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How to winterproof your home

How to winterproof your home

Even though the chilly winter frost has already arrived in the capital, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to winterproof your home. Here are some easy maintenance ideas to keep your house warm, cosy and safe throughout the season.

Stay safe and warm

As the temperature drops across the capital, you’ve probably already started to use your heating system, but is it working efficiently? It’s never too late to check.

If you have a gas heating system, get a qualified gasfitter to service it – you should schedule maintenance on your gas heating system every two years to keep it operating effectively and safely, in particular, to ensure that it’s not leaking carbon monoxide (CO).

If you have ducted heating or a reverse-cycle system, check that there is air flow coming from every vent. Remove dust and dirt from vents and filters and check that furniture, window furnishings and other household items are a safe distance away.

For a wood-burning fireplace, clean your chimney and flue of any old ashes and debris before you use it. For safety, install a fire screen in front of open fires.

If you have electrical or oil heating appliances, thoroughly check cords and plugs for cracks, fractures or faulty wiring and replace them if you see signs of damage or excessive wear.

If you use electric blankets, it is recommended to only turn them on to warm the bed and then switch them off before getting in. Energy Australia suggests replacing electric blankets after 10 years, or sooner if they appear worn.

Stop mould and condensation

Winter is the perfect breeding ground for mould, rising damp and condensation due to lack of ventilation and the constant clash of cold and warm air in and around the home. Mould not only presents a potential health risk for you and your family, including pets, but it can turn into an expensive problem.

To help prevent and manage mould and condensation, start by checking wardrobes, bathroom cupboards and ceilings, cellars, garages and storage areas – essentially anywhere that doesn’t get much air flow, is prone to high levels of moisture or doesn’t get much natural light.

One of the main problem areas is the bathroom, so ensure that you have a fan that is in good working order. Installing window locks in your bathroom and throughout your home is another way to reduce condensation, as leaving windows slightly ajar while you are out will help with constant air flow. Also, consider investing in an air humidifier for rainy days or when it’s too cold to open the windows.

If you have existing mould or rising damp in your home, call a professional to come and get rid of it and ensure that all spores are removed to prevent future spread.

Mould isn’t just a problem inside your home. If you have wooden furniture or a timber deck, now is the time to give it a coat of quality sealant or paint. This will protect timber surfaces from moisture damage, mould and rot and will increase their lifespan.

Weather seal your home

Research from the ACT Government's ActSmart initiative reveals that an uninsulated Canberra home can lose up to 40% of its heat through the roof, 20% through the walls, up to 15% through the floor and 10–15% through cracks and gaps. Inadequate insulation has a direct impact on your home’s heat loss, plus it also increases your energy bills and your household’s greenhouse gas emissions. Luckily, there are many ways you can weather seal your home to increase energy efficiency and keep costs down.

Start by looking at your doors. Depending on your budget, you can install new doors with built-in sealed frames and architraves. If your budget doesn’t allow, install weather strips or draught stoppers to the bottoms of doors, or use a gap filler for architraves.

For windows, ensure you have thick, lined curtains or well-insulated and sealed blinds and shutters. Check that curtains touch the floor and wrap to the wall on either side of your window. If you have the budget, you could install new windows or double glaze your existing glass, which can reduce heat loss by 40–60%. Remember to leave your curtains or shutters open during warm winter days to allow the heat in and close them at night to seal in the warmth.

For heat loss through the floor, check your skirting boards and use gap filler to eliminate draughts. For carpeted areas, consider new carpet with an insulated thermal underlay. Wooden and tiled floors can benefit from rugs but it is worth checking for leaks through gaps between the floorboards or tiles. Any gaps or cracks can be filled with tube sealant or grout.

For your roof and walls, it’s important to have a high R-value (Thermal Resistance) when it comes to insulation. The ACT Government's ActSmart initiative recommends a R5 rating for the ceiling and R2 in walls and under suspended floors or around slab edges. Seek the advice of a qualified insulation retailer to help you choose the right type for your home.

Clean out gutters and drains

Blocked drains, pipes and gutters can cause serious and costly damage to your home, but with regular maintenance, prevention is possible. With autumn’s heavy leaf fall, blockages can be particularly common, especially if you have overhanging trees near your roof, so it’s important to act now before winter settles in. A build-up of twigs, leaves, moss and debris can cause water to back up and overflow into your roof, creating leaks within your ceiling and water damage in your home.

Call a professional to inspect and clean your roof, downpipes and gutters regularly, including checking for rust, broken tiles or cracks to roof structures. Roof, gutter and downpipe inspections can be DIY but make sure to take extra safety precautions.

If you find that your drains and gutters are getting clogged regularly, you might consider installing guards or filters, which are very effective at keeping your gutters clean and clear. Also, think about pruning trees near the roofline as another preventative.

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