You’ve already felt the cold and seen the snow falling, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for preparing your home for real winter weather. Luckily, there are two phases for effective winterizing: air sealing and insulation - and this handy home preparedness checklist will assist you with those efforts.
Air Sealing: Basically, you want to keep the outside’s moist, cold air from infiltrating into your home. Cold drafts entering a house are a symptom of the stack effect. Cold air flows through you home because heated air is escaping higher up. Filling all gaps and holes with silicon caulk or expanding foam will slow that down. Easier said than done? Not entirely. You just need to know where to look to find gaps and holes and seal around them. Places to seal right away are:
- Places in the wall, ceiling, or joists where electrical wires enter/leave the living space of your home. This also includes looking in your attic.
- Places in the wall, ceiling, or joists where any kind of plumbing or pipe enters/leaves the living space of your home. Again, look in your attic. One major area to seal around is the vent pipe for your plumbing (also colorfully known as the “soil stack”).
- Look for and seal ALL holes in your foundation, sill plate, and banding joists . Not only will you keep out the cold air, but also all the furry little rodents seeking shelter.
- Random drafts can be tricky to find. Start by wetting the back of your hand and feeling for cold drafts. If you’re just seeing how many you have, the area can be marked with a little colored chalk for you to find later. Chances are you’ll find them around outlets on exterior walls as well as window and door frames.
- Doors and windows. These need to close snuggly. Dirt and torn weatherstripping can easily prevent this, so start by cleaning the inside of the jambs. If you can close a piece of tissue paper in a door or window and still pull it out, then cold air is entering. Add foam weatherstripping to help provide a snug seal. For windows, clean any loose joints and apply a bead of silicon caulk to seal the glass against the window frame. You might even want to consider covering the window with plastic sheeting on the outside.
Check out the EnergyStar Air Sealing page for the complete guide to seal your home.
Air Seal Duct Work: Your heating system works best when it only circulates and heats the air properly. While one little hole won’t harm its efficency much, 50 will. Make sure all your duct work — both heat and return — has no holes and is tightly connected. Seal all joints in exposed duct work with aluminum duct tape (don’t use the cheap vinyl stuff because it dries out and fails) or coat with duct mastic. Be sure to replace or clean your air filter every three months, too.
Install a programmable Thermostat: Programmable thermostats control when and how you use heat. By setting the temperature lower when you are not home or asleep, you can save money on your energy bill quite easily.
Insulate! Generally speaking, it’s easier to add insulation to your home’s attic than it is to the walls. US Department of Energy recommends at least R30 (about 1 foot of blown cellulose or fiberglass) for attic insulation. Most homes have less, and depending on how much is in your attic, you may need to add more. While it can be expensive, it will save you money over time. If cost is still a factor, remember that you can add insulation in stages, starting with those areas in your attic above the rooms you use most. You will notice the difference right away because heat will be more evenly distributed in those rooms which will feel you more comfortable. For homeowners with full basements, insulating the walls with rigid foam and a plastic sheeting vapor barrier can even make that dank and chilly space more comfortable.
Keep your hot water warmer, longer: Heating water sometimes takes up 25% of your heating bill. Add a water heater jacket and placing foam pipe insulation on your hot water pipes can cut those costs and reduce water waste.
With true Yuletide cold lurking just few weeks away, savvy energy consumers know they can still save themselves some green for the holidays by winterizing their homes now. Hopefully, this helpful home preparedness checklist will come in handy as you get your home ready for real winter weather.