Canadian winters can take a heavy toll on our homes… and our wallets. Keeping your family warm and cozy takes a substantial bite out of your budget and the potential cost of seasonal damage to your property can turn anyone into a Grinch, but you can prevent that! Learn how to winterize a cottage or home by following these easy tips.
It also never hurts to review what your home insurance policy covers in winter!
1. Clean your eaves troughs
Who doesn’t love the sight of icicles hanging off the roof of a house? Well, if it’s your house, you should probably scowl. They are gorgeous to look at but are an indication that water isn’t draining from your roof properly. The presence of icicles probably means that there’s a blockage in your eaves troughs that’s preventing water flow, creating ice dams that can cause significant damage to your eaves and roof, which can cost a fortune to repair.
Take time every Fall to remove any leaves and twigs to ensure that water can flow freely through your eaves troughs to prevent ice from forming. This is one of the most important things to remember when learning how to winterize a cottage or home because the water backup damage happening through a roof can be costly, even though it can be prevented easily.
2. Flush your water heater
Particles and sediment can collect at the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency and costing you money. It could even leave you showering in frigid water in the middle of winter, which doesn’t make anyone very jolly. Every water heater has a drain valve used to flush out any sediment or material that may have accumulated.
Ignore the icky-ness factor and drain a couple gallons of water and sediment into a pan to clean out the gunk so that your heater works at maximum efficiency.
3. Clockwise ceiling fans
This may blow you away (see what we did there?) but ceiling fans are a great way to save money in both summer and winter. Many fans feature a rotation switch that changes the direction of the turn. Switch your ceiling fan’s rotation direction to clockwise during colder months and counter-clockwise in warmer months.
This way, warm air gets drawn down and around you in winter, while it’s whisked above your head in the Summer.
4. Replace filters
This is one of the quicker and easier things to remember when learning how to winterize a cottage.
It’s an undeniable fact that your furnace filter will get clogged with dust and particles at some point. That’s why the filters exist; they remove dust, pet dander, mould spores, and soot as air is recycled through your heating system. A dirty filter forces your furnace to work harder to heat your home. A dirty filter can jack up your heating cost by 15%, but replacing them is relatively inexpensive, and a new one will pay for itself many times over.
5. Draft guards
You know that feeling when you’re walking around your home in your bare feet and feel a little whiff of cold air over your toes? That means you have a draft, and it may as well be pulling $20 bills from your wallet. One obvious culprit are loose seals at the bottom of your exterior doors, but take time to inspect your windows as well.
A simple solution (albeit a temporary one) is to make or buy draft guards that can lay against the bottom of the door to stop cold air from coming in and the hot air getting out. Even a rolled-up towel can stop the leakage until you can fix the problem, if you can’t wait for a store to open.
6. Weather-strip tape
Installing a draft guard is just a temporary measure masking a much bigger problem. A 3-mm gap under a regular width exterior door is equivalent to having a 6-cm hole punched through your wall when it comes to letting air flow in and out. Get some inexpensive weather-stripping and install it anywhere that needs sealing.
Drafts can also occur around windows, so do a check to see if any of yours need some caulking. They’re an easy fix that can really pay off on your heating bill.
7. Programmable thermostat
You can shave 2% off your heating bill for every degree you turn your thermostat down during the winter. If you turn the heat down when you don’t need it, like when you are asleep or when the house is empty during the work/school day, you can shave 5% to 15% off your heating costs.
This is a huge deal when discovering how to winterize a cottage or home.
That’s real money when you consider the average energy bill in Ontario is more than $2000 per year. Most energy companies in Ontario offer discounts on smart thermostats like the NEST, or will pay for them outright. Check with your energy company to find out if you qualify.
8. Tap the government
Don’t spend money on what you can get for free. Ontario energy companies, in conjunction with the Ontario Government, offer programs to homeowners to winterize their homes for free. For example, Union Gas has its Weatherization program that, if you qualify, will pay for a free energy assessment and any necessary home improvements, such as more insulation and replacing window and door seals.
Last year 9,700 Ontario households took advantage of this program alone.
Here’s a link to over 80 government grants available in 2018 that you can take advantage of to save money and keep your family toasty throughout the winter months.
Winter in Ontario can bring a lot of joy and happiness. We’re so lucky to be able to take advantage of all it has to offer, but learning how to winterize a cottage and home will save you money, time, and repair headaches when it counts.
Get a 3-minute quote to see how much your home or cottage would cost to insure with your current (or desired) home setup!