As the temperatures are beginning to dip, now is the time to make sure your home will be ready for winter. Winterizing your home can help lower your utility bills, protect your biggest investment and most importantly, keep you and your family warm throughout the freezing months. Here are some tips on how you can maximize your winter home maintenance.
One of the best ways to winterize your home is to block areas where cold air seeps in. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy costs. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.
Pay attention to places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys and along the foundation. Buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors. Caulk, or apply, weatherstripping to drafty spots around windows. For brick areas on the exterior of the home, use masonry sealer.
Turn Off Exterior Faucets
Pipes burst in extreme cold weather when the water turns to ice and starts to expand. If your home is more than ten to 15 years old, it typically will not have frost-proof faucets. Be sure to turn off the shut-off valve inside your home. Also, disconnect all of your garden hoses and drain any remaining water left in faucets.
Complete another round of gutter cleaning before snow starts to fall. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up against the house, damaging roofing, siding and wood trim in addition to causing leaks and ice dams. Make sure downspouts are carrying water away from the home’s foundation. The usual rule of thumb is that water should be at least 10 feet away from the house.
Literally, get on top of roof problems. Like cleaning your gutters, make sure that leaves and other debris are blown off the roof. Check if there are any loose or damaged shingles that should be replaced before winter gets into full swing. Checking your roof and chimney can help prevent the loss of hot air throughout the winter months and prevent leakage in your attic.
Though not the cheapest of fixes, adding insulation to your attic is a fast return on your investment once completed. Your attic should have at least 12 inches of insulation. Experts say that if you can see the ceiling joists, you don’t have enough.
Insulating your pipes can also cut down on hot water costs and decrease the chance of pipes freezing. If your pipes are warm to the touch, they are good candidates for insulation. Pre-slit pipe foam is available at most general hardware stores.
Give Your Furnace a Tune-Up
It’s a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. For about $80 to $100, a technician will inspect your furnace to be sure the system is clean and operating efficiently. This inspection will also show if there is any carbon-monoxide leaking that needs to be addressed. Throughout the winter, furnace filters should be changed on a regular basis. Dirty filters impede air flow, reduce efficiency and in extreme cases, could become a fire hazard.
Other Quick Fixes
Winterizing your home doesn’t have to be a daunting weekend task. There are several adjustments you can make on a tight schedule:
- Reverse your ceiling fan. Check for a switch that allows you to reverse blade direction, clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. The clockwise rotation of the blades forces warm air down.
- Test your sump pump. Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see if your pump turns on. This should be done regularly but particularly after a dry season and before a rainy/snowy one.
- Program your thermostat. For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save 1-3% of your heating bill.
- If you have an older thermostat, you should replace it with a digital model. Dial thermostats are not as efficient in gauging temperature, causing your furnace to work overtime and your energy bill to rise higher.
- Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Experts recommend replacing batteries in smoke alarms twice a year. Winter preparation and spring cleaning are great times to make sure your detectors are working.
If your home is in need of serious renovations and improvements, download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for information on options for combining the costs of improvements with your mortgage loan.