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How to Winterize Your Home for Highest Efficiency
When the weather starts to cool down, it’s time to bring out your annual winterizing to-do list. Winterizing your home will not only save you some dollars—it may save you some big dollars. Your home will feel more comfortable in the cold months as well, and you’ll have greater peace of mind knowing that major aspects of your home—such as your roof or your exterior pipes—won’t send you any ugly surprises before the springtime. From the experts at Entek, here are five top tips for how to winterize your home.
1. Clean Your Air Ducts
Taking proper care of your air ducts is important to how you winterize your home. And this is something that will help the airflow in your house all year long. Cleaning your ducts, and sealing them if needed, will ensure your energy costs stay low since it won’t take as much energy or burn as much fuel to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. On top of that, you’ll have better air quality, and you’ll be more comfortable overall since, with the colder weather, you’ll spend a lot more time inside. As it is, 90 percent of a person’s life is spent indoors. You should enjoy that time.
If you have a pet, consider all the pet dander and hair that might also be in the air. Consider also whether you spend a lot of time cooking, if there’s someone who smokes inside your home, if you had a wildfire nearby recently, or if you use a log fireplace. All of these can contribute to poor air quality and can clog your air filter. Make sure that you change or clean your air filter regularly throughout the year as well.
2. Seal Windows and Doors
If your windows and doors haven’t been replaced or upgraded recently, you’ll want to make sure that you seal the sills before the wet and cold weather approaches. If you decide to seal your windows, there are three types of weather strips:
Foam weatherstripping is the easiest to install—it has adhesive backing on one side—but it doesn’t last very long, only one to three years. V-type weather strips form a seal in between the sections of a door or window jam and prevent cold air from entering. The most durable are compression weather strips, and there are many types of self-contained kits you can buy for your windows.
If you find heat leaks out your front door (or your bedroom door or any door to a room you spend a lot of time in), another easy thing you can install is a door snake. They are also known as draft blockers and are simple weighted fabric tubes. All you have to do is use them to block the bottom of your door. You can buy already-made ones. If you’re in a pinch, you can use a rolled-up towel. Or if you’re crafty, you can even make your own.
3. Annual Roof Checkup
This is important because not only will a roof that’s missing shingles let out the heat that you want to keep in, but it may also let in water that could contribute to further deterioration of your roof. Look for missing or damaged shingles—these are a first line of defense against water, and if they aren’t doing their job, you could see higher levels of moisture in your attic or crawl space. Similarly, look at the flashing around your chimney if you have one. If you don’t catch a leak here, the water could go all the way down to where the fireplace or furnace is.
Any instances of moss, mold, or lichen on your roof could indicate water damage already on your roof. Make sure they haven’t grown through the roof shingles or tiles. When in doubt, make the repair or call a professional. There’s nothing worse than needing roof repairs when it’s snowing, hailing, or in a heavy downpour.
4. Warm By the Fire
Many homes in Oregon come equipped with a fireplace, and there’s nothing like a fire in the grate when the weather is chilly outside. However, the fireplace and the chimney are major conduits for cold air. The best way to be sure this doesn’t happen to you is to be well-versed in how your fireplace and chimney work and get it serviced and swept every year. This is not only good for your energy savings but also a basic safety precaution.
If you want to prevent the cold (and also possibly smoky) air from entering your home, and if you want to create more heat from your fireplace, make sure that your fireplace damper is closing tightly. It should block all the air above it and keep that cold air at bay. If it’s warped, damaged, or even rusted, the upper flue is going to let in that cold air.
If you don’t use your fireplace at all, you can use a chimney balloon or plug to keep the cold air out. They’re exactly what they sound like—you’ll insert the device above the throat damper in your fireplace and inflate it like a balloon. Cold air will be completely prevented from entering your home through the fireplace, saving you some cash and some warmth.
5. Pipes Aren’t Just for Singing
Imagine what happens if you forget to turn off your exterior faucets. Water that would usually be drained out of those pipes instead freezes, expanding and creating all kinds of headaches.
First, you’ll want to be sure you know where all your exterior pipes are, including piping in attics, unheated basements, and crawl spaces. After that, turn off the water supply to the faucet you are winterizing. There is usually a water shutoff valve close to the exterior faucets. Once the water is shut off, open the drainage port and drain off the water still in the pipes either into a bucket or onto the ground (if you don’t mind your feet getting wet). If your exterior faucet doesn’t have a drainage port, simply turn on the tap.
If your hose is still attached to the faucet, this is a good time to disconnect it and drain the hose. You can leave a hose outside for the winter without much damage or wear if it’s stored horizontally, on a flat surface, out of the way of the sun and the snow. However, if you have a place in a garage or a shed, a hose will survive the winter just fine there too.