The slight nip to the air in early autumn is a great reminder to homeowners to start getting their houses ready for the oncoming winter. If you grew up in cold climates, this may not seem like anything new, but stick around anyway, you might still learn a few tips to help you save money this winter. If you are new to cold climates, then these tips will definitely help you protect and prepare your home for the coming winter, and more importantly, help you save money. Winterizing your home is an important yearly task that helps your house to better brave the elements and helps you to keep more money in your pockets.
Here are 10 winterizing tasks you should put on your to do list this fall:
1. Install storm doors and windows. These outside-mounted windows and doors can increase your home’s energy efficiency by as much as 45%. Not bad for an afternoon’s work. Bonus benefit: Some energy saving home improvements are tax deductible!
2. Have your furnace inspected. While you probably do not need to do this every year (every other year may be enough), it is a good idea to regularly have an HVAC professional give your furnace a once-over to check the carbon-monoxide levels, clean and replace air filters, clean the motor and fan and double-check the gas piping that connects to the furnace. This service will cost you approximately $100, but it is worth it for both the energy savings and your peace of mind.
3. Get your heating ducts checked. While your friendly neighborhood HVAC professional is servicing your furnace, have him take the time to clean and inspect your heating ducts as well. Up to 60% of heated air actually escapes from these ducts before ever reaching the vents and your cold toes.
4. Block air leaks. This can be as simple as shoving a rolled up towel or air “draft dodger” (also known as a bean snake) against the bottom of all your exterior doors. But if you’re willing to spend and afternoon with a thermal leak detector, some weather stripping and a caulk gun, you’ll reap the benefits in your energy bills.
If you live an older home and your windows have uninsulated weight pockets, you can seal up your windows with plastic sheeting from the inside. It’s a little unsightly, but it makes an enormous difference.
5. Reverse your fans. If your home has ceiling fans, know that they are there to help your winter utility bills, as well. Flip the switch so that the fans turn clockwise in winter, and the fans will force warm air down to recirculate through the room.
6. Make sure you have enough insulation. Double check that your attic insulation offers adequate R-value for your area. If not, simply add more on top of the old. Just be sure the new stuff doesn’t have paper backing, as the paper works as a vapor barrier that can cause you problems in the future.
7. Wrap your water heater and pipes. If your water heater does not have an insulating blanket, you should be sure to rectify that as soon as possible. These heaters are often the least efficient appliances in your home, and they have to work that much harder to provide you with hot water when they have no insulation.
As for your pipes, wrapping them with the pre-slit pipe foam you can find at any home improvement superstore can help to prevent your pipes from freezing in addition to preventing heat loss when you turn on your hot water.
8. Bring in a chimney sweep. If you have a working fireplace in your home that you plan to use, do not start your first fire before you’ve had a chance to have the chimney cleaned and inspected. You don’t want to start one of the thousands of chimney fires that occur each year because of blocked chimneys and structural problems.
9. Clean out your gutters. Clogged gutters lead to ice dams in winter. Ice dams occur when water freezes near the edge of a roof, creating a dam that blocks the flow of water off the roof so that it pools in multiples places on your roof. Eventually this can lead to water dripping into your house. So break out your ladder and clean the leaves out of your gutters.
10. Make like your frugal dad. Lower your thermostat and wear a sweater inside when it’s cold out. There’s no need to live in shorts and a tee shirt year round!
Getting your home ready for winter may add to your honey do list, but it will pay off in your bank balance.
Do you have any other tips for preparing your home for winter?
Photo credit: Allen McGregor