While the internet abounds with blog posts, articles, and tutorials offering advice and tips on how to prep your Houston home for the winter, there is very little advice on what you can do in order to keep your home in tip-top condition during the winter months. Even if you have already prepared your home for the chilly weather, here are a few simple maintenance tasks that could help you prevent damage to your home during the last few weeks of winter.
Check Your Heating System and Air Filters Regularly
In addition to regular spring and fall maintenance tasks, which basically involve removing dust, dirt, and debris accumulated on and inside your furnace, checking your furnace’s burners, cleaning or replacing the air filters, and checking and cleaning the vents throughout your home, it’s important to inspect and clean your furnace at least once a month during the winter. If you observe any soot buildup on the combustion chamber’s walls, scrape it off and use a vacuum cleaner to remove the loose particles.
As the mechanical components of your furnace experience wear and tear over time, your furnace could develop a whole host of performance issues that will decrease its efficiency. With routine cleanings, inspections, and tune-ups, which also involve testing individual components to identify and fix different system troubles, you can prevent unexpected breakdowns that could leave you without any heat in your home. Routine furnace maintenance during the winter can also save you money, since replacing or repairing a few small components before they break down is less expensive than making emergency repairs.
Cleaning or replacing the air filters on a regular basis during the heating season is also very important. That’s because dirty air filters could:
- Restrict the airflow, which may put extra strain on the components of your furnace; this extra strain could lead to short cycling or overheating, followed by unexpected failure and costly repairs;
- Clog the ductwork with debris, which may decrease your furnace’s life span;
- Force your furnace’s fan motor to work harder and run for longer periods of time, which will increase the amount of energy used;
- Reduce your indoor air quality.
By simply keeping your air filters clean or replacing them regularly, you can prevent unexpected breakdowns, avoid costly repairs, and save up to 15 percent on your energy bills.
Inspect and Clean Your Chimney
If you use your fireplace on a regular basis, you should have it swept whenever soot buildup is thicker than 1/8 of an inch. Sweeping your chimney regularly during the burning season eliminates soot and creosote buildup. Not only are soot and creosote deposits acidic, which means they can damage chimney materials; they can cause hazardous chimney fires as well. Besides getting your chimney and fireplace professionally cleaned as often as necessary, burning only dry, well-seasoned hardwood, which maintains briskly burning fires that burn all of the organic matter in the wood, is a good method for controlling soot and creosote buildup.
Check Your Home’s Exterior for Cracks and Gaps
When winter arrives, the cold weather can add extra stress to the structural components of your home, potentially leading to small cracks in your walls and foundation. These cracks will allow water to seep into your wall system and foundation, where it might freeze and expand, making the cracks worse. If left unattended, cracks together with repeated freeze-thaw cycles will eventually lead to major damage to your home. To protect your Houston home from winter weather and prevent hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage, keep a close eye on your home’s exterior throughout the winter and repair all the cracks you observe as soon as the weather conditions allow it.
Inspect Your Crawlspace
Check the entire crawlspace area for any cracks, leaks, and discoloration. Pay particular attention to pipes, which could burst when the temperature drops below freezing. Of course, those temps are rare in Houston, but it has happened. Burst pipes may allow water to seep into the slab and even flood your crawlspace, which can result in freeze damage, mold infestation, and differential settlement. To prevent home damage due to frozen pipes, insulate all the pipes that run through your crawlspace. If you live in or around the Houston area and have problems with your pipes this winter, our specialists are ready to inspect your plumbing and sewer lines and replace any broken pipes with new ones.
Water Your Foundation Properly
Because rain and snowfall are almost absent in Houston during the winter, the lack of moisture and water causes the clay soil found in much of the Houston area to contract significantly. This soil contraction will put added pressure on your foundation, causing it to shift and crack. You can protect your home’s foundation during the winter by simply watering it on a regular basis. Keeping the moisture content of the soil around your home consistent will prevent your foundation from bending and cracking. The easiest way to keep your foundation properly watered during the winter is to place a soaker hose around the perimeter of your home. To prevent water damage to your home, make sure that the soaker hose is at least a minimum of 18 inches away from your foundation. Also, water your foundation less frequently than you do during the summer and disconnect and drain your soaker hose when the temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.
If there are any signs indicating that the cold weather has already taken a toll on your home’s foundation, call Allied Foundation today! Our technicians will come to your home, inspect your foundation, and offer you a free estimate on any repairs required.