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January 25, 2023  |  Home

Get through winter in your new home: A guide for new homeowners from BestReviews home improvement expert

A new home doesn't come with a user's manual. When you move in, you need to learn all about what you're getting and how it works. You must understand how the heating system works, where the main water shut-off valve is and more. And beyond that, you need to figure out what's working as it should and what must be adjusted, repaired or upgraded.

While this might sound overwhelming, BestReviews DIY expert Beth Allen, founder of HIP Chicks (Home Improvement Project Chicks), can help. Allen walks you through the key items to look for and suggests simple yet reliable fixes so you won't have any unfortunate surprises this winter.

In this article: Kidde Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector, Lasko Oscillating Digital Ceramic Tower Heater and Ring Alarm 8-Piece Kit.

Top priority when moving into a new home before winter

Highest on Allen's list when you move into a new home is understanding your heating system. For instance, it is crucial to know the difference between electric baseboards and baseboard radiators as well as the difference between natural gas and oil heating. She noted that some thermostats are powered by a battery, so if your heat seems to have stopped working, the fix may be as simple as replacing a battery.

"If you don’t know how any of these things work because you moved in and there’s no manual, look on the side of the furnace to find a sticker with the brand and the serial number, and go online or call the company to get an owner's manual," she said.

Know how to shut things off

In a home emergency, one of the most important actions you can take is shutting something down. You need to know how to shut off the gas, the oil, the water and the electricity to all of your major appliances, such as the water heater and the furnace. When a pipe bursts, that is not the time you want to start searching for the main shut-off valve for your water.

Knowing where these things are, so you can quickly access them in an emergency, could save you thousands of dollars. It could also save your life.

Understand and test your security system

When the days are shorter, the nights are longer. This means the crime rate rises in the winter. Allen said you need to understand how your security system works to remain safe. And since winter is the peak season for home fires, and many smoke detectors are integrated into the home security system, this point becomes even more important.

Don't just assume everything works, Allen said. Check every smoke detector to be sure it is functioning properly. 

Other things to inspect and consider when moving into a new home before the winter

Allen's other recommendations if you're moving into a new home:

  • Check your gutters to make sure everything is clear so you do not get ice dams.
  • Use a downspout extension to keep water away from your driveway, walk and foundation.
  • Shut off and drain outside spigots. Cover them with an outdoor faucet cover.
  • Purchase an infrared thermometer to check for heat loss around doors and windows.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure the flue is closed when not in use.
  • Test all ground fault circuit interrupter outlets to make sure they're functioning properly.
  • Always plug appliances, such as a space heater, directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip.
  • Know what kind of snow removal equipment you have, and store it in a place that is easy to access after a storm.
  • Replace your furnace filter, and vacuum your ducts.
  • Check all ceiling fans to make sure they are rotating clockwise. This moves the warmer air at the top of the room down, letting you lower the thermostat.

Best winter products for new homeowners

Etekcity Gun

This infrared thermometer can accurately measure temperatures with just a squeeze of the trigger. The large backlit display makes it easy to read, so you can quickly see if any unwanted cold is entering your home.

Sold by Amazon

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

If your downspout is dumping water into your driveway or near your foundation, this durable vinyl extension can direct drainage where you want it to go. It is corrugated for versatility and fits 2-by-3-inch downspouts and 3-by-4-inch downspouts.

Sold by Home Depot

Kidde Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector

The voice alarm on this model alerts you to situations ranging from low batteries to carbon monoxide. Its battery backup ensures it will continue working if you lose power.

Sold by Amazon

Google Nest Learning Thermostat

Suitable for houses without a C wire, this gives you full control of your home's temperature no matter where you are. It learns your behaviors, so it is more energy efficient. Additionally, it can send you alerts if something isn't right with your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.

Sold by Home DepotBest Buy and Target

Leviton Weather Resistant GFCI Outlet

This outlet is easy to install, works through harsh weather and protects against electric shock. For additional safety, a lockout prevents resetting if the GFCI is damaged.

Sold by Home Depot

True Temper Ergonomic Mountain Mover Snow Shovel

When a storm hits, you want to use a heavy-duty shovel to clear the driveway and walk. This one has an oversized grip that accommodates gloves and a nylon wear strip to help protect your deck and other surfaces.

Sold by Home Depot and Amazon

Frost King Outdoor Foam Faucet Cover

If your outdoor faucet freezes, it could be a minor inconvenience or result in costly foundation damage. To prevent that, all you need is this easy-to-install cover that protects your faucet from extreme temperatures. It arrives fully assembled and can be used year after year.

Sold by Amazon

Filtrete HVAC Air Filter

A dirty furnace filter can cause higher energy bills and premature failing of your furnace. To make sure it runs as efficiently as possible, you should replace the filter every three months. This filter is perfect for the job.

Sold by Amazon and Target

Lasko Oscillating Digital Ceramic Tower Heater

Not every room in your home gets the same amount of heat. Rather than turning up the thermostat, consider this portable space heater. It has two quiet settings and built-in safety features that protect against overheating.

Sold by Amazon, Home Depot and Target

Ring Alarm 8-Piece Kit

The eight-piece Ring security system is suitable for one- or two-bedroom households. It includes one base station, one keypad, one motion detector, four contact sensors and one range extender.

Sold by Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot and Kohl's

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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.