winterize your home

How to Properly Winterize Your Home (in 3 Hours or Less)

It’s getting to be that point in the year again. It’s time to bundle up, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and winterize your home fast.

I know you’re not looking for 35 ways to do it or some massive list of tips for this one. You just want to do it and get it over with quickly, so you can spend that precious snow day with your kids outside sledding or building snowmen.

So instead of giving you a whole slew of tips you’ll never actually use, I wanted to create a post dedicated to helping you winterize your entire home in three hours or less.

No need to do everything on here, but even if you do, it should only take you about three hours or less to complete.

Before we dive right in, let’s get one thing straight. When I say how to “winterize” your home, I mean how to prepare it for the cold, winter months as best we can to avoid any problems that might arise.

The goal here is to make sure that: 1) your pipes don’t burst, 2) your home stays as warm as possible, and 3) you save as much money on your heat bill as you can.

Now let’s get started.

1 – Flush Your Hot Water Heater

Even if you’ve never flushed your hot water heater before, it shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes to do it.

Believe it or not, sediment and gunk collect in the bottom of your water heater. This hinders its efficiency, makes it work overtime, and can even ruin the machine at the time you need it most unless you flush it out.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to do it:

  1. Turn the knob on your hot water heater’s thermostat to “Off.”
  2. Turn off the gas to your hot water heater.
  3. Turn off the cold water supply to your hot water heater.
  4. Turn on the hot water in a nearby sink or tub and leave it on until you’re done flushing.
  5. Open the pressure relief valve.
  6. Connect a garden hose to the drainage spigot.
  7. Turn on the spigot and drain the water into a bucket until the sediment is gone.
  8. Lastly, turn on the cold water spigot leading into your hot water tank and let it run for a few minutes until the water leaving your hose runs clear.

After you’ve flushed your hot water heater, make sure you do all of the following:

  1. Turn off the drainage spigot and disconnect your hose.
  2. Close the pressure relief valve.
  3. Turn off the water on your sink or tub that you originally turned on.
  4. Turn on the cold water spigot leading to your hot water heater.
  5. After the tank is full, open the pressure relief valve to let off any excess air.
  6. Turn on the hot water spigot of a sink or tub to get the air out of the system. (Note: Cold water should be coming out of the faucet by now. Turn it off.)
  7. Turn the gas back on to your hot water heater.
  8. Re-light the pilot light on your hot water heater and turn the thermostat back to “On.”
  9. If you have an electric hot water heater, flip the breaker switch on your electrical panel that gives power to your hot water heater.
  10. Lastly, wait 15 minutes for the water to heat up, and turn on a hot water spigot in your house to ensure hot water is actually coming out.

I know this might seem like a lot, but – like I said – the whole process should take you under 20 minutes.

2 – Set Your Ceiling Fans to Rotate Clockwise

This one is really easy.

Almost every ceiling fan has a pull string or switch that lets you change the direction of the blades.

Get all of your ceiling fans to move in a clockwise direction. This will make them push hot air along the ceiling down toward the floor. Doing this pushes the hot air down toward you and helps keep your rooms toasty warm.

3 – Put Up Window Insulation Film

Windows tend to let a lot of cold air in through tiny cracks, especially in older houses. However, I’ve even seen it in new construction homes too. Windows also end up letting a ton of hot air escape.

Your significant other might consider this a fashion faux pas, but putting up window installation film can help prevent 70% of your heat from leaking out of your windows. That’s a staggering statistic.

Insulating all of your windows should only take you an hour, but it will save you a bundle on your heating bills and significantly cut down on drafts and lost heat.

Here’s how to put up the film:

  • Step 1: Clean your window and window frame with some warm water and dish soap. Window film typically comes with adhesive tape that you’ll need to be apply around the window frame. After you wiped the window frame clean and it dried, apply that adhesive tape and remove the paper cover.
  • Step 2: Use a tape measure to find out the exact dimensions of your window and add an extra inch to each side. After doing that, cut the film to those measurements. Do this for every window you want to insulate.
  • Step 3: Starting with the top corner (either left or right is fine), attach the window film to the adhesive tape. Feel free to reposition the tape until you get a really good fit. Make sure to use your hands to smooth out any bumps or wrinkles.
  • Step 4: Lastly, use a blow dryer to adhere the film. Start by going around the border of your window frame and then blow the hot air over any remaining wrinkles. Avoid having the blow dryer touch the plastic.

4 – Clean Out Your Gutters

dirty gutters

Get that ladder out, it’s time to clean your gutters. That’s right – get all those leaves, twigs, and who knows what else out of there!

Having clean gutters ensures that rainwater and melting snow can flow freely through your gutters instead of freezing and forming icicles.

Fifteen minutes of cleaning can save you a whole world of hassle down the line.

You’ll thank me later when you’re sitting by the fireplace instead of thawing out a busted up frozen gutter or dealing with water damage.

5 – Install Draft Guards

It’ll take you more time to find the best draft guard on Amazon or in your local big box store than it will to slide them under your door. Needless to say, this will only take a couple of minutes, and it’s really easy to actually slide under your door.

This might sound obvious, but your exterior doors are likely leaking heat as you read this. You need to stop this immediately.

To properly winterize your home, install a draft guard under your front door. It will prevent the heat in your house from rushing out while keeping the cold air out too.

For any other rooms that get considerably drafty, think about investing in a couple more draft guards for them too.

6 – Replace Your Furnace Filter

change furnace filter

When winter calls, it’s usually a good idea to change your HVAC filter again. Your central air and heating system has a filter that can get pretty gross.

If you don’t replace it from time to time, it can prevent heat from properly circulating throughout your home even though you’ll be paying your utility company as if it was.

To easily change your HVAC filter, follow these quick steps:

  1. Shut your HVAC unit off.
  2. Open up the access panel on the unit to get to the filter.
  3. Remove the old HVAC filter.
  4. Insert the new HVAC filter (Note: Make sure to pay attention to the arrows on the sides of the filter. They point in the direction that the air is flowing. If your ductwork bringing air into the furnace is on the right of the furnace, make sure the arrow on the filter is also pointing right.)
  5. Close the access panel.
  6. Turn your HVAC unit back on.

7 – Caulk Gaps in Windows and Siding

If you take a really close look at the exterior of your house, right near your windows and siding you’ll probably notice some gaps and cracks.

While they may be small, they’re just big enough to let in cold air and to force out hot air. A simple fix and one of my favorite ways to quickly winterize your home is by caulking as many of these gaps and cracks as possible.

If you feel a bit of a draft coming from a certain window or door, make sure to apply a generous amount of caulk to seal the area completely.

For any newbies out there, follow this procedure to apply caulk like a professional:

  1. Buy a squeezable caulk that doesn’t require a caulk gun.
  2. Cut the nozzle of the caulk toward the top at a 45 degree angle with a utility knife.
  3. Align the nozzle with the surface of your window (or wherever you plan on caulking).
  4. Apply steady pressure to the tube.
  5. Gently and evenly move the tube with your hand in as straight a line as possible.
  6. Do your best to cover all the cracks and gaps you see.
  7. Lightly drag a caulk finishing tool or putty knife over the bead to smooth it out. If you’d prefer to use your finger, make sure you wet it first.
  8. Wait 24 hours for the caulk to dry.

Once you get the hang of it, you can caulk all of the problem areas in your home in under 45 minutes (depending on the size of your house).

8 – Protect Your Pipes

When it gets really chilly out, unprotected pipes can freeze. This usually happens when temperatures fall below freezing, but you’d be surprised how many pipes freeze or burst even when it’s a bit above that.

Be sure to keep your heat above 60 degrees to avoid trouble, and make sure to insulate your pipes in all unheated areas.

Snowbirds, when you plan on heading south for the winter, don’t forget to turn off your water completely.

For those of us staying at home in the winter months, consider dripping cold water in the farthest faucet from your main valve. This can be a godsend because moving water helps prevent your pipes from freezing.

Another easy trick is to simply open up the cabinets where your sinks and vanities are located to warm the pipes. When they’re tucked away inside the cabinets or cupboards, they rarely get heated.

Lastly, turn off the water to your outside spigots and drain all water from the line.

If a pipe bursts, try not to panic (although it will be hard not to) and quickly shut off your main water valve. Unless you know a thing or two about plumbing, I highly recommend calling a licensed plumber to fix the issue. It might be a lot worse than one pipe.

9 – Replace Weather Stripping on Exterior Doors and Windows

weather stripping

Do yourself a favor and inspect the weather stripping all around your exterior doors to ensure that they’re in good shape. Open up the door and look at the weather stripping. If any part of it is ripped or missing, cold air is getting in and hot air is escaping.

Now close the door and check for gaps all along the four sides of the door. If you can see sunlight through the door, then that particular spot needs new weather stripping.

Depending on how old your home is, it might be worth investing in a door sweep to help block out the cold.

Last but not least, if you have a garage, check the weather stripping on it too. If it looks like it needs to be replaced, you should definitely do so. Don’t put it off, it will take far less time than you think.

Here’s how to replace your weatherstripping:

  1. Use pliers to remove all of the old weatherstripping along each side of your door.
  2. Clean the portion of the door where the old weatherstripping was in order to better adhere new the weatherstripping.
  3. Take the new weatherstripping and gently insert it into your door jam starting from the bottom to ensure a good seal and bring it all the way to the top. Push it in as you go to securely adhere it.
  4. Cut any excess that you might be left with.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the remaining sides of your door.

10 – Head to the Attic

One of the biggest culprits is your attic. You might need to replace your insulation or spend some time sealing gaps and voids to prevent cold air from coming in.

If you’ve already been up to your attic at least once or twice before and know the lay of the land up there, this shouldn’t take much time at all.

Even if you manage to simply seal only two or three gaps, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your home warmer in the winter and saving a bundle on your heat bill.

While you’re up there, check to see if your insulation looks old and dilapidated. It will be pretty easy to tell.

If you need to replace your insulation, this too is a quick job once you’ve purchased the actual insulation material.

Your insulation was either blown in or consists of sheets (usually pink) layered throughout. All you need to do to replace your insulation is remove the old insulation and carefully replace it with the new sheets.

When you roll it out, you’ll need to cut it to size with a utility knife. Make sure to avoid leaving any gaps and be careful near spots for any recessed lighting.

Wrapping Up

There you have it folks. These ten things are really all you need to do to quickly winterize your entire house, and all of them together should take even an inexperienced person only around 3 hours to do.

So go ahead and put them all on your to-do list. I bet you can knock them all out on a lazy Sunday morning.

If you’re interested in reading more of my posts on DIY home repair, you can check them out here.

Wishing you a warm, happy, and problem-free winter!

Want to find out how to get your home ready for summer and warm weather? Check out this post. (You’ll be glad you did!)

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