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Baby, It’s Cold Outside: How to Winterproof Your Home

November 27 2018
by Leisl Bailey

A snow-covered tree with a winterproofed house in the background

Feel that chill in the air? Winter is coming! While you may be picking out your next warm coat and planning your winter sports, your home also needs a bit of your attention. Yup, it’s that time of year when we speak for your house and tell you how to winterproof your home.

Why winterproof your home?

Your house was made for all kinds of weather. There are beach houses designed to withstand hurricanes and log cabins designed to keep you toasty while you watch the snow fall through the window. If houses are made to be outside during the summer and winter months, why in the world do we need to winterproof?

Great question. And here’s the answer:

Your house was built with the best of intentions. Maybe the builder used the best windows of the time and installed an efficient furnace, but these things wear out and take a bit of upkeep. Over time, drafty windows and doors let more air in as the caulking wears out and water leaks through the shingles on your roof.

Stuff happens, and that stuff can cost you a lot of money in repairs and on your energy bills. In fact, it’s not difficult to guess that most people could save money on the cost of heating on their house with just a few tips and tricks.

Want to hear them? Here you go.

5 Ways to Winterproof Your Home

1. Doors and Windows

Let’s start with the main amplifier of heating costs during the winter: drafty doors and windows. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average consumer loses between 5% and 30% of their energy through drafty doors and windows. What can you do?

Doors

If you have a screen door, it’s time to put on its winter counterpart: the storm door. While many storm doors come with a screen and glass inserts for just this occasion, it’s worth spending the $60 or so to upgrade if you don’t have glass inserts.

Don’t have a screen or storm door but still feel a bit of a draft? Use a draft snake. These handy DIY projects can instantly cut back on the amount of cold air that gets in. And they aren’t for exterior doors only. Use them in rooms that you don’t use often, such as the unfinished basement or a back office, and make sure to close the vents or turn off the heat in that room. Doing these two things saves energy while keeping you toasty warm in your house.

Another energy efficient practice is to check the weatherstripping on your doors and windows as well. Make sure it’s doing its job, and if it’s not, it’s time to replace it. You can find weatherstripping on Amazon or at your local hardware store. It’s easy to install and costs about $10/door.

Windows

As with doors, there are storm windows to solve your drafty window issues. While a bit of a hassle to store, these windows can increase your energy efficiency by 45% by blocking the drafts. Beyond that, the U.S. government offers incentives in the form of federal tax credits that give you up to $200 for upgrading to energy efficient windows and skylights and up to $500 for energy efficient doors.

If you aren’t able to spring for storm windows, make sure you check the caulking around your windows and reapply it if necessary. If you find your windows are particularly drafty, try covering them with bubble wrap. While it looks a bit funny, it does a great job at insulating your window while allowing light to still get through.

  1. Plumbing

You may have heard that you should unscrew your garden hoses, but did you know you should insulate any of your water pipes that are exposed outside during weather that hits below 45 degrees? Pipe insulation should only run you a couple of dollars at your local hardware store and will prevent the pipes from bursting in the frosty weather.

  1. Roof Maintenance

Your roof needs your attention this winter. If you are prone to ice dams and icicles, you may want to invest in heat tape. Ice dams and icicles building on your roof can cause the water to melt between the shingles, damaging your roof. Prevent this by getting a roof rake or just using a push broom to knock the ice off your house and allow the water to run off freely.

If your roof is flat, you may want to call over a roof professional to remove snow and ice build-up to prevent your roof from collapsing. While the $200-$300 may not be something you want to pay out in the dead of winter, it’s better than repairing the damage after the fact.

  1. Energy Efficiency

There are many ways you can save money and energy this winter. For one, turn down your hot water heater temperature. Most water heaters are set to a balmy 140 degrees, which is much higher than what you need for normal household activities. Turning down your water heater to 120 degrees (which is still plenty warm) can reduce your energy bill by 6-10%.

Another way to really cut back on your home energy usage is to get a programmable thermostat and turn down the heat while you are out. If you’re planning a vacation this winter, don’t waste the heat by leaving it on while you’re away. Instead, set your programmable thermostat to turn back up the heat right around the time you come back through that door!

If you really want to add up the savings, you can get an energy monitoring unit which allows you to see how much energy you are using for things like your hair dryer, heater, and lights. Simply tracking your usage could be enough to persuade you to use less energy.

  1. Safety First

Preparing your home against the chill of winter doesn’t only include insulating and snow removal. It’s also about staying safe inside during the winter months.

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family (as well as your heat bill) during the winter is getting your HVAC system checked. Your HVAC tech will make sure no ducts are blocked and your furnace is in top working condition. They will also change your filter to increase the productivity of your furnace and make sure it’s working its best for you.

If you don’t have a furnace or just need to use an extra heater, make sure you only have one heater per electrical outlet to prevent fires. Additionally, if you are using a gas heater, make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector to protect you and your family from noxious fumes.

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