Colorful leaves and lower temperatures tell us it is time to start preparing for winter. Besides finding those heavy coats and gloves you put somewhere last spring, it pays to consider a few steps to winterize your home. A quick scan of the internet produced a list of actions that are sure to help you make your home ready for the cold season. Here are some of the better ideas:
HOME WINTERIZATION TIPS
1. Dodge the Draft(s)
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture -- the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door. You can use any scraps of fabric -- even neckties -- and fill with sand or kitty litter for heft.
2. Change Furnace Filters
Yes it's easy to forget, but it's important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Here's a worry-saving tip: mark a monthly check on your calendar.
Better, consider switching to a permanent filter, which will reduce waste and hassle. Did you know that disposable fiberglass filters trap a measly 10 to 40% of debris? Electrostatic filters trap around 88%, and are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen that cause illness and irritation. They cost $50 to $1,000 or more. Another good choice is a genuine HEPA filter, which can remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles. HEPA filters are based on Department of Energy standards. But avoid "HEPA-like" filters, which can be vastly less effective.
3. Run Fans in Reverse
Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it warmer: air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space - cutting your heating costs as much as 10%!
4. Winterize Your A/C and Water Lines
This one's really easy, and it will even save you a few pennies next summer, too: Simply drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and make sure you don't have excess water pooled in equipment. If your a/c has a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off.
Similarly, make sure any hoses are drained and stowed away neatly. Turn off exterior water spigots. It's also a good idea to seal any water leaks around the place -- and don't forget to remove any window A/C units and store them so you don't invite cold drafts all winter.
5. Turn Down Your Water Heater
While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees F by installers, most households don't need that much steam, and end up paying for it -- in dollars and the occasional scalding burn. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees F (or lower) would reduce your water heating costs by 6% to 10%.
6. Install Storm Doors and Windows
The simple act of installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45%, by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Look for Energy Star-certified models.
Similarly, storm windows can make a huge difference when the cold wind starts blowing. It may be a pain, but it is well worth it to get them out of the shed or attic and install them for the season. (Make sure each is securely shut -- they don't do much good if you leave them in the up position by mistake!)
7. Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up
You probably already know that cars need periodic tune-ups in order to run their best. Well the same is true for heating equipment. Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use, saving up to 5% of heating costs.
The good news is many utilities offer free annual checkups by qualified technicians -- but you often have to call early, as HVAC crews get backed up once heating season starts. Some furnace manufacturers and dealers also offer free or discounted inspections.
If your entire furnace is in need of replacement, it will cost a lot more -- but replacing an inefficient burner for a modern machine will save you every month through the heating season.
8. Mind That Thermostat
It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses?
For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. Make it easier with a programmable thermostat; they are widely available for as little as $50, and the average family will save $180 a year with one.
9. Put Up Some Plastic
For just a few dollars, pick up a window insulation kit at your local hardware or discount store. Don't worry -- properly installed, window plastic is essentially invisible. Adding a buffer against drafts and extra still air space can give a nice boost to your home's ability to hold heat.
Save even more by hiring a pro to install a high-tech "low-e" film directly to the window glass.
10. Use an Energy Monitor
Measure your way to savings with an energy monitor . Such a device indicates household electrical usage in real time and projects your monthly bill. Research has found that such info leads consumers to reduce their electricity consumption significantly.
In fact, according to the company you'll save 15%-20% on each bill, which would amount to hundreds of dollars a year. By seeing exactly how much each appliance or activity costs, you'll start seeing easy ways to cut waste.
11. Use Caulking and Weather-stripping
Simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weather-stripping.
Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit and along the foundation. Use the incense test: carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammables) move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in. And heating or cooling sneaking out.
In another method, have someone on the outside blow a hair dryer around each window while you hold a lighted candle inside. If the candle flickers or goes out, you need to caulk or weather strip around the frame.
12. Put on a Sweater
Make like Jimmy Carter and dress warmer for winter, even inside. Gone are the days (for most of us at least) when we can afford to lounge around in our underwear while it's frosty outside. Remember what we said about each degree on the thermostat costing you money?
Roughly speaking, a light long-sleeved sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth, while a heavy sweater (even the ugliest of ugly sweaters) adds about 4 degrees. So cozy up and start saving.
13. Boost Insulation
It may not seem sexy, but insulation is one of the best ways to save energy and money at home. It can make a big difference to add more insulation between walls, and make sure your attic floor and basement ceiling are well covered.
14. Insulate Your Pipes
Pay less for hot water by insulating pipes. That can also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing, which can be disastrous. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation. (Use the same method to determine if your hot water heater would benefit from some insulation.)
You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power. Pipe insulation is often R-3 or, for batt styles that you wrap around, a stronger R-7.
15. Seal Those Ducts
Moving even deeper into your home's infrastructure ... one encounters ductwork. Studies show 10% to 30% of heated (or cooled) air in an average system escapes from ducts.
Therefore, it could pay to hire a professional technician to come out and test your duct system, and fix any problems. Properly sealing ducts can save the average home up to $140 annually, according to the American Solar Energy Society. Plus, you'll have better protection against mold and dust.
Many utilities offer incentive programs for duct improvement. Be wary of "duct cleaning" services, however; absent an air quality problem, most homes don't need their ducts cleaned.
16. Upgrade to an Efficient Furnace
Thankfully it's not something you have to do every year (or even every decade), but if your furnace is old you could save a lot of money in the long run (and improve your home's value) by upgrading to a new unit.
Make it an Energy Star-certified furnace and you'll save 15% to 20% versus standard new models. You could save 50% or more compared with many old furnaces still in operation.
Lake Barkley Realty agents are always ready to assist you in making your home ready to put on the market. Just give us a call. 270-619-5122