When winter storms start rolling in, it’s natural to feel uncertainty about how your house will fare in the harsh weather:
- Will your heater keep you warm enough without breaking the bank?
- How do you prepare and protect your HVAC unit? (Hint: Your local Lennox dealer can help)
- How do you stop pipes from freezing and busting?
Fortunately, winterizing your home is easier than you think! In just a couple hours, you can have your house prepared for most frigid weather coming your way.
If you want to save time and money, here are 7 simple ways to protect your home from a freeze so you can stay warm and comfortable.
7 Easy Ways to Prepare Your Home for a Freeze
Nobody wants to run outside in a snowstorm to deal with a broken furnace or frozen pipes. But you also don’t want to panic when you get your heating bill! Take these simple steps ahead of time to prep your house for a relaxed winter.
Step1: Block out cold air
On average, 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through the windows. This number can be even higher in old or poorly insulated homes. Lock in the warmth and save on heating bills by blocking out icy drafts.
Quick solutions to consider:
- Window insulation film is an affordable way to save on heating costs and keep the cold from seeping in.
- Hanging cellular shades or window quilts add an extra layer of protection in ultra-cold climates.
- Peel-and-stick weather stripping can be added to doors to seal gaps and stop drafts.
Step 2: Check your gutters
It’s best to keep your home’s gutters clear year-round, but it is especially important in the winter. If leaves or debris pile up in your gutter, melting ice or snow can get clogged up and spill into your attic or basement.
This can lead to costly damage, mold, mildew, and even flooding! Protect your home by hiring a professional to properly clean your gutters before the cold sets in.
Step 3: Prep your furnace
As temperatures plummet, you want to make sure your HVAC system is in top-notch shape. Call your local Lennox® dealer and schedule a maintenance appointment. A trained technician will come out to your home and ensure that everything is perfectly prepped for a worry-free winter.
During this preventative check, your Lennox® dealer can:
- Replace air filters as needed.
- Ensure that vents and intake pipes are free of debris.
- Check and address any unusual rattling sounds.
- Ensure there is no rust or moisture buildup on the unit.
- Repair any problems to ensure perfect temperature regulation through winter.
Should you cover your HVAC unit in the winter?
In most cases, it is unnecessary to cover your HVAC unit. Some HVAC covers can cause more harm than good because they inhibit airflow and can lead to mold or rust issues. Additionally, modern HVAC units are equipped with an automatic defrost cycle. It’s best to consult a Lennox® dealer about whether or not you should cover your specific unit.
Step 4: Prevent burst pipes
On average, freezing pipes and water damage insurance claims can cost over $7,000! And that doesn’t include the stress of dealing with flooding or interior repairs.
Help prevent the costly consequences of burst pipes with these quick tips:
- Open cabinet doors: Allow warm air to circulate in vulnerable plumbing areas. For example, open cabinets under the sink so your HVAC system can evenly distribute air over hidden
- Insulate pipes: Use foam pipe insulation to protect pipes in cold or unheated areas like basements, attics, and crawl spaces.
- Keep water trickling: Open up faucets and taps so they can slowly drip. In the event of power loss, this will prevent water from freezing up in the pipes. If you’re worried about wasting water, remember that a flood from broken pipes would waste a LOT more.
Step 5: Turn off and cover outdoor spigots
Burst pipes can also happen with outdoor plumbing fixtures in your landscape or garden.
Protect outdoor water spigots with a quick check around the yard to:
- Disconnect and drain all garden hoses.
- Double-check all exterior faucets or spigots. Securely turn valves to the “off”
- Optionally, insulate outdoor spigots with an inexpensive Styrofoam or plastic faucet cover.
Step 6: Inspect your fireplace or chimney
Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, annual maintenance is key for safe and warm winter evenings.
Take these quick steps to prepare for cozy nights by the fire:
- Remove any clutter around the fireplace.
- Check the fireplace gasket and replace it if damaged.
- Replace batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Hire a chimney sweep to remove any soot or creosote from last season.
- Prepare seasoned hardwood for burning.
Step 7: Set your thermostat before leaving
A smart thermostat is essential for efficient winter heating. It can help you:
- Conserve energy.
- Save money.
- Prevent frozen pipes.
Energy.gov recommends setting your thermostat to 68°F in the winter. If you are headed on a winter vacation, you can lower it to around 60°F. If you want to customize comfort by room, consider upgrading to the Lennox® S40 Smart Thermostat for precision control and air quality monitoring.
How low should I set my thermostat while away?
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends you turn your heat down by 7 to 10 degrees. For most homeowners, this means setting your thermostat to 58 to 61°F. This can save up to 10% on heating costs. However, anything lower than 55°F could cause freezing pipes or other winter problems.
What temperature is too cold for a house?
The World Health Organization recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 64°F. Even when you are away, it is best to keep your house above 60°F. In some climates, you can get away with setting your thermostat to 55°F during warmer months. Anything colder could cause frozen pipes or other issues. A programmable thermostat can ensure that the house warms back up before you return home.
Remember: You don’t want to completely turn off your heater during winter vacations! Your HVAC system will continue to work on a lower setting while you’re gone. This is the one time you don’t want to skimp on heating costs. A few extra dollars on your heating bill while you’re away is not nearly as bad as frozen pipes.
What To Do If Your HVAC Unit Freezes
While HVAC freezing is more common while your air conditioner is running, it can also happen during ice storms.
First, check that your HVAC system is actually frozen by following these steps:
- Turn off the system.
- Turn on the blower for fan to thaw the evaporator coils.
- If you feel warm air coming out, your unit might be frozen or clogged.
- If you see snow or ice on the outside of the unit, this doesn't necessarily mean that the interior components are frozen.
What to do if HVAC freezes in winter?
- Never use anything sharp to chip at ice. This could damage your unit!
- Run cool or lukewarm water from a garden hose over the unit to help melt the ice.
- Wait an hour or two for the HVAC system to run its natural defrost cycle. Lennox® units are all equipped with heat pumps that automatically defrost every 90 minutes.
- Contact your Lennox® dealer to ensure that no internal damage has occurred.
How do I keep my HVAC unit from freezing?
- Check your unit’s defrost cycle: Most HVAC units are designed to deal with frigid weather by running a periodic defrost cycle that heats the outside of the unit and melts accumulated snow or ice. Modern Lennox® heat pumps are designed to start defrosting every 90 minutes as soon as temperatures dip below 40°
- Change air filters regularly: Restricted airflow can cause the unit to accumulate ice during the winter.
- Clean up debris: Snow, leaves, or other debris can build up in and around an HVAC unit, potentially leading to freezing or other problems.
- Call a certified Lennox® dealer: When in doubt, use our Lennox® dealer locator to get professional help defrosting your heating and cooling unit. They can diagnose, fix, and prevent future freezing problems.