Now is the time to winterize your home and property. There are a LOT of how-to guides for winterizing your home or property . . . I've picked my favorite tips and included them for an easy read below. Remember, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!
Preventing Winter Damage
- Shut off the water to your outside faucets and drain standing water from the pipe between shutoff valve and the outside spigot. Note: This setup is most common in homes with basements.
- If you can't shut off the water to your outside spigots, place an insulating cover over them. You can pick-up foam covers at most hardware stores for a few bucks each. If you forgot to get them or they're sold out before a nasty cold-snap . . . A thick wool sock rolled up, placed over the spigot, then covered with a plastic bag taped on with duct tape may work in a pinch.
- Remove window A/C units and close the windows. If you have a room A/C that you can't remove, drain the water out of the pipes and pan.
- Clean gutters. This is an important step for reducing ice dams and icicles.
- If your home is prone to ice dams, install a roof heating system and/or improve the insulation in your attic.
- Repair cracked concrete. It's easier to shovel across smoother surfaces and it will reduce frost heaving.
- Clear the leaves. Leaves are very slippery when wet and a pain to shovel when frozen solid.
- If it gets very cold, to minimize the risk of frozen pipes, turn on faucets to maintain a steady drip. This is especially important when the pipes are facing an exterior wall. Oh, and remember to drip both the hot and cold water taps. - If you suspect you have a frozen pipe, contact a plumber to have it checked out BEFORE it thaws.
- Some internet articles suggest using a candle or hairdryer to find leaks and drafts . . . Please do NOT do this! Instead, utilize the free home efficiency study that almost every utility offers (links below). You will get better insight from the study and not be walking around with fire near your curtains and walls.
- Pruning in the winter is usually advised for trees and shrubs that bloom in mid- to late summer
- Change your furnace filter regularly (in most cases monthly).
- Switch your ceiling fans to run clockwise. Hot air rises and this will circulate the warm air pooled on your ceiling back down to your living space. This reportedly can save you up to 10% on your heating costs!
- Keep windows clear when the sun is shining through them.
- Close your fireplace when not in use. Make sure the flue is closed all the way to prevent nasty drafts.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Why pay for keeping the house overly warm during a weekday when no one is home or at night when everyone is wrapped up in toasty blankets?
- Lower your shades and close your curtains after dark, this will help add extra insulation and reduce drafts around windows.
- Make sure all your weather seals around doors and windows seal tightly, replace as needed. An easy trick to stop drafts coming in from under a door is to use a draft snake (aka draft guard). At its most basic, a rolled up towel placed across the base of the door will work . . . Or make it a family craft event by making draft snakes with eyes and tails. Not into towels or crafts? You can get 'fashionable' ones at hardware stores.
- Keep an eye on the thermometer. For every degree of temperature, you increase your heating bill by about 1 - 3%
- Insulate your pipes. If you have access to plumbing in your basement or attic, this is an easy way to reduce your hot water bill. You can get foam insulation that wraps around your pipes at most hardware stores.
- Install outlet insulators (aka socket sealers). These thin pieces of foam install behind your switch/outlet plates and address a common insulation issue in homes. I've done this in two homes and it immediately reduced noticeable cold air drafts both times.
- Make sure you have good insulation over your attic access door.
- Calk any drafty gaps, especially around windows and doors.
Other Nifty Ideas
- Get a NO-COST home energy assessment from Mass Save. Many homes qualify for a HUGE discount on insulation improvements (all depending on the assessment results of course). You may even qualify for credits toward replace aging heating/cooling systems and appliances. Not a Mass resident? No problem, find other programs for your area by clicking here.
- If you have drafty windows, pick up a window insulation kit from your local hardware store (usually for just a few bucks). This low-cost window insulation film can make a big difference.
- Flush your hot water heater to improve its heating efficiency. Read your manual for instructions, but most homeowners can accomplish this on their own and at no-cost.
- Add storm doors and storm windows, the US Department of Energy says this may reduce heat loss through windows by as much as 50%
- Lower your water heater temp. Most water heaters are set at 140 degrees when installed, but you can usually lower them to 120 with the only noticeable impact being an improved utility bill.
- Add a solar energy system. There's a 30% Federal tax credit (with no upper limit!) available till 12/31/2021.
- And for making it all the way through this . . . Here's a pretty cool guide to an efficient home by the US Department of Energy: https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/energy_savers.pdf
If you found this information helpful, please spread the love and share it with a friend. Do you have your own favorite winter tip? Leave a comment, we'd love to hear it!