How to Prepare Your Home for Cold Weather

If your electricity or gas bill doubles in the winter, you may need to winterize your home. Preparing your home for winter includes providing more insulation in attics, sealing up leaky windows and doors, cleaning rain gutters, furnaces and wood burning stoves, and protecting water pipes. Winterizing your home may decrease your heating bills.


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    Start winterizing buildings in the summer. The cost of heating your home can take a big bite out of your paycheck very quickly. (If you’ve moved from a very warm or hot region, you’re probably familiar with what air conditioning can do to a utility bill. This is the same; in reverse.)
    • Add more insulation to your attic, if you have one. Heat rises, and will escape through a poorly insulated attic. Fiberglass insulation comes in rolls with paper backing that you can roll and tack up to winterize your home.
    • Caulk cracks around windows and doors to eliminate drafts. Use water resistant caulk on the outside of buildings.
    • Add weather stripping to doors and windows when winterizing buildings.
    • Install outlet gaskets to electric outlets located on outer walls. The gaskets will eliminate drafts when you prepare your house for winter.
    • Clean your furnace, if you have one, and replace the air filter. Dirty air filters clog the flow of air and could start a fire.
    • Service your wood burning stove. Have a professional chimney sweep come out to clean and inspect your wood stove when preparing your house for winter.
    • Close off rooms that are not in use. Try to confine areas in your home that don’t require heating.
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    Consider installing double-paned windows in your home. Have 1 window installed at a time if you can't afford to have them done all at once. Double-paned windows will help winterize your home.
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    Clean out your rain gutters in the fall after the leaves have fallen. Leaves and other debris will clog your gutters, which could create an ice dam on your roof.
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    Wrap pipes in unheated locations, such as crawl spaces beneath your house or in your garage, with foam insulation, pipe wrap or heat tape. When preparing your house for winter, you need to protect water pipes and prevent them from freezing and bursting.
    • Heating tape is an electrical wire that attaches to a thermostat to keep your exposed pipes heated to a specific temperature.
    • Read manufacturer's directions when installing insulation products to winterize your home, and remember, if you use heating tape, you will need to connect it to electricity.
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    Close outside vents to your house as soon as it starts to get cold. Closing the vents will help winterize your home. However, you should never block roof vents, chimneys, flues, dryer exhausts, or plumbing vent stacks.
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    Install storm windows, if you have them. If you don't have storm or double paned windows, you may put plastic on the windows when winterizing buildings.
    • Obtain winter plastic wrap and weather tape if you don't have storm or double pane windows.
    • Cut the plastic wrap with a utility knife to fit your window frame.
    • Use weather tape to secure the plastic to the inside of your window frame. Apply heat with a hair dryer to shrink the plastic wrap when winterizing buildings.
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    Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan, if you have one. In the hot summer months, the fans are tilted to provide an air conditioning effect, and in the winter, you can turn the fan in the other direction to circulate the warm air.
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    Adjust your wardrobe. For sleeping attire; get out your “longies” and flannel pajamas. Keep a robe handy to your bed for use when you get up. Put your flip-flops in the closet and get out some slippers with a sole and a warm lining. Wear heavier socks. Winter months mean storing your T-shirts and shorts away and switching to sweats, lightweight but warm sweaters with long sleeves. (Keep a couple of those T-shirts on hand to wear as an undergarment.) Invest in thermal undergarments.
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    Eat right. A hot breakfast versus cereal with cold milk can make a big difference. Oatmeal, eggs and toast, pancakes or waffles or even a bowl of soup will take you farther. (Sprinkle some freshly made popcorn over a bowl of tomato soup for breakfast or lunch. It’s a treat that will help keep you warm.) Keep your carbs up. Hot pasta dishes, a stove-top stew of potatoes and chunky vegetables are great tummy warmers. (Afraid of added weight? Your body will burn those carb calories keeping you warm. Or get out there and move some snow; it’s great exercise.)
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    Add another blanket to the bed. Down-filled bedding is pricey, but well worth the investment. Consider flannel sheets and/or a quilt.
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    Disconnect, drain, and store any garden hoses. This will prevent them from bursting or leaking during the winter.
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    Shut off your sprinkler system, if you have one. Use an air compressor to force water out of the pipes. This will prevent freezing.
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    Be sure that you lawn is properly graded away from your home. If it is not, water could enter your basement/crawlspace when the snow melts.
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    Use stakes to mark important locations in your yard, such as septic system keys, water meters, and in-ground electrical/irrigation boxes.
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    If you have a driveway plowing service, use stakes to mark the edges of your driveway. Doing so can help prevent lawn damage.
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    Prepare an “emergency” kit, keep it well-stocked and educate everyone in your household where it will be stored. Keep it within reach of anyone over three feet of height. Your kit should include:
    • Flashlights and batteries
    • Candles and a lighter or plenty of matches. (Wrap them in a plastic bag to help keep them dry) You might have a battery operated lamp or an oil lamp. (Do not store an oil lamp with oil in it. Keep this flammable liquid tightly sealed and separate until you need to use it.)
    • A battery operated radio
    • Foodstuffs – Keep foods on hand that can be eaten cold.
    • Canned fruit
    • Canned meats such as tuna or shredded beef
    • Cereals that can be eaten dry
    • Chocolate bars or a couple bags of chocolate chips
    • Plenty of water
    • A small, propane operated camping stove and at least two extra canisters of propane. Be sure to operate this according to the manufacturer's instructions.(Do not use a charcoal-type camping or cooking unit indoors!)


  • For a quick fix in drafty rooms, roll up a towel and place it along the bottom of doors and windows.
  • Don't forget your pets! They will need food and water and warmth, too.
  • Light a few candles on the coffee table. (See warnings.) The effect is soothing and you’ll be surprised at how much heat is cast from a candle!
  • If you install plastic wrap on your windows, you can save the plastic and reuse it the following winter. This will save you time and energy sizing the plastic sheets.
  • Once you winterize your water pipes, you shouldn't have to insulate them again.
  • When removing ice that has formed on your windows, use your vehicle’s defrost unit for a few minutes. This will help loosen the ice, making it easier to scrape with a plastic scraper. Do NOT pour water or run the garden hose over the frozen window.


  • Keep candles and/or oil lamps a safe distance from flammable materials such as drapery, furniture and bedding. Extinguish all candles and lamps before you plan for sleep. Not doing so is very dangerous.
  • Closing all the vents will keep the cold out, but could expose you to carbon monoxide poisoning. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your house if you close all the vents.

Things You'll Need

  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Water resistant caulk
  • Weather stripping
  • Outlet gaskets
  • Furnace air filter
  • Double pane windows
  • Foam insulation, pipe wrap or heat tape
  • Storm windows
  • Plastic window wrap
  • Weather tape
  • Utility knife
  • Hair dryer

Article Info

Categories: Heating Cooling and Energy Efficiency