Would you leave your bedroom window open all winter? How about tacking on EXTRA money to your Dominion power bill, just for the heck of it? Not winterizing your home and preparing for the upcoming cold season is the equivalent of doing just that.
So while you’re digging sweaters, jackets, and mittens out of the bottom of the closet for yourself now that the temperatures are dropping, remember to give your home its own button-up to save on energy and potentially expensive future repair bills. Just follow these simple steps!
1. Seal Those Leaks
Break out that caulk gun and seal anywhere air might be flowing. On the inside of your home, check along baseboards, recessed lighting, electrical outlets, window frames, and door frames. Infrared thermometers make it easy to detect temperature fluctuations. If you don’t want to spend money on something that you’ll only use once a year, try walking around your home with a stick of incense held close to common drafty areas. The smoke will let you know where air is moving, and your house will smell great (assuming you pick the right incense). Win win!
Outside, check for cracks and seal with weather resistant caulk and/or masonry sealer, which will better withstand fluctuations between freezing and thawing. Check for cracks around pipes and electrical outlets entering or exiting the walls. Even small cracks are worth sealing up. Plus, a sealed up exterior helps keep out insects!
Add a layer of insulation to the existing layer in your attic. R-30 Insulation is considered the minimum recommended. If R values are confusing, just remember this: if you can see your ceiling joists, you don’t have enough insulation and should probably add some more. If you’re following this advice and stacking layer on top of existing layer, DO NOT add “kraft faced” insulation. The paper backing acts as a water vapor barrier and can cause moisture problems as warm air rises through the insulation.
Consider hanging heavier, insulated window treatments to keep open during the day for passive heat, but then close at night to lock the heat in. Arrange your furniture so that bookshelves, dressers, and other thick pieces are on the outside walls. If you can tolerate a “ski lodge” decoration style for a few months, hang a few quilts on the walls!
3. Spotless Gutters
Overcome your fear of heights and clean out all of your gutters. Remember to wait until all of the leaves in your yard fall so you don’t have to make a second trip back up the ladder. Cleaning out all debris ensures that winter rain and snow melt drains properly, reducing the risk of ice dams when the temperature drops below freezing. Backups can cause water to seep in through the roof, causing structural and cosmetic damage. From the Insurance Information Institute, “As you’re hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house’s foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage.”
Trim trees away from your house. The last thing you want is to end up re-cleaning your gutters in the winter months.
4. Window Treatment
Locking windows not only keeps burglars out, but it also pushes the window down a few millimeters and creates a seal between the two panels at their overlap. Also, they may not be pretty, but 3M and Frost King make insulation kits to put around each window if you still feel a draft. Finally, don’t forget your storm windows!
5. Check the Furnace
First and foremost, turn on and make sure your furnace is working well before the cold winter nights set in. It would be pretty unfortunate to find out it’s blowing cool air on a 32 degree night. It’s definitely a good idea to have a professional give it a good tuneup once a year, just like you’d maintain a car. Check filters, and during the winter months, replace filters as necessary to keep the furnace running efficiently.
Also, get your ducts in a row! Check for pinches and seal gaps between connections. Try to vacuum out dust, pet hair, and other gunk at least once a year.
6. Smart Thermostat
Experts agree that EnergyStar programmable thermostats are a great way to reduce energy costs, and at $60 or less, they can easily pay for itself within a year. If you don’t have that option, become your own smart thermostat and turn down the heat while you’re at work. You can also turn it down at night, which is a great excuse for cuddling under extra blankets.
- Replace roof shingles that are missing or damaged
- Run ceiling fans clockwise to trap heat
- Wrap pipes and drain unused water lines
- Have your chimneys inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned
- Make sure you are fully stocked with rock salt, sand, and shovels. Broken tailbones can put quite a damper on the winter, even if your home is super warm and efficient.
8. Winterize Yourself!
Finally, what good is a warm home if you’re not healthy and comfortable yourself? Keep your physical self intact by eating healthy, taking vitamins, and GETTING OUTSIDE! We get less sunlight in the winter months due to cold temps and shorter days, so it’s important to soak up some rays when you can. Plus getting stuck inside for too long is never good (e.g. The Shining), so invest in a warm winter coat and keep yourself entertained in the great outdoors.
The main goal here is obviously to efficiently keep the warm air in, and keep ice and water damage to a minimum. The more time you put into sealing cracks and finding weak spots in your insulation the better! If you follow these steps (and add your own based on your own home’s setup), you can be sure to see a drop in energy bills this winter, and you’ll protect your home from water and ice damage for years to come. Consider it a weekend investment that’ll save you tons of money!