Winter weather is just around the corner. For those HOA homeowners in winter climates, adapting and preparing your home for the cold will keep your family safe and save you a few bucks. Although winterizing your home is a common practice, it is not always done on time. Cold weather can creep up on you, especially after a particularly warm fall.

Below are the most common tips and tricks for winterizing your home. Though not exhaustive, these suggestions should get you well on your way to a safe and efficient home. Remember that the early bird gets the worm. Winterizing your home before the cold arrives prevents problems from occurring. It also allows you to report issues and maintenance requests to your property manager or HOA board before the maintenance schedule is booked. These practices can help you avoid unplanned and costly repairs.

Pipes

One of the biggest concerns with dropping temperatures is exterior plumbing. Left unprotected from the cold, pipes risk freezing and bursting. An incident like this can cause damage to your plumbing and surrounding areas. Who foots the bill for busted pipes is not always clear in your HOA’s rules and restrictions, so prevention is the best medicine for this tricky issue. Here are a few more tips:

• Keep your heat on during the winter months! It is recommended to keep your thermostat to a minimum of 55 degrees to prevent pipe damage.
• Turn off the water flow to all outdoor water spigots. Drain them to prevent any residual water from remaining in the fixture.
• Disconnect hoses and sprinklers and store for safekeeping.
• Add insulation over outdoor faucets and exposed piping.
• If you have exposed pipes (uninsulated from the cold), open them to a drip when the temperature dips below freezing.
• Clear your sprinkler systems by hiring a professional to empty them with compressed air.
• Keep garage doors and storm doors closed to retain heat.

Windows and Doors

The most noticeable problem is often drafts from windows and doors. Be sure to do a thorough check on all your windows and doors and consider these improvements:

• Upgrade your windows. Installing weather stripping can improve your windows and doors by preventing cool air from entering the house—and warm air from escaping.
• Hang darker, thicker window treatments. Some fabrics are created for this purpose and can reduce your heating bills.
• If you are considering the ultimate upgrade, replace any old windows with energy-efficient ones. It can save you a bundle.

HVAC

Servicing your heating system can improve the efficiency and safety of your home. The most effective way to ensure proper functioning of your HVAC system is to hire a professional to clean it and ensure it is running properly. In addition, you can complete a visual inspection of your ductwork or radiator units (if you have them) for leaks. Don’t forget to replace air filters, which should be done every three months.

Attic

An often neglected part of winterizing your home is your attic. Look for cracks, leaks, or damage/lack of insulation. These defects can cause heat to escape your home unnecessarily. Report maintenance requests early to your HOA so they can make corrections before the winter months begin.

Snow Removal

The best way to deal with ice and snow is preparation. If the snow removal agreement in your HOA isn’t clear, contact your property manager or HOA board for clarification. Check out these additional tips:

• Keep buckets of salt available for quick use on sidewalks and driveways.
• Make sure your vehicle is parked in the proper location to allow the HOA easy access for clearing common spaces. If you aren’t sure how snow is handled, contact your property manager or HOA board for more information.
• Test gas-powered snow blowers and dig out your shovels.
• Consider professional snow removal services if you are unable to clear the snow yourself.

Gutter Cleaning

Another area of consideration is your gutter clutter. Clean gutters can improve the water runoff of your home and prevent damage. If you have gutter cables to prevent freezing, make sure they are operating properly. Here are step-by-step instructions on cleaning out your gutters.

General Ideas

• Declutter your home! Remove items that are blocking vents or covering radiators. Clean up debris from the exterior of your home around vents and drains.
• Test your fire alarms. They should be tested twice a year and now is a great time to do it! If you have a heating system that requires a carbon monoxide detector, be sure to test it as well.
• Comply with HOA regulations and guidelines when hanging winter decorations.
• Clean up your garden by removing dead leaves and debris. Cut bushes and trees back but be sure to leave enough to allow for spring growth.

By following these simple fixes around the house, you can create a more energy-efficient home and the savings can really add up!