Winter Weatherizing Tips for Your Insureds

Old Man Winter is right around the corner, bringing in additional property exposures and energy bills (especially now with the high cost of oil and electricity). Heavy piles of snow, for example, can cause a roof to collapse. Water pipes can freeze and burst, flooding a home.

Whether dealing with snow, ice storms, hail, or other weather hazards, it’s time for homeowners and property investors with rentals to winter weatherize their properties. Following are some tips you can share with your insureds.

Weatherize the Outside

  • Inspect the roof: Have the roof inspected for broken or missing shingles. If shingles need repair, be sure to have this done before the winter weather hits. If shingles are missing, speak to a roofer about whether roof replacement is required.
  • Rake the roof: Use roof rakes to keep snow from accumulating on your roof.
  • Trim branches: Trim any overhanging branches on the roof to prevent shingles and gutters from being damaged. Heavy snow can bring extending branches down and endanger the home and any passersby. Clean up all the leaves and dirt accumulated on the roof.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts to keep water from backing up and damaging the roof and keep mold from growing inside the pipes.
  • Check the handrails: Look for loose rails and clean up any standing water to keep people from slipping on driveways.
  • Inspect the crawlspaces and basement area: Clean any moisture and debris accumulated in the crawlspaces. Standing water can enter the home through cracks in the floor. Install a vapor barrier to keep moisture out and mold at bay.

Weatherize Windows

Prepare windows for optimal insulation in the upcoming winter months.

  • Caulk the windows: Use caulking to fill in gaps and cracks around doors and non-movable window components like window frames.
  • Weatherstrip the windows: Weatherstrip the doors and movable parts of the windows to prevent air leaks. Apply the strip between the window frame and sash, taking care not to obstruct window operation.
  • Install film insulation: To increase protection during the colder months, install film insulation on your window glass. The film improves the ability of your window to retain heat.
  • Install draft stoppers: Put draft stoppers at the bottom of a window frame to keep cool air out.

Air escaping from under doors and joints has a significant impact on the temperature of a home. The heating system will struggle to keep your desired temperature when hot air is constantly escaping. Weatherizing the doors will seal all air leaks and allow a homeowner to enjoy a comfortable winter indoors. This includes caulking the doors, weatherstripping the door jambs, and installing draft guards at the bottom of the door to prevent air exchange.

Preventing Ice Dams

Freezing temperatures frequently cause ice dams to form on the roof. They form when snow on the roof melts, moves down, and refreezes near the edges. Warm air from the attic causes the ice to melt, but when it gets close to the edge, there is no warm air, so it refreezes.

Ice dams are destructive because they damage the shingles on the roof and gutter system and cause water to back up inside the home. Furthermore, they cause the ceiling to sag, which is dangerous. Mold and mildew can also thrive in the house.

  • Install de-icing cables: These electric heating wires keep ice from refreezing on the edges. They are secured with clips and can last for years on your roof.
  • Install attic insulation to prevent heat transfer, which causes the thaw/freeze cycle.
  • Clean the gutters: Remove debris that has accumulated in the gutters.
  • Install intake and exhaust vents to ventilate your attic: Intake vents are located on the roof’s underside, while exhaust vents are on top. Warm air will exit through exhaust vents with the help of ventilation.

Protect Against Frozen Pipes

The pipes in a home are prone to freezing in frigid temperatures, which can cause significant damage such as pipes bursting and flooding the house. According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), one in 50 insured homes has a water damage or freezing claim each year, including from a burst pipe. The average cost of a water damage or freezing claim is $11,098.

  • Use freeze protection mode: One of the best ways to protect pipes is to use this mode on your ductless heat pump. The heat pump operates at a low temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit and consumes little power. The heat pump continuously circulates hot air, preventing the temperature from falling below freezing.
  • Fill in any gaps or cracks in the pipes: Seal the windows and doors around the pipes to keep cold air out.
  • Inspect and insulate all pipes, especially those in unheated areas such as your garage, attic, bathrooms, and basement.
  • Wrap heat tape around pipes to prevent them from freezing: When connected to a power outlet, it is an electric cable emitting heat.
  • Leave the faucets slightly open: Because flowing water does not freeze, leave the taps open at night. Place a bowl beneath the flange to prevent water waste.

Check the Ductwork

The ductwork transports warm air from the HVAC unit to the rest of the house. Have the ductwork inspected before the heating season starts to check the HVAC unit’s overall health.

  • Ductwork maintenance: Contact a professional for a proper checkup.
  • Look for holes and cracks: These may not be visible, as they are small. Turn on the HVAC system at full power to check for airflow through holes. Most leaks occur where the two ducts are joined. Place a hand near these joints to feel the air escape.
  • Use mastic air duct sealant to seal leaks.

Reverse Ceiling Fan Blade Direction

Homeowners can save energy and stay comfortable with ceiling fans even in the dead of winter. Just switch the fan blades’ direction from counter-clockwise to clockwise to make the fan push down and circulate warmer air.

Additional winter-weatherizing tips include checking the fireplace and cleaning it before it’s used. Also, check the furnace to ensure dirt and debris haven’t built up, which will cause inefficiencies, increased energy bills, and safety risks.