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Winterizing Your Home

Utilize Ceiling Fans

Most ceiling fans come with a switch that will change the direction of the blade rotation from counterclockwise to clockwise. This clockwise rotation circulates the warm air that is trapped against the ceiling down into the room, thus making the room feel warmer without turning up the heat.

Seal Doors and Windows

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, small leaks around doors, windows, and other openings in the home can cause energy efficiency to suffer by as much as 30%. To combat this loss of energy (and money), consider installing door sweeps, storm doors, storm windows, caulking, and weather stripping.

Door sweeps attach to the bottom of entry doors, creating a tighter seal around doors with high ground clearance. Homeowners can pick up a vinyl door sweep for less than $10 at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Installing storm doors and storm windows reduces air flow by sealing drafts around the door and window frames, which uses less energy and helps regulate indoor temperature. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, storm door and window installation can increase energy efficiency by 45%. Caulking and weather stripping around window frames, in door jams, and around pipes and wires exiting the home also reduces air flow.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

Insulating walls, attics, ceilings and pipes go a long way towards saving energy costs. Check the exterior walls of your home for proper insulation. Also check the attic floor and basement ceiling for the proper coverage – better coverage means less heat will be able to rise into the attic and out of your home.

Insulating the hot water pipes in the home keeps the water in the pipes hotter, which allows the water heater to be kept on a lower temperature. Insulating the water heater itself will also create the same result, saving energy usage and lowering utility costs.

To insulate hot water pipes, install pipe insulation sleeves along the entire length of the exposed pipe. Look for insulation sleeves with a high R-value practical. Seal all the joints and seams of the insulation sleeves with duct tape and call it a day.

Clean the Gutters

Gutters that aren’t properly maintained allow debris to build up in the gutters, which can cause water to pool up against the fascia boards or overflow too close to the foundation below. Clean out all debris and rinse out thoroughly to ensure that water is flowing through the gutters and downspouts properly.

If drainage continues to be an issue, the slope of your gutters may be at fault. Typically, gutters are supposed to decline ¼ of an inch towards the downspout for every 10 feet of gutter. If the gutters are not sloped sufficiently, they will need to be repositioned by detaching the hangers, one section at a time, and positioning appropriately.

Also check the gutter seams for cracked or broken caulk and check to see if the gutters are firmly attached to the fascia board. If the caulk is broken, dig out the old caulk and use bead silicon to reseal the seams. New gutter spikes can be purchased at any home improvement store to reattach any loose gutters to the fascia.

Check the Roof and Attic

Installing insulation in the attic floor and making sure that the attic is well ventilated will prevent ice dams from accumulating on the roof. The insulation will prevent heat from the living area from rising into the attic, while allowing fresh air to come in will lessen the difference between the temperature inside the attic and the temperature outside.

When it comes time to replace the roof, look into installing a water-repellent membrane between the subroof and the shingles. This membrane will act as a barrier to any water that works its way under the shingles, and will prevent the water from damaging the subroof and leaking into the attic or exterior walls below.

Prep the Fireplace

Fireplaces should be thoroughly cleaned and checked for cracks in the brick and mortar on both the interior and exterior of the structure. Also be sure that the damper will open and close with ease.

Empty Hoses and AC Unit

Once summer is over, it’s important to turn off all exterior water spigots. Allowing water to remain in exterior lines sometimes causes burst pipes inside the home. Unhooking and draining all hoses will prevent this from happening, and will prevent and damage to the hoses themselves.

Also shut off the air conditioner water valve and drain the air conditioner pipes. If the home is cooled by window units, remove all window units from the windows to prevent drafts and cold air from seeping in around the unit.

Seal Ductwork

Sealing the ductwork will keep the hot or cooled air inside your ducts, therefore keeping energy costs down as well. According to the American Solar Energy Society, homeowner can save up to $140 every year, simply by properly sealing their ductwork.

Turn Down the Water Heater

Many water heaters are pre-set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, however, most homeowners don’t use water that hot. Heating costs can be reduced by as much as 6% to 10% by lowering the water heater temperature to 120 degree Fahrenheit. Insulating the water heater will also reduce energy costs.

Prep the Furnace

The furnace filter should be changed before the furnace needs to be turned on for the winter. A clean furnace filter can reduce your heating costs 5% to 15%. When the heat is on, it is recommended to change the furnace filter every four to six weeks. If your family is constantly plagued by allergies during the winter, consider installing a permanent filter. Permanent filters such as an electrostatic filter will trap more debris than a disposable filter (88% compared to 40%), however permanent filters can be much more expensive to install.

If it’s been a few years since the furnace had a tune-up, it may be time to call a technician. While paying a technician to come look at a working furnace might seem like a waste of money, a furnace that is heating inefficiently will cost more in the long run. Furnace repairs and replacement often have shorter wait times than during the colder months, and the HVAC company many offer an out-of-season discount.

If a new furnace is needed, seriously look into purchasing an energy efficient furnace. An Energy-Star certified furnace will save 15% to 20% more on the heating bill than a new model without an Energy-Star certification.

Own the Thermostat

Heating and cooling a home is expensive. If you’re leaving the house for a long period of time, remember to turn down the thermostat a few degrees. Lowering the temperature by two to three degrees over the entirety of the colder months will save 2% to 9% in monthly heating costs. Remember that turning off the air altogether during the milder months is also an option – nix the heat and open the windows during the warmer part of the day, then shut them at night.

Installing a programmable or smart thermostat will also save hassle and money. Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to set different temperatures for different parts of the day, such as the active hours of the days versus sleeping hours. Smart thermostats can be controlled from remote locations via Wi-Fi and will learn homeowners’ temperature preferences over time - they can even learn when the homeowner is at home or when they’re away, and will automatically adjust the temperature accordingly.

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