Winter storms might leave the landscape looking like a winter wonderland, but when they sweep across the sleepy towns, they can leave all sorts of chaos in their wake. As with most weather events, it’s always better to be prepared ahead of time. What do you need to do to prepare your home for upcoming winter storms?

1. Insulate Your Windows

Windows are great if the power goes out and you need natural light to see by, but they’re also one of the biggest sources of heat loss in a home. It’s estimated that heat loss through windows is responsible for 25-30% of heating and cooling costs in residential properties. Upgrade your windows to double-pane energy-efficient models if you have the option. If you don’t, insulate them with plastic before the storm to try to keep as much heat in as possible and reap the benefits of an energy-efficient home.

2. Protect Your Pipes

The last thing you want to deal with during a winter storm is frozen or broken pipes. Before the storm hits — though ideally, you want to accomplish this goal before the weather starts getting cold — inspect your pipes and insulation to make sure they’re protected from the cold. Include any pipes in your house that might not normally be insulated, since if you lose power and heat, they could be vulnerable to freezing too.

3. Get Your HVAC Inspected

If the power goes out, you won’t be able to rely on electric heating, but if your home heating system runs on gas or other fuel pellets, you’ll want to have the system inspected before you really need it. If your furnace goes out during a winter storm, you won’t be able to get a technician out to fix it until after the storm passes, which could mean you’re in for a very cold few days.

4. Stock up on Fuel

Speaking of furnaces, fuel pellets, oil or gas, you’ll want to stock up before the storm hits. This is another type of preparation you should have in place at the beginning of the winter months. It will cost more to have someone come out to refill your supplies in the dead of winter, so make sure you’ve got everything you need to last you through the cold months.

5. Trim Back Tree Branches

Winter storms bring wind, which can easily tear down branches or even trees and send them crashing into your home. Trim tree branches away from your home, and remove dead trees promptly, with the to make sure they can’t do any damage if they’re caught in the storm.

6. Get Your Fireplace Inspected

A fireplace can be a useful way to keep your home warm if the power goes out and you rely on electric heating and air, but only if it’s been cleaned and inspected recently. If the chimney is clogged, it could create a fire hazard or allow dangerous smoke to build up in your home when all you’re trying to do is stay warm. Get your fireplace inspected and cleaned at the beginning of the season, and you’ll be good to go.

7. Clean the Gutters

Winter storms don’t just bring snow and wind — they often also bring rain and sleet. If your home has gutters, make sure they’re clean before the storm arrives. Clogged gutters dump water where you don’t want it to go — like down around the home’s foundation — and could provide places for ice to build up, pulling the gutters off the roof.

8. Stop up Any Drafts

If the power goes out and you’re relying on a fireplace and fuzzy blankets to keep you warm, the last thing you want to do is feel cold drafts. Take the time before the storm arrives to hunt out any drafts and caulk them up or otherwise repair them. It could be as simple as adding a new layer of weatherstripping to doorways or windows to cover any holes.

9. Inspect Your Roof

Don’t get caught out in the cold because a winter storm ripped your roof from your house. Before the storm strikes, have your roof inspected or do it yourself to make sure there aren’t any damaged spots or missing shingles that could cause more problems in stormy conditions.

10. Double-Check Your Insulation

Modern houses are pretty good at maintaining their interior temperature, as long as they’re properly insulated. If you’re expecting a winter storm and a power outage, double-check your insulation to make sure you’ve got everything you need to stay warm.

Always Be Prepared

Winter storms might be part of life in northern climates, but that doesn’t mean they need to be uncomfortable. Enjoy your winter wonderland, and stay warm by always being prepared.


Emily is a sustainability writer who is the creator of Conservation Folks.