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When you know cold is coming, BestReviews home improvement expert shares how to prepare

Whether you love winter or hate it, there's no denying it's hard on your home. Cold, snow and ice can do some real damage.

BestReviews DIY expert Beth Allen, founder of HIP Chicks (Home Improvement Project Chicks), can help you prepare for the season's severity. She has an abundance of tips to help you keep your home protected from the elements this winter.

In this article: Frost King Roof-Heating Cable, Worx 40V 20-Inch Cordless Snow Blower and Kidde Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector.

Winter home prep can be broken down into two broad steps

Allen has a knack for streamlining any process to make even monumental tasks manageable. When it comes to preparing your entire home for winter, she suggests breaking it down into two parts: preparing the outside and preparing the inside.

The outside is best done first, ideally when the weather is still warm enough to do the work without discomfort. When that's finished, simply move inside and complete any winterization tasks while you are warm and cozy.

How to prepare the outside of your home for winter

Allen made a quick checklist for you to follow when preparing the outside of your home for winter:

  • Bring pots indoors: Walk around your house, gathering up all items, such as ceramic flower pots, that can be damaged by the cold. Bring them inside and store them where they will be safe.
  • Protect hose bibs: Turn all hose bibs off at the shut-off inside the home, let them drain and protect them with an outdoor faucet cover.
  • Cover outdoor AC unit: Cover your outdoor unit to protect it from the winter elements. The only people who shouldn't do this are ones whose homes have a heating unit that use an outdoor fan.
  • Check downspouts: Make sure the downspouts are not emptying on the driveway, a walk or near the foundation.
  • Check and prepare gutters: Make sure the gutters are clear. If you have a tendency for snow to build up, install a heating cable along the roof edge to keep ice dams from forming.
  • Prepare firewood: Season your firewood at least six months before winter to make sure it is ready when you need it. 
  • Inspect and organize winter tools: Make sure your tools are all in good condition, and in a location that is easily accessible after a storm. This includes shovels, ice scrapers and your snowblower.

How to prepare the inside of your home for winter

Allen also made a checklist for inside your home:

  • Close and lock your windows: If your windows aren't closed and locked, the cold will get in.
  • Inspect for drafts and seal: Look, listen and feel for drafts. Install the appropriate product, whether it is weather stripping or a draft stopper, to block the cold air from getting in.
  • Change your furnace filter: Changing your furnace filter ensures proper air flow through your heating system, reducing strain and increasing efficiency.
  • Test your heating system: Before you need it, it is important to test your heating system and inspect your oil tank to make sure everything is ready for the cold weather.
  • Clean and vacuum heating ducts: Keep your ducts as clean as possible. Vacuum out dust that gradually accumulates throughout the year to keep the system running smoothly and to reduce allergens.
  • Check your shut-offs: Know where to find and how to operate the water, gas, oil and main power shut-offs to your home. If there is an emergency, you may need to do this quickly. Also, Allen says to test to make sure your water shut-off actually works.
  • Insulate your pipes: If you have exposed pipes in your crawlspace or attic, make sure they are insulated with either foam or a heating cable, to keep them from freezing.
  • Switch ceiling fans: Flip the switch on your ceiling fans so they are spinning clockwise.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: While you should have done it in the fall (at the end of Daylight Saving Time), before the first snowstorm, it's a good idea to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Check your fire extinguisher: During the winter, your home is at the greatest risk for fire. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher that is easily accessible.

Best products to prepare for winter

Frost King FC1 Outdoor Foam Faucet Cover

This important accessory slips over your hose bib to help keep your outdoor faucet from freezing.

Sold by Amazon

Thermwell Products Central Air Conditioner Cover

While a central air conditioning unit is made to withstand weather, it doesn't do too well with debris. This cover will keep your unit safe so it works as expected next summer.

Sold by Home Depot

Amerimax Home Products Flex-A-Spout White Vinyl Downspout Extension

This vinyl extension lets you direct water away from your foundation and keep it off your driveway and walk so it doesn't create problems when it freezes.

Sold by Home Depot

Frost King Roof-Heating Cable

Install this cable on your gutters and the first few shingles to prevent ice dams and snow buildup on your roof.

Sold by Amazon

Ryobi 5-Ton 15-Amp Electric Log Splitter

If you've got a fireplace, you will need some way to split your firewood. This can split logs up to 20 inches long and 10 inches in diameter.

Sold by Home Depot

Sunnydaze Outdoor Firewood Log Rack

After you split your logs, this spacious, durable outdoor rack lets you safely store the firewood off the ground.

Sold by Amazon

True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover Snow Shovel

When you need to move a great deal of snow by hand, this large shovel makes that possible. It has an oversized grip that accommodates gloves. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

BirdRock Home Extendable Snow Brush and Ice Scraper

This multifunction tool can brush away snow and scrape away ice. It extends to 55 inches, making it suitable for trucks and SUVs.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Worx 40V 20-Inch Cordless Snowblower

This cordless snowblower is compact yet powerful. The rotating chute throws snow up to 20 feet away in any direction you choose.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

DecoRealm Under Door Draft Stopper

You can quickly and easily block under-door drafts with this weighted draft block that installs in seconds.

Sold by Amazon

Filtrete Air Filter MPR 1000 MERV 11

Install this furnace filter to ensure your heating system runs as efficiently as possible.

Sold by Amazon (four-pack)

Everbilt Foam Pipe Insulation

This 6-foot long cylinder is pre-sliced so it slides over your vulnerable water pipes. It fits 1-inch copper pipes and three-quarter-inch iron pipes.

Sold by Home Depot

Frost King Pipe-Heating Cable

If you want a little extra protection for your pipes, this heated cable will keep them from freezing at temperatures down to minus 40 degrees.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Kidde Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector

You can protect your family from fire and carbon monoxide with this dual-function voice alarm that lets you know which danger you're facing.

Sold by Amazon

Amerex B402 ABC Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher needs to handle all types of fires. This one works for combustibles, flammable liquids and electrical equipment.

Sold by Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.