8 essential maintenance tips to prepare rental homes in the winter

When you own single-family rental homes in cold weather climates, it’s crucial to winterize them because they’re prone to weather-related damage. With structures like Pittsburgh investment properties vulnerable to the cold, property managers should take careful maintenance of these homes.

Here are ways to prepare rental homes for the winter:

1. Inspect the home

While a home inspection is usually associated with closing on a house, you could also choose to hire an inspector to look for any structural damages or other problems that are exacerbated by cold or severe weather. A good inspector will be able to point out any issues that you should budget for in terms of maintenance or replacement. It’s also worth investigating scheduling sequential inspections as the seasons change. For instance, if an inspection before December revealed nothing, but a new one in April finds issues, you’re better enabled to tackle that problem.

2. Insulate pipes

Be aware of broken and burst pipes that may release water into the home and then refreeze. Once it floods the home, pools of water could settle and mold may develop. To prevent pipe breaks, insulate pipes in areas that could be exposed to the cold, including attics, garages and basements. There are specialized materials to insulate pipes, and while it may not look very professional, as a quick fix, you could even use something as simple as newspaper and tape.

3. Keep water on

Turning water on so that it keeps running through your pipes could prevent them from freezing. The constant flow of water will help avert the scenario of water freezing in the pipe. You should also open the cabinet doors under kitchen or bathroom faucets to bring more heat from the home to warm up the pipes.

4. Drain water from outside faucets

Although you should concentrate on keeping water out of your home, pay attention to any faucets and pipes located outside. In preparing for winter, drain the water out of the pipes and sprinkler systems. Disconnect hoses from the faucets and place them in a shed or storage area. Additionally, wrap the outside pipes in insulation and tape it in place.

5. Prevent drafts from windows and doors

Whether you have a brand new heating system or one that is past its prime, consider making the home even more energy-efficient by closing off any cracks in the windowsills or doors that let cold air into the house. Drafts lower the temperature of the home and make your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system work harder. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts could account for 5 percent to 30 percent of total energy consumption from the HVAC system working more. Use caulking or sealant along the windows to stop gaps. You could also put up heavy curtains that further insulate the windows. For doors, install weather sealing that will go between the cracks in the doors that will keep the drafts out.

6. Lower the temperature for the water heater

Many people think that the hotter the water heater, the better to keep warm in the winter. However, a water heater kept at a high temperature is at risk for causing leaks because of the elevated pressure. Determine whether you should lower the temperature down, such as from 140 degrees to 120 degrees, to prevent leaks and save energy.

7. Replace HVAC filters

During winter, your HVAC system might work overtime, which could mean more dust, dirt and other contaminants getting caught in your system’s filter. With your HVAC system on all the time, prepare the home for winter by buying additional filters and replace them as much as they are needed.

8. Seal ducts and vents

In harsh winters, energy to heat the home is at a premium. However, many see utility costs spiral out of control during this season because of inefficient heating practices. As a remedy, it might be better to close off vents to rooms that aren’t used as often in the winter. That way, you’re not losing heat, and in turn losing money. For example, while you are preparing a bathroom for tenants, you could seal off vents to bedrooms while you concentrate on the bathroom prevent heat from escaping.

With the structural problems winter can cause rental properties, as investors – especially if you’re a remote investor – you should make sure your property manager is equipped to handle such matters to protect your investment.


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Lauren Feb 11 2015 - 9:49 AM
It is definitely crucial to winterize homes. If you don't take time to take the proper precautions, you could end up paying a lot more money in damage cost. Thank you for sharing these tips!
    Scott Hetherington Feb 11 2015 - 9:55 AM
    So true. Glad you liked it.
Kings Gutter Guards Mar 5 2015 - 2:32 AM
Gutter cleaning is also a very important task that needs to be done to prepare for winter. All to often water damage occurs around the home because of blocked gutters and downpipes.
    Scott Hetherington Mar 5 2015 - 10:02 AM
    Very good point (clearly a self serving one, Kings), but still a valid :-) Thanks for commenting.

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