5 Ways to prepare your home for the winter


It’s going to get a whole lot colder; let’s just face it. This chilly, but pleasant, weather we’re currently having will pass and make way for the kinds of days that freeze the water in your gutters and turn your front step into an unwanted skating rink. I’m not saying these things to rain on your autumn parade, but rather to encourage you to take advantage of the nicer weather and get your home ready for the cold.

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we are all about saving people money through energy conservation and efficiency. The five tips we’ve assembled to help you prepare your home for winter will also help lower your Hydro bill!


5 Ways to Prepare Your Home for the Winter

1) Install timers, photocells, and time switches for outside lighting
You probably don’t want to walk around in the dark on that newly formed skating rink we mentioned. There are three different ways to make sure that your family or building residents are kept safe without leaving lights on at all times. Photocells are a great option for areas you will want lit all night. They automatically turn on or off based on the sunlight instead of on a certain time, which is ideal as the days get shorter. You can also use time switches, which many people use for irrigation, but can also be used for lighting. These switches are pretty self explanatory, as they turn on and off at a preset time. Timers are even more simple, but perfect for indoor lights you find that you accidentally leave on. These timers simply turn off after a predetermined amount of time.(1)

2) Install or check gutter heating cables
Snow and ice building up in your gutters can be a major problem and the kind of problem you really don’t want to be dealing with on the coldest day of the year. Roof and gutter cables prevent this snow and ice build up by keeping these areas above a freezing temperature. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that these cables cost only pennies a day to use, which is a whole lot cheaper than replacing cracked gutters or a damaged roof.(2)

3) Install or check your automated thermostat
We’ve talked about automated thermostats as a way to use energy efficiently, but when it’s cold and you want to come home to a warm house, that little piece of technology will be the difference between paying an arm and a leg to heat the house all day and keeping your bill low by only turning the heat on right before you arrive after work. If you have a newer thermostat, like Nest, it can actually learn more complex schedules and can be controlled by your smartphone. Talk about convenient!(3)

4) Shut down your central AC properly
It’s quite simple to turn off your central AC, but many people forget a couple of steps. Neglecting to shut down your central AC properly could cause overheating and could even start a fire.(4)

How to shut down your central AC:

  1. Turn the AC unit off at the thermostat.
  2. Turn the fan off (in some models, this is separate from the main unit)
  3. Turn the oil warmer off by shutting of the breaker or local switch outside.
  4. Put the cover on.

Don’t forget to remove the cover in the spring and turn the power on at least 24 hours before you need it, to allow enough time for the oil to warm in the unit.

5) Test all smoke and CO detectors
Lots of people use the time change as a reminder to check their smoke and CO detectors. We don’t need to remind you that this small act of electrical maintenance saves lives every year, but we will remind you of the three things you should be looking for when you do this check.

  • Push the “test” button and listen to make sure that it signals the alarm (many people start and end here, which isn’t enough)
  • Replace the battery
  • Clean the detectors from dust by following the manufacturer’s directions. If your detectors are clogged with dust, they can’t do their job.
  • Replace the alarm if it is ten years old. Not sure how old your detector is? Play it safe and replace it, but write the date you purchased the new one on the inside of the detector so you’ll know for next time.(5)
For more winter-related solutions check out:

Sources:(1) Electrical 101, (2) Home Depot, (3) How Stuff Works, (4) Energy.gov, (5) About Kids Health by Sick Kids