How to Avoid These 5 Hidden Costs of Winter

By Ashley Marcin on 27 February 2015 4 comments

As I type this article, the temperature outside is negative 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill? Negative 32. And this is, like, our fifth round of this frigid nonsense this year. We've gotten used to the cold, so I complain mostly to establish my clout as a northern girl who knows her winter weather and storms. As you might not know, there are costs hidden in the feet of snow dumped on our streets, the ice coating the trees overhanging our homes, and the plunging temperatures that seem unrelenting. (See also: 9 Things You Need to Do Now to Prepare for Winter)

Here's how to avoid paying them.

1. Frozen Pipes

We had a plumber over the other day, and he was telling us about all the frozen pipes his team has been dealing with this winter. When pipes burst, they don't just dump water into your home. They run a path of destruction, ruining flooring, flooding furnaces, and more. The costs can be staggering. To avoid this unfortunate situation, make sure your pipes stay warm. The plumber explained to us that problems often arise when people go away and turn their heat down low, so keep your thermostat on a toasty 65 or higher. And learn where your main water shutoff valve is so you can stop the worst damage before it starts.

2. Fire Hazards

When the weather gets frightful, people often turn to secondary heating source to supplement the furnace. They switch on things like electric or gas heaters, gas or wood stoves, and light up fireplaces. Whenever you're using a flame inside your home, make sure you're watching it carefully. Fire is one of the most costly tragedies because you could lose absolutely everything you own, including your home. Get your chimney cleaned annually to eliminate the risk of fire. And always open your flue the whole way, which will keep the airflow in proper order.

3. Fallen Trees

With all that ice and snow and wind, there's a risk that trees around your home might fall without notice. We've never experienced this one ourselves, but we did almost buy a home where several sick-looking trees were overhanging the property. I still walk by that place and wonder when the damage is going to happen. Although there's not a lot you can do to ensure those trees won't come crashing down onto your roof or worse, you can be proactive — especially since costs aren't always covered by insurance. If you have trees hanging close to your house, consider trimming them back. Remove rotting or sick trees entirely. You can often get a free quote for the work (get several), and though it might cost a lot upfront, you'll save later on.

4. Ice Dams

We've had some impressively long icicles this year. They're both beautiful and slightly terrifying at the same time. Not only do ice dams pose dangers to people hanging below, but they can also cause some major roof problems by blocking water from flowing freely. Try removing as much snow as possible from your roof. If that's not a viable option, try removing icicles or hire a professional to come out and do it for you. It will cost less to take care of an issue before it gets downright nasty. To prevent the dams next year, add more insulation to your attic and check out heated wires you can install on gutters that melt ice away.

5. Utility Costs

Now, with the electric components, especially heaters, utility costs can climb. Your heater could be costing you between $50 and $120 per month to run — and when you consider that winter lasts forever some places, that adds up fast. Try running your heater at minimum and — instead — layering up with warm clothes for free. Otherwise, some general home maintenance can take care of a lot of the dollars that are literally flying out your windows. Check around for drafts and cover them up. Get your furnace serviced to ensure it's running properly. Use thermal curtains to block cold air out on the worst days. (See also: 7 Easy Ways to Lower Winter Utility Costs)

How do you control the high cost of a chilly winter? Let us know in comments!

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Guest's picture
Guest

in some villages and towns, the heated wires that go along your roof to try to stop ice dams are against code, so its always a good idea to check those in particular before installing them

Guest's picture
Guest

I raise the humidity. Feels warmer so I can run heater less. I know someone who uses socks that are battery powered to keep hunters warm. Just saying.

Guest's picture
Larry

How is your heating bill a "hidden" cost? You get the bill every month.

Ashley Marcin's picture

Good question, Larry. Though some people are on budget billing systems and might have a specific amount they pay each month, some people pay as they go/use power -- and in cold climates, the dollar amount can range wildly. A “hidden" cost related to utility bills comes in when you’re using too much power to stay warm or otherwise when you could be making smart changes -- like blocking drafty doors and windows -- that would cut those excess costs. This is why I offered some ways to cut back on utility costs in general so they might help keep the bill more stable this time of year. Does that clarify for you?