The weather is starting to change, we are entering those warm days of fall where the mornings are brisk and the afternoons are warm. The leaves are starting to turn orange and yellow here in Mount Vernon, Washington, the kids are back in school and it will soon be time to start making plans for the holidays as winter is on its way. Before winter arrives, there is plenty of time to prep your home, both inside and out, for the coming cold months. Some simple winterization prep can save you from a costly homeowner’s insurance claim from frozen pipes or huge heating bills from drafty spots in your home.
Four areas to focus your winterization in Washington:
- Water, water everywhere: Gutters can get jammed up with leaves, branches and other debris. Once the leaves have fallen from the trees, grab a ladder and gently remove the debris from the gutters. Then, rinse the bottoms of the gutter to ensure good flow of water for those winter showers. If your gutters become clogged, rainwater can accumulate around the foundation of your home and possibly seep into the foundation or basement, in which case, you should check for cracks in your foundation and fill them, pronto. A flooded basement can result in a costly homeowner’s insurance claim. Also, anytime you are using a ladder or plan to be on your roof, please let someone know or have someone working with you. An extra pair of hands and eyes can help prevent painful accidents.
- Where is that draft coming from: The cold winter draft that is leaking in around your doors, windows and from your attic. Take a candle or piece of incense around your home on a windy day and go near doors, windows and attic to look for wind making its way into your home. If your attic has less than 12” of insulation, regardless of where in the country, you should consider adding more. It is an easy do-it-yourself project; any home improvement store should have the tools to help you complete that. It you have single-pane windows you can purchase an inexpensive window insulation kit to add another “pane” to the glass. This keeps the cold air trapped between another layer instead of entering your home. Other areas drafts can creep in are: recessed lighting, door frames and electrical outlets. A variety of caulks, gaskets and weather-stripping is available at any local hardware store.
- Keep warm: Do your heating bills spike up during the winter? Aside from performing the aforementioned “draft tests” checking that heating equipment is in good repair may help keep that heating bill down. The furnace can run much more efficiently if it has a clean filter in it. Consider changing your filter once a month. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves in efficiency gains. Also think about checking out your duct insulation. Ducting in homes can become exposed from being bumped in the attic or crawlspace over time and there are huge efficiency losses from this. Ensure your ducts are covered with insulation and not exposed. Also, check for any leaks in connections while the system is running. Speaking of exposure, pipes that are exposed during the cold winter may freeze and explode if not properly insulated. Protect any exposed water pipes with insulation, if a pipe bursts in winter it can cause thousands of dollars in damages. It takes just a few minute to insulate your pipes, a step that can save a headache down the road.
- Do you smell smoke: Turning on the fireplace is a winter tradition, whether it is a gas or natural wood fireplace. It can also be a hazard if your chimney is dirty. A cleaned chimney will remove creosote, a flammable byproduct of burning wood. Keep your home safe from chimney fires by hiring a professional chimney sweep to remove any build-up. Make sure you are prepared if a fire does break out with a fire extinguisher (it may qualify you for a discount on your homeowner’s insurance in Mount Vernon, WA) and make sure you have fresh batteries in your smoke detectors. It is always a good idea to check your batteries in the smoke detectors a couple times per year. Count this as one.
While you are taking the time to prep your home for the upcoming winter, talk to your licensed insurance agent in Skagit County to ensure the homeowners insurance covers events like floods or fires that may occur during the winter months. Wycoff Insurance Agency in Mount Vernon, Washington can guide you through your homeowners insurance policy and add additional coverages like flood insurance and earthquake insurance. Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle, and they live right in your area, so know first-hand what your insurance needs might be. You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about the other insurance products they offer.