Preparing Your Home for Old Man Winter

Monday, September 30 at 12:20 PM
Category: Personal Finance

The days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping. No, it won’t be long until Old Man Winter arrives for his yearly visit.

With that in mind, maybe you’ve already pulled out your sweaters. Maybe you’ve looked through a closet or two, making sure your coat, gloves and hats are where you left them at the end of last winter.

But, what about your house? Is it prepared for the cold months lurking just around the corner?

If you’re unsure, check out these six super tips designed to make your home a warm and inviting refuge from the cold of winter:

  • Perform a heat check. Turn on your furnace or heating system before cold weather becomes the norm. It’s common to smell a strong odor, but it shouldn’t last long, and you’ll know whether your heat source is working. Annual tune-ups also are a good idea and generally cost about $100. It’s smart to check your filters monthly and change them when needed.
  • Test your doors and windows. Moisten your hand with water and run it along the edges of interior windows and door trim, and at the top of baseboards along exterior walls. If you feel air blowing through, some caulking or weather-stripping might be in order. Door sweeps – extensions that are attached to close the gap between the door and flooring – also are good ideas for some exterior doors to reduce the amount of cold air coming into the house.
  • Gut your gutters. Once the leaves have fallen, remove them and any other debris from your home’s gutters. You typically can achieve this by hand, or you might try using a scraper or spatula. Once the debris is removed, use a water hose to rinse the gutters and wash out any remaining residue or sediment. Clogged drains can lead to harmful water seepage. It’s also a good idea to look for any leaks or misaligned gutters, and to make sure the downspouts are moving water away from you home’s foundation.
  • Check your chimney. Have your chimney inspected to make sure it is unobstructed before you use your fireplace. Protective caps for chimneys also are a good idea, and be sure to close the flue when your fireplace isn’t in use.
  • Inspect your insulation. A general rule says most homes need at least 12 inches of insulation in the attic. If you go into your attic and can see the ceiling joists, you likely need more insulation. Adding insulation also can reduce the amount of cold air sneaking into your house. That’s important considering the U.S. Department of Energy estimates drafts can waste 5-30 percent of your energy use.
  • Go duct hunting. They aren’t always easy to see, but ducts often can be found in the attic, basement or crawlspace. When you find them, make sure they’re well-connected and insulated. Otherwise, you could be losing up to 60 percent of your heated air before it even reaches the vents, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Here are some additional tips and bits of information you might find helpful this winter:

  • Flip the switch. Reversing the direction your ceiling fan turns pushes warm air downward and forces it to recirculate. The blades should turn clockwise to make this happen.
  • Protect your pipes. Some people wrap pipes that pass through unheated spaces like garages and basements with foam-rubber sleeves or other types of insulation. This makes those pipes less likely to burst.
  • Turn it down. Lowering the temperature setting on your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can reduce your water heating costs by 6- 10 percent.
  • Keep it lower. For every degree you lower your thermostat during cold months, you'll save about 1-3 percent of your heating bill.
Tommy on 10/8/2013 at 10:05 PM
Thank you
Sheila on 10/10/2013 at 3:00 PM
Great, helpful tips! Checking your guttering was good advice as I forget about it! Also, checking the duct work and making sure it is connected and insulated. Thanks!
Jon Wood on 10/16/2013 at 11:26 AM
Many Electric and Gas companies are offering cash rebates for adding attic insulation this fall, some up to $500.00.

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