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I've had my furnace serviced in time for winter, but what other things should I consider doing before the snow and the ice come?

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4  
Book a holiday in the warm south. –  Tom O'Connor Dec 11 '10 at 12:39

11 Answers 11

HVAC

  • Open cold air returns
  • Prep humidifier: Open intake, turn on water, set thermostat
  • Change furnace filter
  • Test furnace

Electrical

  • Shut off A/C circuit breaker
  • If you have baseboard heaters, turn on any circuit breakers, test heaters
  • Do you have a generator? Does it start? Do you have a plan to connect it if needed?

Outside

  • Clean out my garage so I can get my cars in
  • Lubricate garage door
  • Clean all gutters & check downspouts
  • Clear any debris around foundation

Around the house

  • Check & replace weather stripping
  • Lubricate door hinges & locks (helps prevent them from icing up)

Misc

  • Stock up on road salt or sand
  • Make sure I have plenty of anti-freeze (I can go through a bottle a week sometimes!)
  • Fill and run snow blower
  • Check all my shovels - any need replacement?
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Give your radiator space. When it turns on, it may melt things you set near or on top of it during the warmer months while it was off.

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  • Clean your gutters
  • Make sure your chimney is clean
  • Install storm windows
  • Empty the gas from your mower

and

  • Reverse ceiling fans
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1  
Reverse ceiling fans! I totally forgot that one - and the mower too. Excellent! –  Jeff Yates Nov 17 '10 at 18:24
    
and take the battery out of the mower! –  mohlsen Nov 18 '10 at 13:26
  • If you dont have storm windows, at least take out the screens.
  • Take the battery out of your lawnmower.
  • If you have a septic system with multiple leech fields, rotate them (I do this twice a year).
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Every homeowner will have subtle differences. My list runs like this...

  • Clean gutters.
  • Ensure no leaks in the gutters. (A couple of the joints in our gutters need to be checked on a yearly basis.)
  • Pull the hoses from the hose bibs, shut the valve in the basement. Then blow out the water from the lines to ensure no freeze-ups.
  • Check the outside of the house, the siding, looking for any spots that need caulking, repair, etc.
  • Place mousetraps in the rafters of the garage. (I hate to do it, but this is when rodents are looking to move into someplace warm.)
  • On the last mowing, pull a plug aerator around the lawn, then spread (homemade) compost around those areas which need it. Ground up leaves from this year will serve as a starter for the next batch of compost.
  • Remove the mower deck from the tractor. Lubricate all points on the tractor. Sharpen the blades as necessary, and store the deck in a spot out of the way.
  • Put snow-blade on the tractor.
  • Store away deck/outdoor furniture.
  • Put a container of kitty-litter in the trunk of the car, as well as an ice scraper. Check the wiper blades, replace as needed.
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1  
Mousetraps are no fun. Camp out in the attic with a BB gun! I got a big mouse that way two years ago in my apartment when winter was starting. (Come to think of it, that's when I was still single. I don't think mouse hunting is an option for me anymore.) –  Doresoom Nov 18 '10 at 17:50
1  
Don't miss or you'll have BB sized holes in the house. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Mar 18 '11 at 17:38
    
Even if you're on target you might get a through and through... –  RQDQ Dec 24 '11 at 22:35

Blow out your sprinkler (irrigation) lines so the water does not freeze and break the line or sprinkler heads.

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If you have a fireplace - get the chimney swept/inspected.

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3  
If you don't use your chimney, and it isn't insulated well (allowing cold air in, or hot air out) make sure to put some insulation up against the flue and (if it's not too aesthetically apalling) put up a sheet of 1/2-1" thick Foam Board in the hearth. –  mfg Nov 18 '10 at 14:16

Give your car a once over:

  • Check fluid levels (oil, coolant, brake, steering, transmission)

  • Make sure you top up the washer fluid

  • Check the tires.

    • Check tire pressure, and adjust as necessary
    • Check the treads. If you insert a penny in the tread, and can see the top of Lincoln's head, then you are due for new tires.
    • Double check your spare is in good shape, and is properly inflated

  • Check the battery. If you have any indications that the battery is weak, it will only get worse when the cold hits. If your battery is older than about 5 years, you likely need a replacement.

  • Pack a winter emergency kit for the trunk

    • Blanket/boots/gloves/hand warmer packs
    • Collapsible shovel
    • Salt/Sand/Kitty litter
    • Flashlight
    • Snowbrush/Ice scraper
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2  
Check your wipers too - old wipers will smear that road sludge all over your windshield. –  Steve Jackson Nov 18 '10 at 14:10
    
I'd recommend the fluid level check weekly. That's saved me from some potentially huge repair expenses before! Most people can make it a week with a hidden leak, but beyond that, you could be running something dry and causing damage. Third item is wise to do monthly. Air temperature variations throughout the year will dramatically affect the pressure, and the pressure is critical to proper wear (as well as handling). –  Brian Knoblauch Mar 18 '11 at 17:27

Take the snowblower out of storage. Put a little bit of gas in and make sure that it starts.

No sense in trying to diagnose a small engine problem in the freezing cold (if you can help it).

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2  
+1 Good one! Also make sure you can find your shovel. I tossed mine when clearing out the garage one summer and forgot to buy a new one. Needless to say that first snowfall left 2 foot drifts on my porch steps. –  Steve Jackson Nov 17 '10 at 18:39

Cover your air conditioning condenser to prevent snow/ice buildup.

Before covering, be sure to clean off the coil, and inspect for any damage.

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2  
I've heard conflicting reports on whether I should cover my condenser or not. In fact, our house inspector said that they were designed for outdoors and that completely covering them promotes mold growth. The most he suggested was placing a tray or similar over the top to prevent snow getting inside but to leave the rest uncovered. –  Jeff Yates Nov 17 '10 at 18:18
2  
all you need to do is cover the top...snow isn't getting in on the sides. –  dotjoe Nov 17 '10 at 21:50
    
All the various people that should know have always said do NOT cover it at all. They've all claimed that snow/ice buildup doesn't hurt anything, but that covering it (even leaving the sides open) leads to moisture/mold issues during the thaw. –  Brian Knoblauch Mar 18 '11 at 17:32
    
I use a piece of plywood and a rock. It's not air tight or anything. Just don't want snow and ice inside the A/C unit. –  dotjoe Oct 18 '12 at 20:25

Drain all your garden hoses and insulate external faucets with these. alt text

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2  
Is it common to not have an inside shut-off valve for external hosebibs? One of my shut-off valves doesn't close, so I bought one of the covers. Is it going to be good enough for 0 °F temperatures? –  Vebjorn Ljosa Nov 18 '10 at 9:52
    
@Vebjorn None of the houses I've lived in has ever had an inside shut-off, and it's not uncommon to see a week in the -15 to -20F region during the Winter. Haven't had a problem yet, even on houses with vented crawlspaces (although, I'm always quite nervous on those cold days!). If I run across any of these insulators locally, I'll pickup a couple. Looks like cheap insurance. –  Brian Knoblauch Mar 18 '11 at 17:30

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