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How to Survive Your First Winter in Your New Home
Amanda Ringler

By: Amanda Ringler on January 13th, 2020

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How to Survive Your First Winter in Your New Home

drafts  |  energy bills  |  high energy bills  |  winter  |  preparing for winter

Like any budding relationship, you and your new house are just getting to know each other. 

You’ve explored every room and the exterior, but there is still a lot to learn about how your home makes you feel. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel like your home is meeting your needs?

As the seasons change, so can your feelings as you’re discovering things about your new abode and your first winter can be very telling.

Experiencing Your First Winter in Your New Home

Winter is the most telling out of all the seasons because this is the time you can see what your house is really made of.

In the spring and summer, you might notice if your basement leaks or if one area of the house is hotter than another.

The winter though, that’s when you will see how your house can hold up against the elements, especially if you live in cold weather climates. Mother Nature can throw a lot at a home in just a few short months, from freezing temperatures to tons of snow and howling winds.

Your new home checked off all of the areas of your wishlist, but once those cold temperatures hit the house’s true colors started to show. You feel betrayed and shocked when your first winter electric bill came in the mail and it was $500. At your old house, you were used to paying closer to $200.

These weather conditions and unexpected costs can put this relationship with your new house in jeopardy if you’re doing all the giving and your home is letting you down.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues that can pop up in a home once winter hits.

Cold, Drafty Rooms

When you buy a new home, you’re likely not scrutinizing the insulation throughout or checking the seals around the doors and windows.

It’s something that doesn’t come up until you notice drafts coming through the windows, outlets, or doors. The colder it gets, the higher you turn up your thermostat or bring out more blankets and clothes.

It can be frustrating to feel like your house is letting you down when you need it most, but with a little help from you, it can be the comfortable space you believed it to be. 

It could be as simple as, or as extreme as, there is no insulation in your exterior walls, as we’ve heard many times from people who have purchased older homes. Adding insulation that creates an air seal, like foam, to your walls can help stop the drafts coming from the outlets.

When it comes to your windows and doors, it can be as simple as adding new weather stripping or caulk around them to prevent those air leaks. You can also add plastic over the windows to stop cold air from getting inside your home.

Ice Dams Forming on the Roof

Do the icicles outside your home look like they could break records for size and girth?

These aren’t just dangerous -- they are an indication that warm air is escaping through your roof.

What you’re actually looking at are ice dams. An ice dam forms when the snow on the roof begins to melt and run down the roof. It catches towards the end of the roof at the gutter under the snow where the dam is formed.

Ice dams happen as warm air escapes through the roof, the snow melts, that water stays hidden under the snow and moves down the roof, then it freezes at the gutter or overhang and forms icicles. 

So, what’s the problem with icicles? They’ll put your eye out, but also, it’s more about the damage the ice dam is causing to the roof.

That frozen water actually trapped ice under the shingle, which means when it melts it’s likely going to seep through the roof and possibly into the exterior walls. All of this leads to issues with condensation and mold.

If you notice ice dams on your roof, the ice has to be broken up manually and can be very dangerous. The best and safest bet is to call a professional to remove the snow and ice from the roof. 

Adding insulation to the attic can help prevent ice dams in the future. Preferably something that creates an air seal, so air still can’t move through it.

Frozen Pipes

If the pipes in your home are exposed to the extreme cold, then they will freeze.

When this happens you either catch it in time and thaw them, or they end up bursting causing more trouble than you want to deal with.

If you notice your pipes are frozen, you can thaw them before they burst. This is done by running water through the pipe or by applying direct heat to the section of the pipe that is frozen.

If the pipe has already burst, it’s best to shut off the water to lessen the damage. Then you’ll have to call in a plumber for repairs.

Frozen pipes happen because the pipes are outside of the building envelope, which means they are outside of the interior living space. They might be in the crawl space or in the walls and if there isn’t insulation in those areas, then the cold air can work its magic.

High Energy Bills

If your home is lacking in insulation, you’ll notice the problems above, and also likely take a hit to your wallet.

Homes with little to no insulation aren’t cheap dates, especially in the winter. This is because your furnace is going to work overtime to try and maintain a constant temperature.

The more air you have leaking out of your home means there’s more cold air getting in as well. It’s a constant battle as your furnace tries to keep up and the more it runs the more money it costs you.

As you can see, a lot of these issues can be remedied by adding insulation to your home using a material that can stop air movement in and out of your home.

Prepare Your New Home for Winter

These are just some of the issues you might notice in the winter in your new home.

You’re in it to win it in your new home, so the best bet is to work it out together to make a comfortable and energy efficient home. It comes down to getting a head start in the fall before it gets too cold.

Preparing your new home for winter is as easy as sealing up the places where you notice drafts, making sure your furnace is clean and ready to go and making sure your home insulation is up to par.

Adding a material like foam insulation that creates an air seal can help make your home more comfortable and energy efficient. 

You and your new home have many years ahead of you, and hopefully, they can be the happiest and most comfortable years to come.

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About Amanda Ringler

Amanda previously has worked as a breaking news and crime reporter, TV news producer, and editor in Flint and Detroit. Throughout her career as a journalist, she has won several awards from the Detroit Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists and the Michigan Press Association. As part of the RetroFoam of Michigan family, Amanda uses her experience as a journalist to write content that will help educate homeowners on the benefits of foam insulation. When Amanda isn’t writing, she’s spending time with her husband and rescued huskies. She also loves knitting, making art, cooking, and hosting dinner and a movie night for friends and family.