Now’s The Time To Winterize Your Home and Save Energy

by heather

7715698I know that the bitter cold of January is the furthest thing from your mind right now. But if you’d like to save yourself some headaches later on, it bears some thinking about now. Why? Because now is the perfect time to winterize your home.

When you think about it, it just makes sense. After all, isn’t it more comfortable to hang a new door when it’s 75 degrees instead of 35 degrees?

Wouldn’t it be funner to be on a ladder caulking cracks in shorts than bundled up in a coat and scarf?

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure rather do that stuff now while it’s warm. Besides, football season will be starting soon and until the Steelers win the Superbowl again come February, my Sunday afternoons are booked.

Why Winterize Your Home?

Winterizing your home not only saves money, but it also saves energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs account for 56% of a home’s energy use, making it our largest energy expense. So making sure that our home isn’t leaking air outside is just plain smart.

How To Winterize Your Home

Plug Leaks In Your Home

According to EarthWorks Group, the average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-foot square hole in the wall.

If you had a hole that big in January, you can bet you’d want it plugged up, right?

Well, we all have that hole, only it’s spread out into tiny holes all over the house. Not good.

So, one of the best ways for us to save money on our heating bills this winter is to find those leaks and plug them up.

One easy way to do that is to wait for a breezy day, then walk around your doors and windows with a lit incense stick. If there is a leak in your home, a faint breeze will be coming in, which will disturb the smoke of the incense.

Another nifty way to find leaks is to wait until it’s full dark. Turn off all the lights in your home. Have someone stand outside and then shine a small flashlight around doors, windows, and electrical sockets. If there’s a leak, a small beam of the light will shine to the outside.

Where else should you look? Well, the U.S. Department of Energy gives this list:

  • Door and window frames
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Bricks, siding, stucco, and foundation
  • Air conditioners
  • Vents and fans

You can also find leaks in your attic by crawling up into your attic and looking at the insulation. If the insulation is dirty in some spots, then there’s a leak there.

Want more tips for finding leaks in your home? Then check out this great list from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Double Check Electrical Sockets

Did you know that your electrical sockets could be costing you more than just electricity? Sockets are easy ways for heat to escape your home.

Planet Green recommends that you take off the electrical plate and reseal the inside with caulk to make sure no heat is escaping to the outside.

Save Energy By Switching Your Fans

Did you know that running your fans in reverse during the colder months can help keep you warmer? Heat rises, and when you switch your fan to the clockwise rotation it takes the warm air pooled up at the ceiling and pushes it downward, back onto you.

Switching your fans to clockwise rotation can, according to the Daily Green, save you up to 10% on your heating bills. Of course, you’ll want to wait until it cools down to do this one.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate…

Most of us already know we need to insulate, especially our attics. But you know where most people forget to cover?

Their attic stairs.

Most attic stairs are 10 square feet, which means that’s a 10 foot hole in your home’s weakest point for heat loss. As stated earlier, heat rises, so making sure your attic is super-tight is a must.

519a2hqpphl_ss400_I found a great tutorial from Danny Lipford on how to insulate your attic staircase. The pictures and instructions are very clear, so it’s worth a looky-loo.

You can also buy an Attic Stair Cover, R-50 Insulation.

I haven’t used this myself (covering my own attic access door is on my summer project “To Do” list). It got great reviews on Amazon, though, and if you don’t have the time or energy for a Do-It Yourself project this looks like any easy option. It says on the summary that you don’t need any tools to install it.

I know from this picture the attic stair cover doesn’t look very effective; after all, there’s a huge gap between the insulation and the staircase. But, if I’m understanding right, the insulation folds over the staircase. I checked the Battic Door site (the company that makes this model) and they have more pictures posted there. In their other pictures, the stairway is sealed up completely.

Check Your Ducts

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air ducts can lose up to 60% of the heat its carrying before it ever gets to your home’s living areas. Why?

Well, the metal that air ducts are made from is very thin. Hot and cold air is easily transferred through the thin sheets, so if your ducts are uninsulated or have leaks then you’re wasting a lot of energy.

Bob Vila

Bob Vila

For instance, my air ducts are in my basement, which is unheated. Although they’re tightly sealed, they’re not insulated. Thanks to the thin metal of the ducts, I’m losing quite a bit of heat during the winter months.

Yep, it’s another project for my “To Do” list.

Want to know how to insulate your ducts? Well, here’s an informative tutorial from good ol’ Bob Vila.

Check Your Chimneys

The U.S Department of Energy estimates that 14% of the air leaking out of our homes goes out the chimney.

Yikes.

You can help stop that leakage by putting in a new, rubber-sealed damper. And if your fireplace doesn’t have any kind of glass door or cover to seal it off when it’s not in use, it would definitely pay to invest in one.

Chimney Balloon

Chimney Balloon

You could also think about getting a Fireplace Chimney Balloon. Chimney balloons are made from several layers of plastic, and they sit right underneath the damper in your fireplace to block the cold air from coming in or out.

Chimney balloons can be reused hundreds of times, and there are 10 sizes to choose from. So even if you’ve got a whomping big fireplace, chances are Chimney Balloon makes one that will fit.

And if you forget to take it out before you light a fire, you don’t have to worry. As soon as they’re in the presence of heat, they automatically deflate.

According to Planet Green, a chimney balloon can help you save $200-$500 on your heating costs.

Last Word…

I’ve definitely got plenty of things to do before football season starts. I think my attic opening is definitely the top priority, though, and I’m amazed that I still haven’t insulated that yet.

Oops.

How about you? Do you have any handy winterization tips that help you save money and energy? If so, please send them in! I’d love to share them with other readers.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jason Raddenbach August 18, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Heather you may want to look into an attic tent or an ESS energy guardian attic door kit for your attic drop down door. I have found these brands to be more durable from my experience becasue of the materials they are made from.

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