Pennsylvania is a beautiful state that is lucky enough to experience all four seasons in all their glory each year. Here in Western PA we have lush, green Springs, warm, sunny Summers, crisp, colorful Autumns…and that one season we all try to forget each year: Winter. It usually starts in late November with the first powdery white snow fall. It charms its way into our hearts at first, filling us with nostalgia and cheer…until the temperature drops into the tens, our gutters start to freeze, and we have to get up before dawn just to heat our cars and shovel walkways! Needless to say, Pittsburghers are familiar with the harsh realities of the season, and we’ve become experts at all-things-home-maintenance for winter, from energy saving hacks to damage prevention. If you are new to the area, new to your home, or are just looking for some ways to lessen the stress so you can curl up by the fireplace with your cocoa—have no fear! Here are some tips and tricks to prepare your home for a Pittsburgh Winter:
A (Ceiling) Fan Favorite…
Quick science refresher: hot air rises! So in a room, especially one with high ceilings, it can be challenging to heat the whole space and not spend a pretty penny doing so. A neat energy saving tip from Energy Star is to reverse the direction your ceiling fan is spinning. This will produce an updraft that will push the hot air down to the living spaces, and let you turn down the thermostat a few degrees!
You’re Ice-Dammed If You Don’t (Check Your Roof and Insulation)
An ice dam is an accumulation of ice on the eaves of a sloped roof caused by the melting and refreezing of snow. The build-up of ice often causes water from the melted snow to leak into openings in the roof and cause a lot of water damage. Whether you choose DIY or consult an expert, searching for and repairing areas of poor insulation or leaks in the roofing can save you tons, and even prevent ice dams from forming at all.
Is Your Heater Running? Well You Better Go Catch It!
It’s hard to imagine a more frustrating scenario than your heat suddenly going out in the dead of winter. It’s inconvenient, often expensive and let’s not forget COLD. For a much lower price tag ($80-$100) have an inspector come give everything a tune up and make sure that furnace or heat pump is running like a well-oiled machine. This will ensure that your system is working at its maximum efficiency for the season, and you’ll get a bonus test of Carbon Monoxide levels!
Caulk This Way!
This might seem self-explanatory, but it’s easy to miss the smaller gaps that form in the caulking between siding and windows and doors. Take a quick look around your home and seal up those leaks before you hunker down this Winter. Experts recommend silicone caulk, because its durable and shrink-proof. Find some here!
Get Your Mind INTO The Gutter!
If possible, try to get up there before the first freeze of the season! If you’re in Pittsburgh, you know that already happened, but it’s never too late! Removing dead leaves and other such objects from your gutters can help prevent roof and siding damage to your home. If you DIY it’s free, but affordable gutter-cleaning pros near you are just a Google search away. Check out www.ImproveNet.com for an estimate in your area!
Chimney Sweeps Aren’t Just for Mary Poppins
There’s nothing cozier than enjoying relaxation time in front of the fireplace on a cold evening. No one wants to think anything bad could ever come from that! However, it’s an important responsibility to brush up on some fire-safety basics before we go into hibernation for the year. Have a chimney inspector come and check things out to make sure your chimney is free of debris and in good repair. You want to keep the fire contained in the fireplace, and not the chimney flue! 16% of structure fires and almost 20% of civilian fire-related deaths between 2010-2014 were caused by heating equipment—fireplaces included. So get that chimney cleaned, and don’t forget to replace batteries in your smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms!
Sprinkler Systems: Drain or Be Drained (of funds)
You’re going to have to get the pros involved on this one, but it will save you in the long run. Expect to be charged $50-$150 based on the size of your irrigation system, but make sure to get it drained out to avoid freezing and bursting!
The “Mower” The Merrier
If you have some leaves piling up on your lawn, you’ll be happy to know that end-of-season raking is sooo last year. The hot new trend is mowing your leaves instead! That’s right, studies show that mowing your leaves into mulch helps to fertilize your lawn under all that snow, leaving you with lush, nourished grass for the Spring!
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