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With fall in the rearview mirror, it’s time to think about how to prepare your home and heating system for winter weather. By the time a winter storm warning, watch, or advisory is making headlines on the local news station, the clock is already ticking. So, consider doing some advance prep, using the following tips for getting your home ready for extreme weather, protecting your HVAC system, and determining what type of generator can keep things running in case of a power outage.
To ensure you’re warm and safe, it’s essential to think ahead, before winter weather strikes. Weatherproofing your home includes a wide range of basic tasks that can be done yourself: caulking or weather stripping your doors and windows, installing storm windows or interior plastic window coverings, and putting insulation on exterior waterlines to prevent freezing or bursting pipes.
Depending on your situation, it might be worth calling on a pro to do an inspection and add insulation to your walls and attic, which can help retain more heat and keep your energy bills in check. If you plan on using your fireplace or wood stove, make sure to have your chimney inspected annually—and test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Finally, if extreme winter weather is in the forecast, make sure you have sufficient food, water, and medications on hand—including what you need for your pets—and stock up on batteries for your flashlights and radios in case the power goes out. In addition to your local stations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio is an excellent resource for weather updates.
Whether you’re expecting a blizzard, blustery winds, or just frigid temperatures, you want to make sure your heating system is ready to go when bad weather arrives. (Note: If it’s the first time you’re using your heat, see our recent blog to find out what odors are normal and when to get expert help: Why Your Heater Smells Like It’s Burning.)
While we’re on the topic of HVAC equipment, some additional thoughts on winterizing your air conditioning unit. Outdoor HVAC equipment is built to withstand the elements, but if you live in an area that gets lots of snow and ice, you should consider covering your AC unit. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to use an airtight, watertight cover—it should be a breathable fabric that doesn’t lock in moisture. And if you’re wondering if you need to run your AC in winter to keep it functioning, the answer is no. In fact, it can harm the unit if the outdoor temperature is below 60 or 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
One important exception is if you’re using a heat pump. Although they function as an air conditioner in warm weather, they’re built to run during cold weather…so you’re A-OK! In case of snow, you do want to clear it from the top and sides of your heat pump to keep it working properly.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. electricity customers lose power for about two hours a year, excluding major events such as winter storms and hurricanes. If you live in an area commonly affected by extreme weather, you know from experience that outages can last days or weeks. In addition to an uncomfortable indoor environment, the result can be a cascade of problems from thawing refrigerators to frozen or broken pipes.
Generators can often be a solution, but the number of choices may make your head spin. Small recreational generators might cost a few hundred dollars, while a whole-house system can run $10,000 or more. Here are some of the considerations:
If you’re unsure what generator type would work best for your home size and specific heating and cooling system, your local Trane dealer or technician can provide a professional recommendation.