For homeowners in regions where Old Man Winter rules with an icy hand, winterizing their homes properly saves energy and, often, plenty of cash.
According to the U.S. Energy Department, winterizing your home (i.e. taking steps to properly insulate and better protect a home from the elements) not only keeps it safe and warm, but it can also cut your home energy bills by up to 30 percent. That turns a $200 monthly heating bill, into a much more manageable $140 monthly heating bill.
Plus, by keeping more energy inside your home, your carbon footprint is smaller and the environment safer. Who isn’t down with that?
5 Tips to Winterize Your Home
The trick in winterizing your home is knowing both where to start and which areas of the home to prioritize. Consider creating a step-by-step plan to winterize your residence by following these key winter energy savings tips:
START WITH A HOME ENERGY AUDIT
According to the Energy Dept., a home energy audit can “help you pinpoint where your house is losing energy and what you can do to save money.” Check with your state’s energy and/or utilities commission to find a qualified home energy auditor (your utility company also likely offers a home energy audit, often free of charge). The auditor will use tools like diagnostic barometers and thermographic scans to identify energy leaks and under-insulated areas in your home. Note: If you opt for a private home energy auditor, expect to pay about $300 for the visit.
CHECK YOUR HEATING UNIT
One goal of home winterization is to get ahead of potential problems to nip them in the bud before they become bigger, more expensive problems. That’s why it’s vital to take a thorough look at your heating unit, a job you can easily do yourself (if not, your home heating provider can send a professional to do the check-up for a nominal fee.) If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, focus on heating filters first and replace them before the season starts. Clean HVAC filters can make your unit perform better and save you money in the process.
FIND AND SEAL ALL LEAKS
The experts at American Home Shield say that keeping warm air in and cold air out is the primary goal of any home winterization review. Do that by making sure door jambs, windows and such are properly caulked or have necessary weather stripping,” the firm recommends, the firm advises. “Not only will this help you stay warm and comfortable, but it will reduce stress on your heating system,”AHS states. Here’s a neat trick to get the job done: Wait for a breezy or windy day, then light an incense stick close to potential “draft” areas like windows, doors, power outlets and attic doors. If the incense stick’s smoke drifts sideways, you likely have a home air leak that requires sealing or caulking.
STAVE OFF FROZEN PIPES
The average home insurance claim on a frozen water pipe is $18,000, a figure that will cost you now and likely lead to higher home insurance premiums down the road. And that doesn’t include the damage a frozen, burst pipe does inside your home. To thwart a freezing pipe, make sure your home “leak sealing” campaign starts in areas that are more vulnerable to freezing temperatures – think basements, crawl spaces, attics and mud rooms. Anywhere icy air has access to the inside of your home, the threat of a frozen pipe rises. To protect your home, make sure you know exactly where your home’s primary water shut-off valve is located (make sure to shut the valve off immediately in the event of burst pipeline). Then, seal all potential air leaks close to pipes (especially exposed ones.)
CLEAN YOUR GUTTERS
According to the National Home Service Contract Association, home gutters clogged with leaves can lead to big problems in the winter months, as ice and snow can back up into your home’s attic, and even into your basement. Also, check for any loose or hanging tree limbs that could crash down onto your home after heavy snow. Dead tree branches are the worst culprit. Remove them in autumn, well before winter comes, to keep your roof, siding, porch and deck safe from the elements when the deep freeze sets in for the season.
Protecting your home from the elements using the above winter energy savings tips maintains your home’s value, while keeping your household energy budget in line – all winter long.