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How-to: Winterize Your Home

March 31 2010

How-To: Winterize Your Home

Temperatures have dropped and the leaves are have left the trees. Jack Frost has brought cold weather to your home town, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. It’s time to think about what you can do to protect your home from higher maintenance costs.

Winterizing your home is one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll be comfortable this year, and help you save some green when it’s so hard to find outside..

Lying in the Gutters

Rain gutters can do a lot of good for your home and are relatively easy to maintain. As the leaves fall, you’ll want to periodically clear leaves from your gutters and downspouts. You’d be surprised at how much debris they collect. You may have to invest in a heavy duty scrubbing brush to clear sludge from decomposition. 

The benefits of keeping your gutters maintained in the thick of winter are three-fold:

• A clean drainage system keeps water from seeping into your foundation- freezing underground pipes.

• Excess water that can’t escape from your drainage system can and will find other places to go, i.e. leaking into your house causing water stains on ceilings, mold and any other possible damage. 

• Properly maintained gutters, according to allthingsfrugal.com , helps increase the marketability of your house

And, while you’re on your ladder, check if your gutters are properly aligned to prevent any leaks. With a garden hose you can easily check this problem.

Fiery, Fiery Furnace

The next thing you’ll want to check on is the state of your furnace. Call a master certified plumber to look for potential dangers such as carbon monoxide leaks. Typically, a heating system is comprised of three systems: the heat/cold source, distribution system and thermostat, so there is plenty of room for error. Make sure that your system is properly inspected, cleaned and has fresh filters according to maintenance directions.   

Since a good number of homes use gas-based heating, it just makes sense to also check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. According to the EPA.gov website, smoke detectors with a UL rating have been certified with a useful life of 10 years so when checking the smoke detector don’t just push the button to see if it’s working. Instead stick a real flame source, such as a candle or a match, to see if the detector can actually pick up on the smoke being emitted.

Sealing the Breaches

Energy leaks put a leak in your wallet, so you do your best to identify and seal all leaks in your ceiling/attic and cracks in or around your windows and doors. According to findings from thedailygreen.com, the U.S. Department of Energy says drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy consumption.

If you’re in an older home, you may not be able to afford several hundred dollars apiece for new energy-efficient storm windows, but you can still do something about drafts.

Take a quick trip to your local hardware store and pick up a window insulation kit= many make an invisible window lining that only requires a hair dryer to attach.. It may take a little elbow grease and trial and error to properly install your lining but the benefit of saving hundreds of dollars in heating costs for a nominal cost of about $4-$5 per window depending on size and your efficacy of installation.

Keeping It Cozy

To prepare for winter, improve your home’s heat-retaining efficiency by insulating your attic and walls. Danny Lipford, host of syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner,” advises a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. A quick way to check if you have enough insulation is to go into your attic and look at your rafters-if you can see ceiling joists you will need to add some more insulation. Though this will be an expensive process, you will instantly reap the benefits as your heating costs will plummet immediately.

An Ounce of Prevention

Wrapping piping in insulation is also a great way to avoid a “pound of cure,” like the old saying goes. This process will prevent pipes from bursting if you have a freeze. Be especially aware of pipes in areas that aren’t heated like your garage, crawlspaces or garden spigots. There are two main types of protection you can place on your pipes- the first is covering your pipes with regular insulation either pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation.

The second way is more necessary if you live in a much colder part of the country where freezing is likely is to wrap your pipes in electric heating tape-essentially you’re putting an electrical cord around your pipes that emits heat. This process is more expensive as you will undoubtedly need to wrap the pipe in foam rubber sleeves as well to guarantee the safety of your pipes.

Any steps you take will improve your home’s operation, and ultimately keep you more comfortable and worry-free.