How to Winterize Your Home
By moneycrashers on December 16, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
I love the fall season - the colorful leaves, the pumpkin pies, the football games, and the perfect temperatures. What's not to love about fall? Well, I can think of one thing.
With fall comes the approach of winter and the need to prepare my home for cold temperatures and snowy weather. I'm not a fan of housework, but I know if I don't get my home ready, I'll get hit with high energy bills and feel chilly drafts. However, if I winterize my home, I can avoid all this.
Image: David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune via ZUMA Press.
By winterizing your home, not only will you save money, but you'll ensure that you are comfortable during the coldest months of the year.
How to Winterize Your House and Stay Warm
1. Insulate Your Attic
Since heat rises, it is imperative to have sufficient insulation in your attic. Check this by climbing up into your attic and looking for the floor joists. If they're visible, you need to add insulation. Though this may sound like a weekend-long endeavor, adding attic insulation is a relatively quick and easy home improvement idea. Plus, it will help you save on utility bills and increase your home value.
2. Insulate Your Windows
I used to keep my blinds and curtains closed during the winter to block the cold from creeping in. But then I discovered window insulation film. This film drastically improves the window's R-value, which is a measurement of its insulating ability. I recommend using a 3M window insulator kit because it is effective and easy to install.
3. Insulate Your Outlets and Switch Plates
This may sound like a big job, but you only need to insulate the ones that are leaking. To check for airflow leaks, walk around your home on a cold, chilly night and put your bare hand in front of each outlet and switch plate. If you feel a draft, you'll know that warm air is escaping.
To fix the draft, use caulk, spray foam, or an electrical and switch plate insulation kit. Also, to prevent a draft coming through the plugholes of an outlet, use child-safety outlet covers for a cheap and easy solution.
4. Insulate Your Water Pipes
I like my shower and bath water to be scalding hot. To ensure that it is and to keep an energy-efficient home, I insulate my water pipes. According to the Department of Energy, insulating your water pipes can raise the temperature of your hot water by two to four degrees. This means you can have hot water without using the highest temperature setting. Insulating your hot water pipes also conserves water since you will not have to wait as long for it to heat up.
5. Insulate Your Hot Water Heater
Not only should you insulate your water pipes, but you also need to insulate your hot water heater. The R-value of a hot water heater needs to be at least R-24. But if you do not know your hot water heater's R-value, simply touch it. If it feels warm, it is losing heat and needs more insulation. Insulating with a water heater blanket can save you up to 9% in water-heating costs and is relatively inexpensive to do.
Tend to Your Furnace
6. Change Your Furnace Filter
With a clean filter, your furnace will run more efficiently, which can save you money. While many manufacturers recommend that you change your filter every two to three months, you may need to change it more often if you smoke or have pets. Checking and changing your furnace filter regularly will save you somewhere between 5% and 15% in energy costs.
7. Un-obstruct Intake Vents
If the intake vents that lead to your furnace are covered, your furnace has to work harder. And the harder your furnace works, the more energy it uses. To make things easier on your furnace and to lower your energy bill, make sure that nothing covers the intake vents, such as furniture or drapes.
Get Professional Services
8. Service Your Chimney
Until a few years ago, the only time I ever saw a chimney sweep was in the movie "Mary Poppins." But chimney inspectors really do exist, and are not quite as dirty as they appear in the movies. An annual chimney inspection and cleaning is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association for a good reason: to ensure home fire safety.
When having your chimney serviced, this is also a good time to check the batteries in your smoke alarms. Use a house cleaning schedule as a way to remind yourself to perform these lifesaving tasks.
9. Service Your Heating System
Have a licensed professional inspect your heating system once a year to ensure that all the parts are working properly. The technician will check for leaks in the air pipes and make sure that no deadly carbon monoxide is leaking into your home. Not only can this annual inspection save you up to 15% in heating costs, it will also increase the life of your heating system by 30%.
Invest in Gadgets
10. Get a Programmable Thermostat
You could choose to set down your thermostat every time you leave the house in order to save money on heating, but that can be easily forgotten. Besides, if you use a programmable thermostat, you can set it so your house will warm up before you or your family arrives home. Over time, how much you save in heating costs by programming your thermostat will surpass the cost of the initial investment.
11. Get a Space Heater
I always set my thermostat at a chilly 65 degrees when I am home. While even the thought of 65 degrees sends shivers down my spine, I never really experience that temperature because I use my space heater religiously. I have one under my computer desk to keep me warm while I work, and I also keep one near my favorite reading chair in my bedroom. Using space heaters is one of the most cost-effective ways to stay warm in the winter.
12. Get an Electric Blanket
When I'm not working at the computer, reading in my chair, or doing something active around my house, I hop under my electric blanket for added warmth and comfort. I have also found that electric blankets are great when you have company not used to cold weather or the thermostat being set low.
Other Winterizing Tips
13. Trim Your Trees
Trimming your trees may not save money on energy bills, but it will protect you against damage from fallen limbs if a bad winter storm rolls through your area. It's important to trim your trees in the fall before it gets too cold - tree-trimming becomes much more challenging when snow and ice are on the ground.
14. Check Your Winter Supplies
If you're hit with a winter storm this season, you'll need a sturdy snow shovel, salt, or sand for your driveway, as well as gas for your snow blower, if you have one. Prepare ahead of time to make sure you have these items and that they're easy to access.
Winterizing your home takes a little effort, but it's well worth it when you consider the cost savings and extra comfort you'll enjoy. Make yourself a to-do list and start early. Once you winterize and experience the benefits, you'll probably never neglect to do it again.
What other tips would you suggest to winterize your home? What advice would you give to stay warm on a budget?
Casey Slide is a writer for the Money Crashers personal finance blog and covers topics like budgeting, home improvement, family and kids, and green living.
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