As we say goodbye, yet again, to the balmy days of summer and begin to greet the crispness of autumn, there’s no better time to begin the process of preparing your home for the onslaught of winter weather. By doing so, you’ll make a more comfortable environment for your family, protect your possessions from damage, reduce your energy use, and perhaps even save a little money on your fuel bills.
Winterizing your home can be as involved or as basic as you choose it to be. Many winterizing options such as storm windows and insulation can be costly upfront but will pay dividends in reduced heating costs over a number of years. Other options simply help protect the investments you have made in your home and yard from the effects of colder temperatures.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends the following tips for keeping your home warm (and your heating bill under control) this winter:
- Check insulation in your attic, ceiling, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your geographic area.
- Weatherize your home by caulking and weather-stripping any doors and windows that leak air.
- During the winter heating season, keep draperies and shades on south facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home (taking advantage of passive solar heating) and closed at night to reduce the chill felt from cold windows.
- Properly maintain and clean home heating equipment.
- Replace furnace filters regularly.
- Set your home thermostat as low as is comfortable for your family while at home.
- Install a programmable “set-back” thermostat. A programmable thermostat set between 72° to 65° for the eight hours a day when no one is home or while everyone is in bed sleeping, can reduce home heating bills up to 10 percent.
Other winterizing tips are usually addressed as part of good home maintenance:
So, as you venture to the attic to break out your family’s winter wardrobe, take a look around and do what you can to keep winter weather outsidewhere it belongs.
- Use draft blockers in front of doors that are only occasionally used.
- If your home furnace is older, consider installing a high-efficiency furnace operating at above 90 percent efficiency. If your furnace is very old, you may cover the cost of the new furnace in a few years with the savings you realize.
- Consider installing storm windows or at the very least, apply clear shrinkable plastic (available at home improvement centers) to windows to reduce drafts and heat loss.
- Have your chimney checked and cleaned annually, especially if you burn wood as a source of heat.
- Turn off the shutoff valve to any outside water supplies coming from your house and drain the water from the outside faucet to prevent water from freezing in the line and causing potential damage to the pipes.
- Drain garden hoses and store them inside to help prevent the rubber or plastic from cracking in freezing temperatures.
- Drain water from birdbaths and outdoor water features. Water expands in size when it freezes and can crack concrete.
- Bring clay and/or ceramic flower pots indoors (moisture in the soil can freeze, and in large amounts, may cause the pot to crack.
- Cover window air conditioner units and central air conditioner units to help protect them from extreme winter weather.
- Close drafts in any unused fireplaces in your home.
- Since your furnace will be operating and burning fuel, take the opportunity to check your carbon monoxide detectors if you have them in your home. Replace the batteries and test the units to make certain they are functioning properly.
- Make certain your snow shovel is up to the task and in a handy location. There is nothing worse than having to trudge through the snow to find the snow shovel after the first big snow only to find it bent beyond recognition and more of a sculptural piece than useful tool.
- Clean and vacuum around baseboard heaters and radiators so they can operate efficiently.
- Insulate around hot water pipes.
- Clean out gutters and storm drains so water from melting snow and ice can flow freely from your roof.
- Consider running a humidifier during the winter months. Heating systems dry the air and cause dry skin and noses. The Mayo Clinic recommends a home humidity level range from 30 to 50 percent. Humidity levels higher than 50 percent can promote the growth of dust mites, mold, fungi, and bacteria. Moisture in the air also makes your home feel warmer.
U.S. Department of Energywww.energy.gov
The Mayo Clinicwww.mayoclinic.com