The Dallas-Fort Worth region is far from the coldest place in the country, but we still experience a significant change in the weather come wintertime. There are many areas homeowners may overlook which can lead to costly home insurance claims that may be avoidable altogether. From your home’s pipes to your roof and everything in between, take a closer look at these helpful hints for “winterizing” your home.
Inspect and Clean Your Chimney and Fireplace
Staying warm during the winter is a must and while it may be tempting to gather around the fire, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe to do so first. You need to ensure that your chimney is free of debris and clean as the buildup is known as creosote can cause a fire. Creosote is different than soot and is made up of various by-products of a fire that build up in your chimney as it cools from the heated fireplace below.
It is important to note that what makes creosote so dangerous is that it is flammable. Creosote is also found in a very hard-to-reach area. Combined with an active fuel source, your fireplace, and an airway, your home’s chimney, and you have a recipe for disaster if the proper steps aren’t taken beforehand.
An annual chimney inspection can do wonders for protecting your home as a professional is capable of cleaning your chimney safely as well as looking for lesser-known defects. Damages to your home’s chimney or fireplace can also produce dangerous conditions, and cleaning prevents fires. Of course, there are other things homeowners can do to ensure their homes are protected while lighting a fire this season:
- Bob Vila recommends using only seasoned hardwoods dried for a minimum of six months and containing less than 21% moisture to prevent creosote buildup.
- If you skip on your chimney inspection, be sure to clear debris such as bird nests, branches, and any other objects from your chimney before lighting a fire.
- Check your roof and chimney for any damage that could lead to structural issues or fires.
- Trim any trees with branches that may reach over your home’s chimney.
- Test your home’s smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.
- Be sure that your home’s gas lines are in working condition and always turned off when not in use.
On average, a chimney inspection and cleaning can run a couple of hundred dollars. Hiring a professional for an inspection and cleaning is much less than the tens of thousands of dollars in damage and safety risks a house fire can bring.
Have Your HVAC Inspected
Your home’s air conditioner carries the load for keeping your home comfortable most of the year in North Texas, but the winter is your furnace’s time to shine. It is recommended that homeowners have their HVAC systems serviced twice a year. Once before the harsh summers, we all know too well. The other time a technician should look at your home’s HVAC system is before winter picks up. Having a tune-up can ensure that your heating system works adequately and can identify smaller problems before they turn into larger, costly ones. It will also help you save money on energy costs as your furnace will be working efficiently to heat your home.
Clear Your Gutters and Drainage From Debris
Leaves falling during autumn can be a fun and beautiful sight, but clogged gutters and drains can lead to serious damage. You’ll want to clear your gutters to prevent water from getting stuck and potentially frozen. The damage from the weight of ice and snow can add up quickly and include property damage as well as possible liability and medical expenses should something fall on a visitor to your property or household member. You should also be sure that any drainage of water is going away from your home.
Seal Air Leaks to Prevent Ice Dams and Save Energy
Homes with air leaks or inadequate amounts of insulation can fall victim to ice dams. These dams can stop water from leaving your home’s roof and cause damage and icicles. An ice dam is created by heated air from inside of your home leaking into a poorly insulated attic and melting snow until it meets at the eaves of your roof and forms an icy dam. Make sure that your home is properly insulated to avoid such issues, save on energy costs, and keep your home warmer throughout the winter.
Remember Your Faucets, Irrigation Systems, and Detached Structures
Protecting your home extends to the other areas of your property. There are many different water sources on your property that are not a part of your home. Wrapping your outdoor faucets can also help you avoid burst pipes, although, you’ll want to ensure that the cloth you are using isn’t becoming wet causing your faucet to get colder.
Sprinkler systems help keep your lawn looking its best year-round, but in the winter, plants go dormant and won’t need the same water schedule. Having a professional drain your sprinklers can help you avoid burst pipes during the offseason where they are not needed.
Furthermore, many homes with sheds or detached garages may also have pipes used for water including sinks, showers, faucets, etc. Many detached structures lack the same level of insulation as your home making them imperative to avoid overlooking. Take the same precautions as you would in and outside of your home for your detached structures to help mitigate burst pipes and water damage.
Prepare for Possible Blackouts
Millions of Texans were affected in 2021 due to a winter storm causing blackouts across the Lone Star State. This isn’t a message to hoard, however, collecting the necessary supplies in the event electricity is not an option can help homeowners protect themselves, their families, and their homes. Make a checklist of important items such as portable radios, gasoline, non-perishable foods, charcoal, batteries, etc., and be sure to secure these supplies before a storm strikes. You’ll also need to know where your home’s water shutoff valves are in the event that you’ll need to shut off your water. This can help you avoid burst pipes and water damage.
Don’t Make Your Home a Target With Gifts
No matter what you celebrate, for millions of Americans winter means the holidays, and the holidays often mean gifts. The good news is that burglaries are usually down in the winter due to the obnoxious cold temperatures many Americans face, but they still occur. There are many ways homeowners can protect themselves from ne’er-do-wells looking to score on your hard-earned valuables:
- Security systems and cameras can help deter theft before it even occurs.
- Keep an eye out for any suspicious activities around your home or property.
- Cutting unruly bushes and having a clean line of sight is another great way to deter criminals looking for cover to break into your home.
- Avoid putting large boxes displaying that valuables have been purchased near the road for your trash. Instead, make sure that everything is within your garbage cans away from a criminal’s eye. (i.e. TV boxes, name-brand appliances, electronics packaging, etc.)
Protect Your Home With the Right Home Insurance Policy
Your home insurance policy can help you protect from the various perils winter may bring. A standard home insurance policy (HO-3) can protect your home from hail, ice, and water damage of a sudden and accidental nature, burst pipes, fire damage, burglaries, and more. Freedom Insurance Group helps homeowners throughout Texas find the right coverage for their homes all while saving money.
Instead of working for a particular home insurance brand, our agents work for you. We compare your home insurance policy among our 25+ top-rated partners to find the lowest rate on the market without cutting your coverage. Get a free home insurance quote or contact us today to stay protected this winter.