Winter Ready: Essential Steps to Cozy, Energy-Efficient Living

As the chill of winter approaches, it’s important to prepare your home for potential changes brought on by colder weather. For some homeowners, the changing season brings not only the beauty of snow-covered landscapes, but an even greater need to prepare their homes for the colder and often challenging weather conditions.   

As winter descends, taking proactive steps to winterize your home becomes paramount, ensuring both comfort and safety. The good news is, we’ve curated 10 practical steps you can take to help you get your humble abode prepped for the winter season, allowing you to navigate the cold months ahead with confidence – not to mention the cost savings! According to the Department of Energy, heating a home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home.1  

Why not take advantage of opportunities to improve your energy efficiency and keep more money in your wallet this winter? Here are 10 essentials for getting your home ready for the winter chill – some you can take on yourself while others will likely require a helping hand: 

  1. Inspect and Seal Drafts: A good first step is to inspect all your doors and windows for drafts. Once you’ve identified any drafts, seal any gaps or cracks with weatherstripping or caulk that can be found at your favorite hardware store or online retailer. This simple step can prevent cold air from entering your home and warm air from escaping, ultimately reducing your heating costs by improving your energy efficiency – and increasing your comfort level. 
  1. Check in on Your Insulation: Proper insulation is a crucial part of maintaining a warm indoor temperature in the winter. This, of course, also results in maintaining a cooler temperature in the warmer months – win-win! Inspect your attic, walls, and floors to ensure adequate insulation. Consider adding more insulation in areas where heat tends to escape, such as the attic. This not only keeps your home warmer but also contributes to overall energy efficiency. Not confident in your insulation knowledge? Ask a trusted neighbor, handyman, or other home professional to weigh in! 
  1. Service Your Heating System: Unless you’re a current or former HVAC professional, we recommend leaving this one to the pros! Schedule a professional inspection and maintenance service for your heating system as early in the season as possible. This service can include cleaning or replacing filters, checking for leaks, and ensuring that the system is running efficiently. A well-maintained heating system not only keeps your home warm but also helps save on energy bills. 
  1. Programmable Thermostat: If you haven’t already, this may be the year to invest in a programmable thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature efficiently. Perks of this technology include the ability to schedule lower temperatures when you’re away or asleep and higher ones for the times when you’re at home. This can lead to significant energy savings over the winter months and is a great set-it-and-forget-it tool to employ. 
  1. Prevent Frozen Pipes: If you live in an area where temperatures drop significantly, you likely know how costly and inconvenient the damage from frozen pipes can be. Smart actions to take are to insulate pipes in unheated areas of your home, such as the attic or crawl spaces, disconnect your hoses, and allow any faucets to drip slightly during extremely cold nights to prevent freezing. In severe cold, you can even open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around plumbing.  
  1. Clean Gutters and Downspouts: It’s not a fun job but it’s worth the hassle! Clearing your gutters and downspouts of leaves and debris can help prevent ice dams and water buildup. By mitigating these issues you’re more likely to avoid costly water damage, especially when snow and ice start to melt come spring. Pro tip: be sure that water is directed away from your home’s foundation to avoid other potential issues down the line. 
  1. Chimney and Fireplace Maintenance: If your home features a fireplace, particularly a wood-burning one, be sure to have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before the winter season. This not only ensures the safe operation of your fireplace but also prevents the risk of chimney fires – yikes! 
  1. Stock Up on Winter Essentials: It may sound dramatic, but taking stock of your winter essentials each year can be the difference between life and death should an extreme weather event take place in your area. Make sure you have an adequate supply of the essentials, such as salt or ice melt, to keep walkways and driveways safe. Stock up on firewood if you have a fireplace or wood stove. And create an emergency kit with essential supplies, like food, water, and first aid items, in case of power outages or blocked roads.  
  1. Prepare Outdoor Spaces: Bring in or cover outdoor furniture to protect it from the elements. Disconnect and store your hoses and shut off outdoor water sources. If you have trees on your property, trim any branches that may pose a threat to your home during heavy snow or ice storms. Enlist a landscaper for this step if your trees require it – avoiding the damage from fallen trees or branches is likely worth the cost.  
  1. Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Here’s an easy one to wrap up our list! Ensure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly. Replace the batteries on a regular basis. Winter is the season when heating systems are in constant use, making it crucial to have functioning detectors for your safety. And if you don’t have detectors already, consider this your sign to get them. Two-in-one smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are also available now, making this step easier than ever.  

Taking the time to winterize your home not only provides a cozy and comfortable living space but also contributes to energy efficiency and cost savings. By following these tips, you can enjoy a worry-free winter season, knowing that your home is well-prepared to face the challenges of colder weather. For many seniors, finding the funds to undertake these essential home improvements can be a concern. One financing option worth considering is a reverse mortgage

A reverse mortgage is a loan specially designed for homeowners aged 62 and older. Unlike traditional mortgages, where homeowners make monthly payments to the lender, a reverse mortgage allows seniors to convert a portion of their home equity into loan proceeds. The unique feature of a reverse mortgage is that it provides qualified homeowners with income-tax free2 funds to use as they wish with no required monthly mortgage payments. Instead, the loan is repaid upon a maturity event, such as when the homeowner sells the house, moves out, or passes away. As with any mortgage loan, homeowners must of course stay current on their property taxes and homeowners insurance and maintain the home. 

Using Reverse Mortgages for Winterizing Projects 

There are a number of ways to access funds from a reverse mortgage loan, and the amount of money you can receive is based on several variables including your age, home value, interest rate on your loan, and the method of payout distribution you select. Whatever the amount, you’re free to use the funds however you’d like – including to make improvements and upgrades to your home.  

  • Daily Expenses: A common way many people utilize their reverse mortgage funds is to cover day-to-day expenses and, therefore, gain greater wiggle room in their budget. Having the flexibility to cover unexpected house repairs or much needed home improvement projects can give you greater peace of mind all year long. 
  • Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Others use their funds to make upgrades to their home they may have otherwise forgone. This may include installing energy-efficient windows and doors, upgrading insulation, or replacing an outdated heating system. These upgrades not only contribute to a warmer and more comfortable living space but can also result in long-term cost savings on energy bills. 
  • Safety Improvements: Some may prioritize safety features when using funds to improve their home, especially if they plan to age in place. This could involve installing handrails, ramps, or other accessibility modifications to prevent slips and falls during icy or snowy conditions. Utilizing a reverse mortgage to invest in safety measures that can enhance your quality of life for many years to come. 
  • Basic Repairs: Proceeds can also be used in the event a repair is needed. Harsh weather of any kind can exacerbate existing issues in a home, such as a leaky roof or malfunctioning HVAC system. With a reverse mortgage, you can address these repair needs promptly, preventing further damage and ensuring the secure and comfortable living environment you deserve.  

Using a reverse mortgage to fund winterizing projects, or anything you’d like, can be a practical solution for older homeowners looking to improve their retirement years. As with any financial decision, careful consideration and consultation with professionals are key to making informed choices that align with your individual needs and circumstances.  

At Longbridge Financial, we’re committed to helping you find the right fit. We get to know you and take the time to understand your situation, so we can offer reverse mortgage solutions that are tailored to your needs. If you’d like to learn more about using your home equity to your advantage, contact our team today! 

1. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-heating-systems
2. Consult a financial advisor and appropriate government agencies for any effect on taxes or government benefits.  

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