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Mother Nature forgot fall this year and jumped straight into winter. 

Rain and cold temperatures can be hard on us and our wallets. To get advice on best ways to winterize our homes, the Nisqually Valley News interviewed Shannon Russell, founder and general manager of Prime Home Inspections in Yelm. 

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Shannon is a licensed and certified professional inspector and structural pest inspector and a wealth of knowledge. 

He is also a pretty interesting guy. 

After leaving the Army, Russell lived and worked in Thurston County. Seven years ago, he made Yelm his home. Outside of work, Shannon enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and children and singing karaoke. He can occasionally be seen on stage at The Triad Theater, performing in local theater productions.

This is the advice Shannon offered:

 

Plumbing

Be aware that a plumbing system travels through areas that are colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept at a minimum of 55 degree throughout the winter to help keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing. 

• Insulate exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages and crawl spaces. Foam or fiberglass should cover the entirety of a pipe.

• Outside hoses should be removed from the hose bib and allowed to drain after each use. Sometimes, water supply for exterior pipes can be shut off from inside the house and then drained. If not, it’s important to make sure hose bibs are self-draining, or frost-free. If hose bibs are older, they can be winterized by placing foam covers over them.

• Irrigation or sprinkler systems are especially vulnerable to damage from cold-weather expansion. Turn off the water supply and purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.

• If your property is served by a well, keep temperatures in your pump house above freezing by insulating the walls and using a heat lamp.

 

Building Envelope

• Windows, doors or any other wall penetrations that aren’t sealed well can allow heated air to escape and make way for cold air to enter. 

• Check for drafts on a windy day by using your hand, or smoke from incense. Most small leaks can be remedied with caulk or tape. Leaks occur most often where a seam exists between two or more building materials.

 

Insulation

• Because heat rises, more heat can be lost to the attic space than in other areas of the home. Similar to a winter hat keeping your head warm, adequate attic insulation can help prevent heat from being lost. 

• For best performance in Western Washington, attic insulation should be installed or updated to R-38 or better, and should not be compressed by foot traffic or stored belongings in the attic. Floors should be insulated to R-30, and walls to R-13+5.

• Vintage homes may not have modern insulated components. Storm doors and windows should be installed to help insulate the house and protect against winter weather.

 

Heating Systems 

Homeowners use their heating system most during the winter months. It’s best to make sure your unit is functioning properly before it’s needed. The following inspection and maintenance tips can help:

• Test the furnace by increasing the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment within five minutes, it may need repair.

• Check the air filter at least monthly and replace if dirty.

• If the heating system is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.

• To help ensure safe conditions, combustion heating appliances should be evaluated at regular intervals by a qualified heating technician. Check your heater’s maintenance log if it has one, and if it doesn’t or it has been longer than two years, call a professional.

• Having heating ducts professionally cleaned every year can go a long way toward keeping your home and heating system clean and efficient.

 

Cooling Systems

• If the home is equipped with central air conditioning, remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit and protect it with a breathable waterproof cover to help prevent corrosion of components.

• Window air conditioners should be removed and stored.

• Reverse ceiling fans in order to recirculate warm air from the ceiling. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.

 

Chimneys and Fireplaces

• Chimneys should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys to stay warm.

• The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn’t, this means that there may be an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.

• A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years. If firewood is burned regularly, scheduling a chimney sweep every year can help ensure safe conditions exist.

• Close the flue damper when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious as an open window, but it can allow an awful lot of warm air to escape through the chimney.

• Glass storm doors can help provide an extra layer of insulation.

 

Roofs

• Leaves, fir needles and other debris in gutters can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight can also cause damage to gutters and trapped water can enter the home. Additionally, clogged gutters and downspouts often overflow, saturating the soil next to the home, causing foundation damage. For these reasons, debris must be cleared from gutters. If you have large Evergreens nearby, this may require repeating multiple times each winter to keep the gutters and downspouts flowing freely.

• Remove all moss and debris from the roof surface, and repair or replace damaged or missing shingles.

 

These simple steps can help keep your home snug and dry as the winter rains continue. If you’d like to have Russell inspect your home to ensure you stay warm this winter, visit primehomeinspects.com or call (253) 678-8910. Prime Home Inspections LLC is a Veteran-owned business serving all of Western Washington. Every client receives lifetime customer service benefits, and discounts are available to all active military, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, educators and seniors.

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