Summer is officially long behind us and the crispness in the air is a loud reminder that winter is just around the corner. If the Farmer’s Almanac is to be believed, this year’s winter is going to be a nasty one. So, it is best to be prepared before it hits. Now is the time to winterize your home so you will be ready when the cold weather undoubtedly arrives. Following the guidelines below can help you get your home ready for the winter and save money in the process.
Get a professional inspection of your furnace
Your furnace is like your car: every once in a while, it needs a tune-up. Autumn is the perfect time of year to have an HVAC professional come out to your house to make sure your furnace is running efficiently and safely and ready to go for the winter. The technician will perform the following functions as part of the tune-up:
- Check for carbon monoxide
- Clean and replace air filters
- Check blower operation
- Clean the motor and fan
- Inspect the gas piping that leads to the furnace
A furnace tune-up generally costs about $100. But, you will recoup those costs with an efficiently running furnace. If the technician suggests that you need a new furnace, you can then take advantage of some tax credits for purchasing an energy-efficient appliance.
Have your ducts cleaned and inspected
Studies have shown that as much as 60% of heated air escapes from the ducts before it makes it to the vents. That results in higher heating bills for you. So, as long as you have an HVAC technician at your home for a tune-up, have your air ducts cleaned and inspected as well. This is an easy way to make your heating system work more efficiently.
Trim trees that are close to the house
Snow and ice that always accompany cold winters can weigh heavily on tree branches and cause them to break. If they are too close to your house, they can cause damage to the roof or other parts of the home that can be expensive to fix. Taking time to trim the branches back before the cold weather comes is an easy way to prevent expensive home repairs.
Reverse your ceiling fans
Most people know that fans are great for keeping air cool in the summer. But, they can also be used to keep air warm in the winter. All you need to do if flip the switch that controls the direction of the blades. It is usually on the base of the fan in an easy-to-find location. When the blades rotate clockwise, they push the warm air down and make it circulate around the room. Then, when the weather starts to get warmer in the spring, all you need to do is flip the switch again!
Block air leaks
A small air leak in your house can waste up to 30% of your home’s energy use. Use an air leak detector to find leaks under your doors and near the windows. You can block door drafts by using a draft snake or a rolled-up towel. Drafts by windows can be fixed with weather-resistant caulk or weather stripping. Do not forget to check for drafts by the areas where pipes and wires leave your house as well.
Winterize your air conditioning unit
Winterizing your air conditioner is easy and helps to prolong its life. All you need to do is drain any water that is in the piping and hoses of the unit. Vacuum out any water that is sitting in the drainage pan as well and place a plastic cover over the unit to keep snow and ice away from it.
Replace your furnace filter regularly
The furnace filter need to be replaced regularly throughout the winter to keep the air flowing through it efficiently and prevent fires. You can also replace the removable filters with electrostatic or electronic ones that only need a monthly rinse.
Install storm doors and windows
Simply having storm doors and windows can increase your home’s energy efficiency by as much as 45%. Storm doors and windows need to be placed on the outside of your regular doors and windows. There are federal tax credits available to help offset their cost.
Make sure you have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you do not have enough, make sure to add more. If you have to put additional insulation down, do not use insulation that has a paper backing, as it can be problematic and dangerous.
Wrap your pipes
Wrapping your pipes gives them an extra layer of insulation, reduces heat loss, and raises the temperature of hot water. These factors combine to allow you to reduce the heat on your boiler and ultimately save money on your gas bill. Another benefit of wrapping your pipes is that they will not freeze when the temperatures drop to sub-zero levels. All of the materials you will need to wrap your pipes can easily be found at your local hardware store.
Check your detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are essential tools for every home. But, they are useless if they do not work properly. Before the cold weather hits, check their functionality and give them new batteries if necessary.
You never know what can hit you during the winter months. It is not uncommon to get snowed-in or otherwise stuck in your house, possibly with no electricity. Make sure you are prepared for a potential catastrophe by having a 72-hour kit on hand. A 72-hour kit contains essentials such as water, food and other supplies. You can purchase a 72-hour kit at your local camping store, online, or you can make one yourself.
One of the best parts of winter is getting the chance to sit in front of a warm fire right in the living room. But, before you light your first fire of the season, get your chimney inspected. Hire a chimney sweep to check the structure of the flue and remove anything that is obstructing the flow through the chimney. This is one place where an ounce of prevention is worth well more than a pound of cure.
Dress for the weather
You can easily save on your energy costs by dressing warmly in the winter. Wearing a heavy sweater can increase the warmth of your body by about 4 degrees. So, you can turn your thermostat down and still be nice and cozy.
Clean the gutters
Gutters that are clogged with fall leaves can create ice dams on your roof. When ice dams form, water from melted snow starts to pool. Since hit has nowhere to go, it seeps into the house and causes water damage. Simply cleaning out the gutters by removing dead leaves, branches and other debris will allow the water to drain freely so your home can remain problem-free.
Taking the time to perform these simple steps is a great way to save money and prepare for the upcoming winter season. The little bit of time it takes is well worth the reward you reap by having an energy-efficient, warm, and safe home.