Now that fall is officially in full swing, it’s time to prepare your home for the oncoming cold weather. Winterizing your home can help lower your utility bills, protect your investment and most importantly, keep you and your family warm throughout the freezing months.
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.
Once the leaves are done falling, remove them and any other debris from your home’s gutters. 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.
Clean gutters by hand, scrape the remaining debris and rinse out, while looking for leaks and misaligned pipes. 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.
Though not the easiest or cheapest of fixes, adding insulation to your attic is a fast return on 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. Throughout the winter, furnace filters should be changed on a regular basis. Dirty filters impede air flow, reduce efficiency and in extreme cases, could cause a fire.
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.
- 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.
Completing all or some of these tasks ahead of time will help keep your home stress-free, efficient and cozy through the holiday season and upcoming winter.