Schultheis Bros. of Pittsburgh, PA, Has the Tips for Winterizing Your Home


Don’t Get Left Out in the Cold this Winter

An Artic blast, polar vortex, cold snap, or whatever describes the winter these days is heading for the Pittsburgh area sometime this coming winter. You can bet on it! That’s why we’ve listed some tips here to help you winterize your home and save on heating costs this year.

Note: Although we will be briefly mentioning your home’s HVAC system at times, the plan is to have an entire blog that discusses how to prepare your HVAC system for the upcoming heating season in a separate blog later this month.


Have you checked the air filters?

True, this is an HVAC issue, but it is so critical that it bears repeating over and over again.

Clogged air filters not only add to poor air quality but also put a severe strain on your heating (and cooling) system, lessening its output and increasing your energy bills.

Clogged air filters could even result in a house that’s cold with the heat running. To begin, the system is working harder to heat your home, and when you combine this with some of the other everyday issues, the heat simply isn’t making it to the preferred spaces of the house.

Regularly changing your system’s air filters is possibly the most critical maintenance task homeowners should pay attention to. Poor air quality and a reduction in efficiency are likely the first issues you’ll detect. But over time, clogged filters can also permanently damage your HVAC system. Lint, fibers, mold and mildew spores, pollen, dirt, and dust are just some of the items that are trapped by the air filter. If these particles and contaminants are allowed to accumulate, the heat won’t get through as effectively.


Have you inspected the chimney and fireplace?

Gathering around a cozy fireplace is one of winter’s pleasures, but the chimney and fireplace can be a chief source of cold air. To block drafts, it’s best to perform a pre-heating season check-up. First, check for bird or squirrel nests with a robust flashlight. You should also examine the flue and the open and close switch to ensure this is functioning properly.

A simple way to check if there is an obstacle that isn’t visible in the chimney is lighting several pieces of newspaper on fire to find out if the smoke goes up and out through the chimney. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to clean the chimney, which is most likely best left to a professional.


Have you taken steps to prevent frozen pipes?

Water has a distinct property in that it expands as it freezes. Pipes that freeze with minimal effort are those most susceptible to severe cold. This includes small faucet attachments on the outer wall of your home that facilitates your access to water in your backyard, driveway, and the like, water lines for swimming pools, sprinkler system lines, as well as pipes that run against exterior walls that have little to no insulation.

Closing inside valves that supply outside faucets plus draining water lines can be pretty effective in stopping pipes from bursting. Insulating water pipes with a “pipe sleeve” will also offer a level of insulation and defense for exposed pipes.

Whether your home is a bit older or brand new, you’ll also want to make sure you’re paying attention to your water lines located in the attic or crawl spaces. First-time homeowners should be alert to the areas of their piping that can be exposed to harsh winds and cold temperatures.

Water lines in crawl spaces ought to be wrapped in insulation with heat tape. It’s also important to make sure that the heat tape is plugged in and working. Some crawl spaces have vents that let air circulate, so you’ll want to be sure to close these in the winter to protect the water lines from cold drafts.

If you are shutting down a vacant property for several months, you need always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system before the onset of cold weather.


Do you promote mold growth?

Mold spores are all around us, but mold growth can be averted. In order to grow, mold needs moisture, warmth, and food. During the winter season, make sure the humidity levels inside your house are not too high. Using a humidifier can create circumstances that promote mold growth. That’s why it’s smart to clean and regularly vacuum to help to remove the potential sources of mold growth. Making sure exhaust fans are functioning properly and are suitably vented is also key in keeping moisture levels, particularly in the kitchen and the bathroom, in check.


Do you open vents and rearrange the furniture?

You should perform a quick check of all the vents in your house to be sure they are completely open in the rooms you want to be heated. These vents also need to be clear of objects to heat your home appropriately.

Blocking or covering vents with large furniture such as couches or beds means the heat you pay for will be soaked up into upholstery, leaving rooms continuously cold.

The same goes if you have radiator heat; if you muddle up the airflow, your heating system only works harder and less efficiently to heat your home. By keeping long curtains and furniture clear of your heat delivery, airflow is uninterrupted and can flow in and around your rooms as intended.


Do you have an open-door policy?

Yes, closing doors are great for hiding clutter and gaining some privacy, but it’s not okay for airflow. Leave your doors open to allow cool air to flow out into the main area to have an effect on the temperature reading.

This is important since most homes are not zoned and have only one thermostat to control the temperature for the entire house. Moreover, sealed rooms can be a common reason that a room is cold even with the heat on.


Do you have chilly walls and high ceilings?

Cold walls are a result of an insulation issue which is often solved by simply doing some work in your attic.

Heat travels through drywall, and if the top of your wall opens into your attic, your heat goes straight up, never to return. Fitting a board to cover this gap and sealing it with foam is generally all you need to do.

If your home has a vaulted ceiling, you’re apt to lose plenty of heat from your lower level by the simple scientific fact that heat rises. The beauty of this problem is that the heat isn’t lost; it’s merely traveled upward. If you have a ceiling fan in this area, set it to blow the air downward and enjoy a warmer lower level from this surprising solution.


Do you attempt to keep the heat inside?

One of the best ways to stay warm is to ensure your home isn’t leaking heat. Up to a third of a typical home’s heat loss occurs through windows and doors. Air can also leak into or out of the house by way of cracks and gaps inside your home, such as electrical outlets, baseboards, and attic hatches.

You should seal around these openings to make your home less drafty and keep the warm air inside. Caulking leaks can save an average household 10 to 20 percent on annual heating (and cooling) bills. Weather-stripping windows can save you an additional 5 to 10 percent annually.

To help keep chilly air from leaking through window cracks, swap out the lightweight summer curtains with thicker curtains or drapes. They’ll keep your home warm and lower your heating bill. Some curtains have a thermal lining, which not only helps prevent winter drafts but can also lessen summer heat.

Keep in mind, however, that opening curtains and shades to the sunlight is a great way to heat your house naturally (and for free). Close your curtains as dusk falls to maximize your home’s potential to retain the heat.


Do you choose the right lights and appliances?

Shopping for new devices and appliances? Check out the ENERGY STAR website for information on which models have received the blue-and-while label for being the most efficient on the market, meaning your utility bills will be lower.

Need to replace light bulbs? Choose LEDs. They’ll keep you well-lit while saving you money. Just one LED bulb could save you $50 or more over the course of its lifetime, and the average household has at least 40 light sockets, so savings can quickly add up.


Are you roof-ready?

Snow, rain, ice, and wind can make it challenging for your home to stand up to winter’s fury. Of special concern should be your roof. You can get a head start on winterizing your roof with a few key steps:

  • Inspect the roof. Look out for broken, worn, curled, or missing shingles, clogged valleys, damaged flashing, or wear and tear.
  • Clear leaves, pine needles, dirt, and other gathered debris from the roof.
  • Cut back overhanging branches to avoid damage to shingles and gutters.
  • Install roof heat cables to prevent ice dams from growing.
  • Check the attic and ceilings for stains from water leaks. While you’re up there, be sure the attic is adequately ventilated to help prevent mold and mildew.
  • If you live in an area more prone to snow, invest in a snow roof rake.


Do you employ smart devices?

Smart home devices are all the craze these days and are important if you want to winterize your home truly. For example, you can employ a smart water leak detector near your boiler or water heater to warn you in case of leakage. You can also use a smart mattress heating pad to keep you warm and cozy all night.

For central heating systems, smart thermostats can be employed to maintain an ideal home climate. If you have a ductless heat pump, smart AC controllers should be your go-to device to automate your ductless heating (and cooling) units. With smart climate control devices, you can set up schedules for the entire week and use temperature and humidity triggers to maintain the ideal environment.


Have you checked outdoors?

You should cover patio furniture and consider giving your deck a fresh coat of sealer before winter sets in. Drain gas from the mower or just let it run until it’s out of gas. Drain any water fountains and unplug the pumps for the winter months.

Perhaps the most unheeded step in winterizing your home is protecting your outdoor conditioner/condensing unit from wet leaves and debris that can trigger freezing and rusting of internal components. A plain waterproof cover will go a long way in extending the unit’s life, particularly in the winter months.


Do you have an energy audit performed?

Among all the tips on winterizing your home, knowing how to cut down your energy costs just might be the most crucial. So, as the winter season approaches, call your local power company to conduct an energy audit of your home. A company professional will suggest changes to make your home more energy-efficient to lower energy bills and increase comfort.


Questions or concerns?

Please contact the professionals at Schultheis Brothers with any questions you might have about winterizing your home for the upcoming heating season.