How to winterize a home
Making your house more energy efficient cuts your utility bills, giving you more to spend on holiday cheer.
Tue, Nov 22 2011 at 9:00 AM
FURNACE CHECK: Jack Estes of Jayhawk HVAC inspects a gas furnace in Santa Rosa, Calif. home. Having an expert inspect your furnace for efficiency is a good first step in winterizing. (Photo: Kent Porter, The Press Democrat/ZUMA Press)
It’s OK to have Jack Frost nipping at your nose when you are sledding, but you don’t want him sitting on the living room couch. That is why spending one weekend learning how to winterize a house is time well spent. The living room will be more comfortable on those weekends you’re not doing much more than watching football.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 45 percent of your utility bill goes to pay for heating and cooling your house. Making your house more energy efficient cuts your utility bills, giving you more to spend on holiday cheer. That makes money spent winterizing your home a good investment.
Some tips for winterizing your home:
Hire a professional to inspect your furnace. After all, unless you live at one of the poles, it has been months since you last fired it up. You want to make sure the system is running efficiently and, more importantly, safely. A gas or oil furnace may produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Find leaks. Cold air works its way inside in many unexpected way. Tighten your home for leaks on a windy day by holding a lit incense stick next to windows, doors, plumbing fixtures and electric outlets. If the smoke travels horizontally, air is seeping inside.
Fix leaks. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring creates a path for outside air to travel. Great Stuff insulating foam and similar products are handy for keeping cold air outside. Installing foam gaskets behind electrical outlet plates and light switch plates is easy.
Windows. Windows bring the outside world in, but they also let out the heat. Installing storm windows over single-pane windows is a cost-effective alternative to replacing your windows. You can also tape a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames. Insulating drapes may also stymie any drafts.
Shut the flue. Fireplace chimneys are designed to suck hot air up and out of the house. Make sure the fireplace flue is closed when not burning a fire. Seal flues in fireplaces you don't use.
Clean the gutters. Now that the leaves have all dropped, make one last trip atop the ladder to clean your gutters. Clogged gutters contribute to the formation of ice dams on your roof and ice dams can lead to serious water damage of your home.
Wrap the pipes. Wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape. Make sure you know the location of the main water valve and the valve on your water heater – and how it works – should a pipe freeze and burst and you have to close the valve under stressful conditions.
Prepare for the worst. Winter can be disastrous. Just ask the people in Connecticut left without power for more than a week after an October snowstorm. Put together a 72-hour emergency kit (details can be found at Ready.gov) and make sure you have on hand a supply of rock salt or sand, a snow shovel and a backup heating source.
Got other ideas about how to winterize your home? Leave us a note in the comments below.
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