The beginning of Fall means it’s time to prepare your home for winter’s harsh elements. Read more about how to winterize your home so it’s protected for the winter season.
Lately it seems like you’ve been waking up to a cold, drafty bedroom. The window is closed; the heat is turned on. The vent is open and air is coming through; it’s warm within 5 feet of the vent. Interestingly enough, it’s colder by the window.
Mystery solved: There’s a slight breeze coming through the window! Investigations like these are all too common as fall weather sets in. We don’t notice the leaks and drafty spots until it’s cold outside and we want our homes to be warm.
Fall is the best time to prepare for winter if you want to save some money and be warm all season long.
Instead of waking up to a cold bedroom everyday, consider these tips to winterize your home. These tips can help make your home more energy-efficient, lower your utility bills, and help protect your home from water and weather. They can also help protect your home foundation from the elements.
Check For Drafts
Getting rid of drafts is the most involved step, but yields noticeable results. A drafty house is the quickest way to waste energy. The U.S. Department of Energy states homeowners can waste 10-20% of heating dollars due to drafts. Windows, doors, and even electric wall outlets are all prone to drafts and can have a significant impact on the indoor temperature. Assessing your home and making a few modifications and/or repairs can stop drafts and help your cause.
Walk through each room of your home. Look at the windows and doorways. Do they look straight? Are any windows or doors sticking or having a hard time latching? Do you notice a doorway or window pane is leaning or skewed? This may be an important indicator of a shifting foundation. If you find this, ask a foundation expert for a free, in-home inspection to help resolve foundation issues before they become a problem.
Next, put your hand up to feel for drafts around windows, doors, electrical plugs, and switches. You can light a candle or incense stick and put it up to door jambs, windows, and plugs. Does the candle flicker or smoke swirl about because of a breeze? This brief test will show you where the drafty spots are.
Drafts can be an easy DIY for homeowners. Here are a few options to stop drafty windows and doors:
- Add weatherstripping around doors and/or windows to insulate and stop air from coming through. Caulking around window panes and doors are another viable option.
- Make or buy a draft snake for doors that leak cold air. Or simply roll up a towel and place across the doorway.
- Install plastic shrink insulation to your windows. These plastic films go over your window and help trap heat in your home. Beware, these are tricky to install, but are worth the work for eliminating drafts.
- Add insulating curtains for an added layer of protection. Thermal curtains can retain heat in winter, and help keep heat out during the summer.
Check the Crawl Space
If you have a crawl space, check it out! Most of the air that circulates into your home comes from beneath it. Cold air may be coming in along with added moisture if this area is not sealed properly. The cold, damp air is then circulated into your home, creating a colder environment, and putting undue stress on your HVAC system. Over time, the moisture can cause damage to the structure of your home. This unconditioned air will also make it more difficult for your HVAC system to operate efficiently.
To assess this area, simply go into the crawl space and feel for moving air. You can use the candle or incense trick here, too. If you feel air, it may be worth getting a free second opinion about sealing this area.
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Sealing the crawl space will help lower your energy bills, allow your HVAC system to be more efficient, and in turn, the system will last longer.
Another way to care for your HVAC system is to install new filters regularly. Everyone has an opinion as to what “regularly” means. Check your system’s manual for their guidelines to understand your system’s specifications. A dirty filter reduces airflow and the overall efficiency of the system. Filters can be washable too, if you get electrostatic filters. They only need a quick washing every month or two, and then are good as new. Less waste, and less money in the long run.
Clean Your Gutters
Have you begun cleaning out the fall leaves from your gutters? Bundle up, and go check out those gutters. Is water able to move freely? Are there any leaves or dirt stuck in the corners or drainhole?
Clogged gutters may lead to ice dams forming on your roof come winter. This occurs when water backs up and freezes near the edge of the roof. The ice keeps building up and forms an ice dam that blocks water from moving. The water will eventually pool and could seep into your home, causing water damage.
If you found debris in your gutters, make sure you assess the interior for damage. After a heavy rain, walk around the inside of your home to look at the perimeter walls. Do you notice any bulging water spots? See any watermarks? Feel around windows and doors. And don’t forget to look in the basement or crawlspace if you have one. Water loves to pool in the lowest spots of your home.
Next, clean out the dead leaves and debris so water can drain freely. And if you found water in the basement, ask a professional to inspect the area and address the problem.
Check the Insulation
Insulation is important at- you guessed it- insulating your home from the elements! Insulation may be an issue if your home is having difficulty retaining heat. Go into the attic and check on the condition of your insulation. There should be at least 12” of that pink or yellow itchy stuff. If it’s sagging, not thick enough, or is not covering certain areas, add more. Insulation is an easy DIY project. Just make sure the new stuff does not have a paper-backing. That paper acts as a vapor barrier and may cause moisture problems in the future.
Another tip is to add insulation to your pipes. This weekend project can help the efficiency of your home in multiple ways:
- Insulated pipes reduce heat loss and consequently raises the temperature of your hot water.
- Covered pipes can reduce the workload of your water heater, helping it last longer.
The reduced workload can lower your energy bill as the water heater becomes more efficient.
- Insulation helps ensure pipes won’t freeze during cold snaps or while you’re out of town and the house is colder (read below for that tip).
- You won’t have to wait as long for the water to get hot!
Many local hardware stores carry pre-cut pipe foam. Once you have this, just cut the foam according to the sizes you need, wrap around pipes, and secure with duct tape.
Adjust Heater Temperature & Vents
Adjusting the temperature and vents in your home can also make a noticeable difference. Most people don’t bother to adjust the thermostat according to time of day, whether they are home or not, and consequently lose out on big savings. The Department of Energy repeatedly discusses how to save money and energy with these simple tips:
- When you are awake and at home, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable. Wearing a sweater indoors can add approximately 4 degrees of warmth. If your heater is set to 68℉, then you will feel like it’s 72℉ with a sweater on.
- Lower the temperature by 10°-15° when you’re asleep or not home. Doing this for 6-8 hours a day can lower your energy bills by approximately 10%. A programmable thermostat could also do this for you. If you have a heat pump, keep a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat to ease wear and tear on the unit.
- Reverse your ceiling fans. Most fans have a small switch on the base, allowing you to adjust with the seasons. For colder months, your ceiling fans should be at a low speed and rotate in a clockwise direction.
- Only heat the rooms you use. If you have a spare bedroom or storage area that’s rarely used, close the vents. This will direct airflow to the rooms you use frequently and keep it warm where it matters most.
Now that you’ve explored and completed these winterizing tips, enjoy a nice cozy evening at home. Rejoice over lower energy bills and fewer home repairs! A little work and regularly inspecting your home will protect it for years to come.