Make Your Home More Livable, Cut Energy Costs, Go Green: Winterize!
With winter upon us (it officially starts December 21!), now is a good time to address winter weatherproofing and preparation before it gets too cold and deep into the season.
Whether one lives in a luxury home or mobile home, this seasonal updating is a particularly important facet of home ownership.
Winterization not only enhances the environment in which we live, but can also cut energy costs and even increase home resale value. It can also lead to an active role in the conservation of the planet’s ever-dwindling natural resources.
Here are a few home winterizing tips that can assure a safe and cozy house in the cold months ahead while keeping more cash in your pocket. Some fall under the category of “preventative home maintenance” and are quick, easy, inexpensive and can be performed in the course of an afternoon. Others fall under the category of “home improvement” or “home repair” and may require a larger budget or loan (such as a Section 184 or other similar loans.)
The furnace is generally the primary means of heating a household and thus requires special attention to assure it is operating properly and as efficiently as possible.
- Have the furnace unit inspected at least every other year by an HVAC professional
- Inspect and clean the air ducts annually; fix any gaps in the ducts
- Change the furnace filter every 1-3 months
- Consider switching older thermostats with new, more efficient programmable thermostats
- Make sure the cold air returns are free of obstructions, as the unit needs these to operate efficiently
- Remove all flammable material from the area adjacent to the furnace
Doors and Windows
Doors and windows can be primary culprits for energy waste. Improperly fitted units can cost homeowners hundreds of dollars each season in lost heat.
- Weather-strip around door jams and use door seals
- Caulk around windows, electrical outlets, and any other places where drafts may exist
- Switch summer screens with storm windows
- Replace any cracked window glass
- Cover windows with a removable and inexpensive insulating kit (plastic sheeting affixed to the interior of the window and shrink-wrapped tightly with hot air)
If it is within your budget, consider updating older, outdated windows with new energy-efficient models.
Pipes and Plumbing
Properly maintained pipes may mean the difference between functioning units in sub-zero temperatures or burst pipes with standing water in the basement.
- Insulate exposed plumbing pipes with rubber sleeves, fiberglass insulation, or foam tape especially in attics, crawl spaces and exterior walls
- Drain outside faucets and shut-off outside water sources to prevent freezing and bursting
- Install insulated faucet covers
Utilizing these simple tips can be the difference between inexpensive preventive maintenance costs and the far more expensive pipe replacement, mold eradication, and other flood-damage repair costs associated with burst pipes.
Quick and simple exterior inspections performed each year can assure that the heat you purchase for your home stays where it belongs: inside your home, and that water from mother nature stays where it belongs: outside your home.
- Thoroughly clean gutters and downspouts to prevent ice dams
- Make sure the attic is properly insulated to prevent warm air from creeping to the roof (a minimum of 12” of insulation is adequate)
- Inspect the roof: replace worn shingles or tiles; check the flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home
- Check the foundation for crevice cracks and seal any with masonry sealer; close/seal any exposed entry points (even the smallest!)
- Inspect all sill plates
- Find and repair with caulking any leaks around common leak points like window and door frames, recessed lighting fixtures, electrical outlets, pet doors, etc.
- Examine chimneys to assure they are clean and free of obstructions
Performing these exterior inspection duties annually also allows for early detection of minor problems which, should they go undetected, can become major – and very expensive – problems down the line.
Often times the most effective means of cutting down on energy costs are the least expensive and easiest to perform.
- Reverse the direction of ceiling fans from summer use (should turn counter-clockwise in the winter,) as the fan will push warm air downward allowing it to recirculate throughout the room
- Having a water powered sump pump installed in your basement can help protect your basement from any winter flooding, or thawing in the spring. Being water powered can help save energy because it uses its own energy to power itself.
- Keep wood stove doors and chimney dampers closed when not in use
- Consider replacing your light-bulbs with energy-saving CFL bulbs
- Lower the hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees F.
- Lower thermostats when you leave the house; wear a sweater while at home!
Following these simple household tips can lower your energy costs by as much as 30%.
Taking the time to accomplish these winterizing tips can lead to a number of benefits, financial and otherwise. Besides lowering your heating and electric bills and staying warmer for less, homeowners who winterize can share in the satisfaction of knowing they are part of growing number of people with a “greener” outlook on daily life with a greater appreciation for conservation, understanding of our ecology, and wiser use of our natural resources.
So happy winter and keep warm! Spring will come!