Saturday, November 1, 2008

Save It Saturday: Winterize Your Home

In order to stop energy from being wasted during the cold winter months, it is important to ensure that your home is well sealed and that there are no energy leaks to be found. This is not only good for the environment (since you are using energy efficiently), but it helps ease the pain in the wallet as well. Here are the steps to winterizing your home:

- Ensure that your gutters and downspouts are free of debris. You want to be sure that there is not anything that is clogging them so that the snow has a place to drain as it melts, preventing ice dams. You may also consider putting grating over them in the future so you do not have to worry about this again.

- Check windows and doors for caulk that is pulling away from the surface or missing. Remove any old, peeling caulk and clean the surface. Re-caulk these areas with a weather-resisitant caulk.

- Replace any cracked or broken glass.

- Switch out screens for glass and install storm doors and windows.

- Check for leaks inside the house. Use a lighted incense stick or a candle (please be careful and do not burn yourself) and move it around window and door frames, electrical outlets, and recessed lighting. If the flame moves and flickers, you have an air leak. Caulk the leaky windows. For the outlets, you can buy special outlet gaskets at any home improvement store. Leaky doors can be fitted with door sweeps. You may also consider covering your windows with plastic. This is an easy process and the kits run about $10 for 2 average-size windows.

- Be sure you have enough insulation. You should have at least 12" of insulation in your attic.

- Look into getting a hot water heater blanket. This helps the water heater conserve energy by not letting the heat escape from the surface of the heater itself, allowing the water to stay hotter and not needing to be re-heated as often.

- Contact an HVAC professional to inspect and clean your furnace and heating ducts. Be sure to check the filter monthly and throw away or wash the filter when dirty. Close off vents that are in unused or rarely used rooms.

- Switch the direction of your ceiing fan blades to that they turn clockwise, pushing the hot air back down.

- Have your chimney checked, and swept if needed. Be sure to keep the damper closed when not in use. With woodstoves, be sure to keep the doors closed when not in use.

- Make sure exposed pipes are insulated.

These are just the steps for saving energy, but there are, of course, other steps you should take to prepare for the winter cold. Checking smoke and CO2 alarms, putting together an emergency kit, cleaning up outdoor equipment, and trimming landscaping are just a few of the other things you should do at this time as well. Some of the steps will cost a little bit up front, but most, if not all, will "re-pay" you pretty quickly and there is no price on being comfortable in the cold weather.

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