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Ask McEnearney: What are the most important things I should know about caring for my home during the winter?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-6115 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What are the most important things I should know about caring for my home during the winter?

Answer: Great question! I frequently get reach outs from my buyers about caring for their new (or not so new) homes. After almost no snow last year, many local weather news sources are predicting a winter with lots of snow in the D.C. area. Veronica Johnson, chief meteorologist for 7News First Alert Weather has predicted “17 to 22 inches of snow for the D.C. Metro area this coming winter.”

As we are getting solidly into winter, but not below freezing yet, this is the time to make sure that you are doing some preventative maintenance. Here are a few of the most important things to do to get ready for the winter months.

Check the inside of your home for air leaks. Check all your windows for air leaks, and caulk where needed — both inside and outside. If you have any window air conditioners, this is the time to put them in storage or invest in an insulated cover. Not only will your home be warmer and cozier, but you will also have a more energy-efficient home with a more manageable heating bill.

Check the outside of your home for open entry points and potential water issues. While you are checking for air leaks, look around the exterior of your home, and cover any openings to guard against water intrusion, and also rodents that are looking for a warm hideaway. Make sure to pile fireplace wood away from your home, so that little critters don’t migrate towards the cozy inside of your home. Double check your gutters and downspouts so that rainwater and melting ice can run freely off of your roof and away from your home.

Winterize the pipes. It’s important to make sure that all your outside spigots are protected for the winter. First, turn off the water supply to outside faucets, then unhook hoses, turn on the outside spigots and drain them of all the water. Last, shut them off from the outside only, and cover them with a spigot cover. This can prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting. You should also make sure that any pipes in unheated areas are properly insulated. On particularly cold nights, you may even want to leave your inside faucets on a slow drip, so that the pipes don’t freeze. I grew up in an 1800s home and my parents still use this technique when the temperatures drop below 25 degrees.

Get a fireplace check-up. Speaking of being cozy, there’s nothing better than a lovely fire in the fireplace during the winter. This is a great time to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned, for both heat efficiency and for the safety of you and your family.

Have your furnace and hot water heater serviced. There’s nothing worse than having a furnace breakdown in the middle of winter, so it’s best to be proactive when it comes to your HVAC system. An easy way to extend the life of your furnace is to change the filter regularly. This keeps contaminants out of the system and keeps your system running smoothly. Have your local HVAC service company service the system in early winter and again in late spring, and get their advice on how often to change the filter for your particular furnace. Have the hot water heater checked while you’re at it, so that you don’t wake up to a cold home or shower.

Change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These batteries should be changed once a year, so if you haven’t done it already, do it now. And if your detectors are more than 10 years old, change them out completely. There should be smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement.

Be ready for snow removal. Stock up now on ice melting products and grab a snow shovel or two if you don’t already have them. The worst time to be looking for these things is the day or two before a storm. Put your gloves and hat near the front door, too, while you’re at it. It’s best to be ready for snow and sleet.

It’s best to address these maintenance tasks ahead of time, so that you protect your home, keep your energy costs down, and don’t have major repairs during the coldest time of year. For lots more great information on taking care of a home, we frequently recommend a couple of home maintenance books to our new buyers. “Home Maintenance for Dummies” by James Carey is an oldie but a goodie. Another good book is “The First-Time Homeowners Survival Guide” by Sid Davis.

If you need advice, or recommendations on local contractors, don’t hesitate to reach out. Proactive maintenance not only protects your investment, but also contributes towards a stress-free winter and a cozy home. And if you need help finding your dream home, please get in touch!

Hope Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia. She grew up in Old Town and currently lives in Del Ray. As a partner with The Peele Group, Hope is dedicated to guiding her clients successfully through the many-faceted process of buying or selling a home. Contact Hope at 703-244-6115.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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