Winter in Florida certainly does not mean the same thing as winter for our northern neighbors.

That means we’re not likely to get extended periods of below freezing temperatures, and it’s even more unlikely that we will see any serious snow. Nevertheless, there are some things that you should be doing as a homeowner or renter to protect your home during the winter months.

Check Your Electrical System

Especially for those cold days, you want to schedule an electrical maintenance tune-up by a licensed electrician. They will look for sparking in the main service panel and inspect the breaker wires for bad insulation or discoloration.

Portable Heaters

If you use a portable heater, make sure the wiring is not frayed and the unit is free of dust. Additionally, portable electric units can stress wiring and can cause fires if placed in the wrong locations. Taking the heater out of the closet to use without inspecting it can be a fire hazard. And there’s an additional danger if the portable heater is powered by propane or gas. Not only is there the issue of fire but also carbon monoxide poisoning.

Check Your Heating System

You may use your air conditioner 10 months out of the year or more, but if you turn on the heat for the first time when it gets cold, you may discover a problem. It’s good to have your HVAC system checked by a professional twice a year – and one of those times should be before the first freeze. A smart or programable thermostat can be useful here. You can set it to run at a higher temperature overnight and lower it during the day when it’s not needed as much.

It’s also important to check the ducting and cleaning every few years. The smell you often experience when turning the heat on for the first time each year Is the result of accumulated dust on the heating elements. Your filters are not perfect, so over time dust accumulates in them. You can breathe easier if that accumulation is removed periodically. 

Protect Your Wall or Window A/C Units

While removing window units may not be necessary in Florida, if you’re not going to be using them, an insulated cover or shrink wrap may be useful.

Clean Your Dryer Vents

Dryers often get more use in the winter, so it’s a good time to make sure the dryer vents are clean. As is the case with portable heaters, dryers can be a fire risk and keeping the vents clean reduces that risk.

Weatherproof Exterior Pipes

It’s a good idea to cover exposed pipes. That’s usually pipes associated with a  sprinkler system. Rather than wait for a freeze, just keep them covered. Even a mild freeze can cause cracks in the pipes, resulting in the release of hundreds of gallons of water a day. And depending on where that water is going, it could cause structural damage to your home.

Inspect the Roof and Trees

If you didn’t do it in the fall, this is the time to clean out gutter spouts. Also, if you have dead or dying tree branches, get them removed by a professional before they become a hazard for your home.

Remember the Holidays

This means a few things. If you live in a community with an HOA, there may be rules about when holiday decorations need to be removed. As a homeowner, you may be aware of them. If you’re a tenant, make sure your landlord keeps you informed.

If you have a live tree, you should be watering it every other day and keeping it unplugged when no one is home. And make sure to remove it when it gets dry.

Look for Spots Letting in Cold Air

Gaps around windows or doors may be letting cold air into your home. Weather stripping or insulating these spots will keep your home warmer and reduce your energy bills.

Now, here are a few reminders from our article about fall home-maintenance tips.

  • Check batteries and expiration dates. Smoke detectors typically last about 10 years, and carbon monoxide detectors are generally good for about six years.
  • Clean your fireplace and chimney if you have one.

Finally, here’s an important reminder from Elena Mendenhall, the director of property management for RE/MAX Professionals.

“If you have any concerns or issues with any of these things, don’t wait,” she said. “Sometimes, you don’t know when the emergency is going to happen. But running the heat from time to time may be the difference between having to call for help during business hours or during an after-hours emergency. There’s usually a significant cost difference when having to call an HVAC technician after hours versus normal business hours.”