Advertisement
Home & Real Estate

7 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Minimize financial damage from Mother Nature's wrath.

1. Protect your pipes. Frozen pipes are among the most common causes of cold-weather damage. Start by wrapping basement and crawl-space pipes with insulation. During protracted cold snaps, open cabinets to allow warm air to flow around the pipes, and let water drip slowly from the faucets to prevent pressure from building up.

2. Reduce your polar ice cap. Roof ice dams caused by melting and refreezing can cause water damage to walls and ceilings. To minimize the danger, keep your attic no more than 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. Use a roof rake ($40 to $60 at Home Depot) to remove packed snow from your roof (don’t try to shovel your roof yourself). For more tips on how to protect your home, go to the Web sites of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

Advertisement - Article continues below

3. Prepare an emergency kit (or two). Keep one in your house and one in your car, suggests Tod Pritchard, of Wisconsin Emergency Management. Include shovels and road salt (or cat litter); first-aid items; food, water and medications; a cell-phone charger that plugs into your car; a battery-powered radio and a flashlight (with extra batteries); a sleeping bag; insurance and emergency information; and some cash. You can get pre-made kits at the Red Cross Store. Also, keep your gas tank at least half-full all winter.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

4. Install a home generator. Many insurers offer discounts for automatic backup generators (usually powered by natural gas or propane). A 7-kilowatt standby generator costs about $2,000 (not including installation) and can power a sump pump, a fridge, a heating system, a few lights and some electronics. Many manufacturers have online tools to help you decide how much power you need. A portable generator costs less than $800 for 7 kilowatts, but it probably won’t qualify for an insurance discount.

Advertisement - Article continues below

5. Get your insurer to pitch in. After all, the insurer saves money when you protect your home. Adding stormproof shutters may reduce your premiums by up to 35%. Snowbirds and frequent travelers, take note: You could get a break for installing a device that automatically shuts off your home’s water supply if it detects unusually high water flow—say, from a burst pipe ($499 at Home Depot).

6. Make sure you’re really covered. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water that seeps into your home from melting snow. For that you’ll need flood coverage; get price quotes at www.floodsmart.gov. Snow melt can also overburden the stormwater system; it usually costs just $50 per year to add a $10,000 to $20,000 sewage-backup rider to your home policy that pays if your sump pump stops working or your sewer line backs up. A battery-powered backup sump pump can help, too ($140 to $280 at Home Depot).

7. Stay warm safely. One of the biggest dangers from furnaces and other sources of heat is carbon monoxide poisoning caused by improper ventilation. Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Also, buy a sturdy screen to keep sparks in the fireplace, and dispose of ashes in a metal container.

Kiplinger's Top 100 Money-Saving Tips are guaranteed to help you save -- and make -- more money. Download them now for $1.99!

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

7 Surprisingly Valuable Assets for a Happy Retirement
happy retirement

7 Surprisingly Valuable Assets for a Happy Retirement

If you want a long and fulfilling retirement, you need more than money. Here are the most valuable retirement assets to have (besides money), and how …
August 3, 2020
Retired? Good Luck Getting a Mortgage, Even If You’re Wealthy
mortgages

Retired? Good Luck Getting a Mortgage, Even If You’re Wealthy

One 70-year-old’s story highlights the challenges. Prepare for more paperwork and hoops to jump through than you could imagine.
August 2, 2020
Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits
Coronavirus and Your Money

Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits

When you file for Social Security, the amount you receive may be lower.
July 30, 2020

Recommended

9 Things You'll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

9 Things You'll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box

Locking up certain important documents and valuables in a bank vault could turn into a headache for you or your heirs.
June 1, 2020
11 Best Things to Keep in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

11 Best Things to Keep in a Safe Deposit Box

Certain documents and valuables, including certain things with sentimental value, should be stored securely at your bank.
June 1, 2020
The Complete Guide to Decluttering
real estate

The Complete Guide to Decluttering

Spending a lot of time at home? What better time to get organized?
May 8, 2020
You Can Still Buy and Sell a Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak
home

You Can Still Buy and Sell a Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

But you’ll have to jump through some hoops to close the deal.
May 7, 2020