Winterization: Why and How to Protect Your Home and Car From the Elements


Winter weather can be hard on your home and car, so taking the time to weatherize your property before cold weather hits can help you to avoid damage—and save money.

  • Winterizing your home starts with preventing drafts, which can lead to high heating bills—and then inspect the interior and exterior of your home for any issues that could cause leaks, ice dams, or frozen pipes
  • For your vehicle, winterizing means having it in top condition to perform safely in cold temperatures—check tire pressure and wiper blades, and pack an emergency kit

Winter weather warnings are a reminder of the importance of protecting your home from unexpected events. Taking some small steps now could protect your property from winter damage — and it could help you to save some money, too.

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A Checklist for Winterizing Your Home

Even if you live in one of the country’s warmer southern states, snow and cold air are a possibility. If you’re in the northern tier, freezing temperatures are almost a certainty. 

Winter can be hard on a house’s exterior, and very cold weather can even do damage to your home’s interior, such as frozen and burst pipes. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your home from winter weather.

  • Seal cracks and plug any drafts. A drafty home means money flying out of your pocket. Cracks and drafts allow warm air to escape and cold air to get in, making your heating system work harder than it should have to. Losing warm air results in higher heating bills, and it could shorten the life of your furnace or other heating system.
  • Clean and clear your gutters. Clogged gutters aren’t just bad for drainage. Debris trapped in your gutters can freeze and cause ice to dam up, which could then damage your roof. 
  • Trim and remove loose, dead or decayed branches. Wind and ice storms can be fierce during winter months. Check all the trees that hang over your roof, as well as those that are close enough to your home that they could damage shingles. Trim any that pose a potential threat, and remove dead branches that can quickly become fall-hazards in strong wind.
  • Examine and protect pipes. Take note of which indoor pipes might be most likely to freeze — such as those located on exterior walls — and consider insulating them. If you are faced with a period of extremely low temperatures, allowing a stream of water to trickle through those pipes might prevent them from freezing, along with opening the under-sink cabinet (if applicable) so that warm air can circulate. Know where your main water shut-off is, and check to see if there’s a pressure release valve that could prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Test your alarms. Locate and test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries, and make sure the alarms are clean and free of dust, pet hair and other debris that might cause them to malfunction.
  • Tuck away garden tools. Shut off outside faucets and allow hoses to drain and dry before putting them away for winter. Remove or store any planters, pots, lawn furniture or decorations that could become projectiles in a windstorm.
  • Check your heating system. Have an HVAC specialist service your furnace, boiler or electric heat system. This will help it to perform most efficiently — and ensure that there are no surprises that could leave you without heat on the coldest day of the year.
  • Clean your fireplace and flue. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s vital to clean your chimney every year to remove any creosote buildup. Creosote is a major cause of chimney fires. Gas fireplaces also need to be cleaned and serviced yearly to run safely and efficiently.
  • Test your generator. Backup generators are becoming more and more popular as a hedge against extended power outages, and if you have one, it’s important to make sure that you know how to operate it safely. Always follow manufacturer instructions, and operate portable generators outside. Clean, service and test generators according to your manufacturer’s recommendations. 

These simple steps can protect your home from cold weather damage and fires. An added bonus is that, by making sure heating and gas fireplaces are running efficiently, you could save money by eliminating energy waste.

How to Winterize Your Vehicle

The goal of winterizing your vehicle is to have it in top condition to perform in cold temperatures — and to keep you safe while you’re on the road.

  • Check your tires. Tires should be fully inflated and in good condition. If you’re in a region that gets snow, you should consider purchasing snow tires. Snow tires are specifically designed to perform well in colder temperatures, and they have special rubber compounds that can withstand extended periods of frigid weather. You’ll also need to check tire pressure more frequently, because colder air can cause tire pressure to drop. 
  • Replace your windshield wipers. Your windshield wipers keep your view clear, so it’s imperative to make sure they are working properly. Check the rubber for any cracks and examine the seal against your windshield. You may want to consider switching to winter wipers if you live in a colder climate, as these are designed to keep ice from building up on the glass. 
  • Pack a winter emergency kit. If you are planning a trip, always pack a winter safety kit. Winter weather can be unpredictable and deteriorate quickly. Basic, must-have items include a flashlight with fresh batteries, water, nonperishable food items, blankets or additional warm layers of clothing and a first aid kit. You might also want to have a portable power bank to charge your cell phone.
  • Aim to keep your tank at least half full. In addition to helping you keep warm if you’re stranded, a full gas tank reduces condensation on your fuel lines — which can lead to them freezing. Winter is not the time to test and see how much farther your gas will last before the next fill-up.
  • Pack a snow brush and ice scraper, and use them. Clear your windshield, hood, roof and trunk of snow and ice before driving. In some states, you are legally required to clear off your vehicle and can get ticketed for driving with snow on your car. Snow left on your roof can begin to melt from underneath as your car warms up. It may then slide onto your windshield, blocking your view — and it could be too heavy for your windshield wipers to clear, which is hazardous. Snow on your roof can also blow onto the vehicles behind you, blocking their vision. Don’t be that person; clear your car.
  • Service brakes and top off fluids. Make sure your brakes are in good working order. Check all window defrosters; your rear window is important for visibility, too. Windshield wiper fluid levels should be kept full, and check to make sure the mix is appropriate for the winter temperatures where you are. Brush up on winter driving tips like how to manage a skid on ice, and review appropriate spacing distances between cars in winter driving conditions. 

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The Bottom Line

Winter driving can be stressful, so it’s a smart move to make sure that your vehicle is in top condition to manage winter weather. Taking just a few steps now to prepare your home and vehicle for winter weather could save you time, money and the headache of making repairs. Talk to an Expert Agent today to get a free quote on your home or auto insurance.


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