Winter in the Okanagan is the reason why so many people from the shivering prairies move or retire to Kelowna. Our winters are mild. So mild in fact that many people don’t even own a pair of winter boots.
However, this doesn't mean Kelowna never has harsh winters.
Winter weather can bring frigid temperatures, ice, high winds, rain, snow, and flooding. It can damage roofs and foundations. It can freeze and break water pipes and eventually lead to rotting wood and mold. These can be costly to remediate, so it is best to protect homes from damage by taking appropriate winterization steps.
Here’s what Kelowna residents need to know about winterizing their homes before cold weather hits.
Home Improvements to Winterize Your House
There are some terrific reasons to make sure a home is ready for colder weather. Comfort is one. Energy savings is another. Perhaps the most important reason, however, is ensuring this major investment is properly protected from the elements. Here are some important home improvements to make on your home before winter.
Upgrade Your Home Insulation
Have you recently moved into a new home in Kelowna? Did your house inspection reveal a deficit in your attic insulation but you haven’t been concerned when winter temps are never raw and biting? Think about it now or you may be facing an unexpected heating bill. You might like to insulate and drywall your garage while you’re at it. Check with the B.C. Government and with Fortis BC to see if you qualify for any rebates with any energy upgrades you undertake this fall.
Upgrading the insulation in your home provides a variety of positives:
- Saves energy
- Lowers heating bills
- Keeps a home more comfortable
- Helps maintain humidity
Not only should homeowners consider upgrading insulation in attics and crawlspaces, but in smaller places like wall sockets, and around windows and doors. Proper insulation will help keep furnaces from working so hard and may even improve its lifespan.
Upgrade Your Windows to Energy-Efficient Models
If your windows are old, why not get an estimate for replacement windows? If it’s not in this year’s budget, see if you can replace just one window, then do another in the spring, then another next fall. Spread out the expenses. Replacing even one old drafty window can make a difference.
Single-pane windows will allow more cold from outside the house into your living space than double- or triple-paned windows. Look for ENERGY STAR® approved windows that are guaranteed to keep your house warm and comfy in the frigid winter months.
Insulate Exposed Water Pipes
Water pipes under sinks, in basements and in outside walls can be subject to freezing during extended periods of cold weather. When water freezes in pipes it expands, potentially cracking soldered joints or even cracking or splitting pipes. This can cause costly damage that can be challenging to repair. Pipes that are in areas that are unheated can be better protected by a variety of pipe insulation products. In areas subject to particularly cold climates, choosing an electric pipe heat wrap may be necessary. Rutland South homeowners may find that letting faucets drip slightly through these frigid periods allows water to keep moving through pipes and can also prevent water pipes from freezing.
Home Maintenance Tips to Winterize Your Home
You don't have to make major home upgrades to protect your home and save money on your energy bill. Here are some importance maintenance needs your home needs done to keep it in tip-top shape for the winter.
Clear Gutters and Drainpipes
One major area of concern is in making sure gutters and downspouts are free from debris to allow for proper draining. If leaves, dirt, and twigs prevent water from flowing freely away from a home, it can lead to foundation damage and back up pushing water and ice up under the roofing shingles eaves and even behind the siding. Water that freezes in gutters and downspouts can be heavy enough to pull the gutters away from the home. Cleaning gutters can be messy, but it is critical in winterizing a home.
This is a chore to take care of when most of the leaves have dropped and there are few pine cones falling from tall trees. Clean out the gutters and run your house to make sure there’s nothing clogging the down spouts. This will ensure that in the spring, when deeper-than-normal snow packs on your roof start to melt, that water will run clean. This matters because build-up of debris in your gutters can cause moisture to build on your shingles, eventually causing rot.
Check for Drafts
Now is the time to check weather stripping around windows and doors. Remove any old stripping that has become brittle. Weather stripping is not that expensive and you don’t want to be fooling around with it when a winter window is howling. Check caulking for cracks.
Seal Cracks in Concrete
Even small cracks in concrete and asphalt can becoming larger when water seeps into them and freezes, thaws, and refreezes again. This is why asphalt and concrete cracks should be filled to help winterize a home. Broken and cracked sidewalks and driveways can not only be dangerous but expensive to replace. Sealing cracks can prevent damage from getting worse.
Schedule Maintenance With Your HVAC Professional
Be sure to schedule routine maintenance of your heating system now to prevent problems later when the weather has gotten cold. A broken furnace is a life-threatening problem in the cold winter months, so getting an HVAC inspection can help head off problems before they occur.
Keep Your Pathways Clear of Snow & Ice
Clear all pathways of snow as soon as possible to prevent it from turning into ice. Excess snow can be packed around the base of your house to provide additional insulation. Sprinkle sand or de-icing mixture on icy areas to prevent dangerous falls. You can also use kitty litter to provide traction on ice.
Quick Home Cleaning Tips to Winterize Your Home
Last, but not least, these small practices in your home can help keep it cleaner and cozier for winter. Start doing these easy winterizing tricks today to help keep your home warm and tidy.
Roll up your Garden Hose
Some folks are tempted to leave out their garden hose all winter but if temperatures get critical for a long period of time, a frozen hose can crack and you’ll have to run out in the spring and buy another.
Change Furnace Filters
Replacing the filters regularly helps your furnace run more efficiently and keeps the air in your home cleaner.
Protect Entry Floors
Road salt, sand, and melting snow can wreak havoc on entryway floors. Protect your flooring by using interior and exterior mats, and a trap to collect wet boots. Invest in a stack of washable rugs, so you can always keep a fresh, dry rug in the entry.
Purify & Humidify the Air
In winter, we’re more likely to keep the heat on and the windows shut—which makes for a warm house but not very clean air. Refresh your space by cracking a window for a few minutes every now and then (even if it’s cold!), investing in air-cleaning houseplants, or setting up an air purifier. Additionally, homeowners should consider investing in an air humidifier to keep the dry winter air from irritating the skin or causing nosebleeds.
Make Sure Everyone in the House Knows Good Fire Safety
With weather becoming colder, it’s time to light up the fireplace and candles to keep warm. This means that it’s important to observe fire safety at all times. Make sure that you have working smoke detectors installed with fresh batteries. For a gas fireplace, make sure to have it serviced regularly—including checking for leaks. Don’t leave burning candles or wood fireplaces unattended.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
In the winter, ceiling fans should be set to spin clockwise on a low speed to force warm air down and keep it circulating throughout the house. In summer, fans are set to spin counterclockwise to suck warm air up, but this effect is less than desirable in the cold winter months. Make sure to flip the direction on your fans to help keep your home warm and your energy bills low.
Prepare an Emergency Kit For Your Household
Keep a well-stocked emergency kit in your home so you will be prepared for any eventuality. Include essential items such as battery-powered flashlights and radios, non-perishable food items, water, and blankets. Make sure it is easily accessible and can be transported in a backpack or suitcase with wheels should you need to evacuate your home. The Government of Canada has a great list of what should be included as well as general emergency preparedness tips.
A home is an investment worth protecting. Making the effort, taking the time and spending money maintaining it will pay dividends.