Savvy homeowners getting ready because winter is coming 

Rick Chantry 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling it the “season of shivers.” Janice Stillman, the Almanac’s editor, says, “this coming winter could be one of the longest and coldest that we’ve seen in years.” The Almanac’s forecast is for lots of snow and cold to areas of New England, through the Ohio Valley and northern ports of the Deep South (which includes Tennessee.) 

2022 NETAR President
Association Spokesperson

The Almanac has been making long-range weather forecasts for 230 years and claims those forecasts have been on target 80 percent of the time. Time will tell whether not this winter is one of those on-target years, but what isn’t a matter of speculation is – to quote the Game of Throne’s warning – “winter is coming.” That means now is the time to start getting your home ready because higher energy bills are a lead-pipe certainty, even if the Almanac is wrong. 

One of the most important winterization checkpoints should be a heating system inspection and tune-up. But unless you’re an accomplished do-it-yourself, this inspection is best left to a professional.  

Heating system ducts are an often-overlooked money-saving item that doesn’t necessarily require professional service. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a central heating system can lose up to 60 percent of its heated air before it reaches the rooms to be heated if ductwork is not well-connected, clean, and insulated in unheated areas. Ducts should be vacuumed once every three or four years.  

Some of the other energy and comfort items that are part of a heating system’s winterization effort should include stocking up on filters. Dirty filters impede the heating system’s airflow and reduce efficiency. If you haven’t already done it, consider switching your old thermostat for a programmable digital thermostat. It doesn’t cost much, and the energy efficiency increase is worth the cost and effort.  

If you have a fireplace and the chimney has not been cleaned for a while, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep. If you have a wood-burning stove, it also needs annual maintenance and exhaust cleaning. 

After the heating system is fine-tuned, it is time to move outdoors. Check the doors and windows for any weather-stripping that needs replacing.  

Rake all debris and vegetation away from your home’s foundation, and then look for crevices, cracks, or spaces around pipes that need to be sealed. Even if it is a small crack, seal it. Your efforts will be rewarded with fewer unwanted crawly guests seeking shelter.  

One way to check for air leaks inside the house is to walk around the drafty areas on a breezy day with a lighted incense stick or candle. You can see exactly where the drafts are compromising your electric bill. Once you discover the drafts, you can block the outside air invasion with caulk or insulation strips.  

Door sweeps are a good idea to close spaces under exterior doors.  

After the annual leaf fall, clean your home’s gutters and check the flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home. This time is also ideal for winterizing your summer garden and storing those summertime tools. Be sure to drain all hoses and insulate any exposed pipes. Trim any tree branches hanging too close to the house or electrical wires. Apply the same trimming to shrubs if their growth touches the house. Lastly, seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. 

Another thing to remember is to reverse your ceiling fans. Reversing the ceiling fan’s direction from the summer setting will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping the room – and you – more comfortable.  

If you are unsure how to reverse the ceiling fan and the switch does not indicate a winter/summer selection, turn it on and watch the blades’ direction. They should be turning clockwise during the winter.

Check out HouseLogic’s tips for saving on energy costs at It’s a free service of the National Association of REALTORS® offers tips agents can use for their marketing. It’s also home base for savvy homeowners looking for information and tips on everything from maintenance advice to cutting energy costs. 

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at