostat.

How to replace and install a new smart thermostat in your home.

Photo by: Emily Fazio ©2015

Emily Fazio, 2015

A programmable thermostat makes life a little bit easier by allowing you to set your desired temperature and then not have to worry about it anymore. In the winter, a programmable thermostat allows you to save money on your energy bills. In fact, studies show that you can save one percent for every eight hours you set your thermostat down.

Here's how to set your programmable thermostat in the winter:

Use energy-saving setbacks: These are most beneficial if they last at least eight hours at a time. The best times for setbacks are during the day while you’re away at work and at night when everyone is asleep. The longer each setback period is and the further you set the temperature back, the more you’ll save.

Change the temperature by only a degree or two: When you do decide to override the setting, don’t crank the programmable thermostat way up. This doesn’t heat your home any faster and only stands to waste energy.

— Richard Ciresi, Aire Serv

Do a Quick Refrigerator Check



Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/BanksPhotos


Set the Temperature for Energy Efficiency: The optimal refrigerator setting for food safety and energy efficiency is 36 to 38 degrees F. You should also keep the freezer at 0 to 5 degrees F. Setting your appliances any colder than this wastes energy.

Check the Rubber Door Gasket: In order to create a tight seal, refrigerators have a rubber gasket running around the door. Over time, the seal can weaken as the gasket collects debris and wears out with age. When this happens, warm air enters the refrigerator, forcing it to work harder to remove the additional heat. This means higher energy bills and a refrigerator that wears out faster. To help the door gasket last longer, clean it periodically with an all-purpose cleaner. If you suspect the gasket is losing its ability to seal tightly, conduct a simple test: shut the door on a dollar bill and if it slides out easily, the gasket isn’t sealing tightly.

— Team, Mr. Appliance

Prepare Your Garden for Winter

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