Now that you have pulled your sweaters, scarves & gloves out of storage, you need to think of your home next. It is best to start in the fall months to give yourself enough time to make changes to your home that can protect it, but don’t delay, do these projects anytime to make a difference when you need it most – in the winter! We put together a list of items that you may need to check on to prepare your home for the cold weather. As Benjamin Franklin said… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Check the chimney -
Before using your fireplace, the chimney should be inspected and cleaned if needed. If it doesn’t have a damper of some sort, consider installing a top-sealing chimney damper. Top-sealing dampers replace the fireplace throat damper (if it might be missing) and are installed at the top of the chimney. The top-sealing damper has a seal that acts like a storm door keeping the expensive conditioned air inside the house and the outside air – outside. This principle works year-round, whether you’re heating or cooling your house. This product can be purchased online and is easily installed by either a homeowner or a handyman.
Clean the gutters -
Leaves and other things, (like tennis balls), that gather in gutters can become compacted and heavy when snow or rain freezes. This can create ice dams, which may eventually cause water to seep into a home. This can affect your home at the foundation, the basement, the walls and especially the roof. Damage may cause significant and costly repairs. As you're cleaning out your gutters, use water from a hose to look for leaks in the seams and pipes that are not lined up properly. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house's foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage. To be safe, water should be at least 10 feet away from the house.
Add insulation -
There's no getting around it: If your house is in a cold climate, keeping it warm in winter is expensive…
You can turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater indoors to cut costs. But if you've got an unfinished attic, giving it proper insulation is one of the simplest ways to keep a lid on your heating bill this season. The Department of Energy estimates that a properly insulated attic can shave 10 to 50 percent off your heating bill. And it works the opposite way for warm climates; in summer, it helps stabilize your house's indoor temps to keep cooling needs in check. It's a project you can tackle in one weekend, and the savings you'll get add up every year.
In the entire United States, a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic is recommended. Don't clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, though. If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don't have enough. A related tip: If you're layering insulation atop other insulation, don't use the kind that has "kraft face" finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts as a vapor barrier, and therefore can cause moisture problems in the insulation. You can always hire an energy auditor or Idaho Power offers free weatherization improvements to electrically heated homes of income-qualified customers. They can pinpoint things like air leaks that you can seal to make sure your insulation will do its job well and many other weatherization issues as well. These energy efficiency measures will improve comfort and reduce energy consumption.
Plug leaks -
When a draft exists in your home, cool air is allowed to seep in and hot air is allowed to escape. Some repairs you can make just to name a few:
*Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows that leak air.
*Seal air leaks between your living space and your attic and/or crawl space. Leaks are common around plumbing and vents, heating ducts, light fixtures and wires. Be sure that fixtures and wires are designed for direct insulation contact.
*Install wall plate insulation gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls (turn off the power before installing gaskets).
*Install a 6-mil vapor barrier between your living space and your crawl space to prevent moisture from entering your home.
*Make sure your attic and crawl space have adequate ventilation to vent out moisture and summer heat.
Clean and inspect the furnace -
It is highly recommended to have your heating equipment serviced annually by a professional. You can check your furnace filter regularly and clean or replace it as needed. Also take the time to vacuum furnace air returns, registers, and baseboard heaters regularly because dust reduces the effectiveness of your system by blocking airflow.
Check your ducts -
When you are looking for any leaks don’t forget to inspect your duct system for air leaks. Duct system joints can come loose, causing you to lose warm air into your attic or crawl space. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn't stand up to the job over time). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That's a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house.
If you don't have storm windows, and your windows are leaky or drafty, they need to be updated to a more efficient window. Be sure you purchase energy star® windows. If your home has only single-pane windows, new energy star windows will provide a noticeable difference in comfort and heat loss or gain. Look for double-pane windows with a low-e (low emissivity) coating, insulated sashes, spectrally selective coatings and an inert gas filling.
If you are not able to replace windows right away you can use a window insulator kit. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that's affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. With no effort at all, it can be removed in the spring. It's temporary and it's not pretty, but it's inexpensive and it's extremely effective.
Reverse ceiling fans -
Many ceiling fans can save energy in winter as well as summer. The secret: Their motors run in reverse. This pushes warm air caught near the ceiling down to where you can feel it. Set the fan on low speed so it pushes room air up against the ceiling, forcing warm air slowly down the walls to the floor. Some rooms in your house can be 15°F warmer at the ceiling than at the floor. A well-placed ceiling fan can reduce this difference to only 2°F. As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise. This is one way to be sure that it is ready for winter.
Wrap water pipes -
To begin, look for pipes that aren't insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces like basements, crawlspaces, or garages. Wrap them with foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house and that the lines are drained. If you're really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.
Finally wrap the water heater –
Insulate your water heater with a hot water heater blanket if your water heater is warm to the touch. Be sure to follow the instructions, leaving thermostats and valves accessible. If your water heater is located in a place that is not heated in the winter, insulate the hot water pipes to limit the amount of heat lost in the pipes. Newer models, especially those built in the last few years, have more insulation than older models. But, unless your water heater’s storage tank already has a high R-value of insulation (at least R-24), adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses.
So as you can see, all items take time and a bit of work, but the efforts will pay off by making your home a warm and comfortable place to be. Feel free to go to our resource page http://www.stewartrealtyllc.com/resource-center/ to get names and phone numbers of trusted people who can help you accomplish these tasks.
Realtor’s at Stewart Realty, LLC, Meridian, Idaho - Toll Free: 866-787-5445
Search our Real Estate Website at http://StewartRealtyllc.com