Metro Atlanta may see average temperatures as low as 28 degrees by January, if Weather Channel historical data is any indication. With these cold temperatures likely ahead, it’s time to make sure that your home is protected from the threat of freezing water and cold air that could bring you large bills this season. The U.S. Department of Energy says that making upgrades based on a home energy assessment could help homeowners to save from five to 30 percent on their energy bills.
Homeowners in Atlanta can draw on many resources to protect their homes this winter—from home and energy auditors listed with the American Society of Home Inspectors to aid from the income-based Georgia Weatherization Assistance Program. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) say that there are a few things that you can do on your own to limit the risks of damage from winter weather:
Gutters. All gutters should be cleaned regularly prior to—and, if necessary, during—winter, according to the BBB. This can help prevent cracked gutters and potential water leaks from above. The I.I.I. also recommends installing gutter guards, which can help prevent new debris from filling your gutters and which are commonly available at hardware stores.
Trees. Snow and ice can weigh down trees, pulling them—or their branches—onto your home or car. The I.I.I. recommends removing dead branches from nearby trees in order to limit the likelihood home damage. The City of Atlanta allows homeowners to prune trees without a permit, but you must seek a permit from the Arborist Division to remove any standing tree—hazardous or otherwise—that is greater than 6 inches in diameter at chest height for any hardwood, or greater than 12 inches in diameter at chest height for a pine tree.
Ridge Vents. Make sure to clean these rooftop vents ahead of winter, says the BBB. This can help your home can “breathe” correctly and vent moisture away from your home in order to prevent changes in temperature and humidity from causing water leaks in your roof.
Yard Equipment. Store your outside equipment to protect it from damage, says the BBB. This usually involves draining garden hoses and air conditioner pipes and removing gasoline from motorized yard tools like weed whackers and lawnmowers. The BBB also says it’s smart to make sure any shovels and other snow-clearing tools are in good repair and ready to be put to work.
Walls and Foundations. In addition to letting out heat, cracks and holes in your foundation and exterior walls can also let in water, which could freeze and cause damage. The I.I.I. recommends the use of caulk to seal water pipes. Weather stripping can also help prevent heat from escaping around doors, skylights and vents.
Steps and handrails. Freezing water can also pose a threat to a home’s occupants by creating falling hazards near entryways. Salts and gravel can be used in entryways to help prevent the formation of ice—or melt existing ice. Repair worn or damaged banisters and stairs as well, the I.I.I. says.
Pipes. Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to expand and leak. Check your pipes for leaks and cracks before and after a freeze, says the I.I.I., and wrap any pipes that are outside, in your crawlspace or otherwise exposed to colder temperatures with heating tape to limit the possibility of ice and water damage. If your pipes do freeze, you will need to know how to shut off the water in your home quickly to limit any water damage, so the I.I.I. also says to make sure that you learn where your pipes are and how to shut off the water quickly.