How Do I Winterize My Home?
Fall is the perfect time to start preparing your home for the winter months ahead. Not only does preparing in advance help save money by avoiding costly, major repairs, but it also ensures you and your family aren't left shivering in the cold when you need heat the most.
Getting your home ready for winter doesn't have to be a time consuming or expensive process.
Preparing Your Home for Winter
Here are six easy winter home tips to help you better prepare your home for chilly weather.
1. Install a programmable thermostat. Set your thermostat to reduce the temperature at night and when your house is unoccupied throughout the day. Doing so can lower your heating bill by 10 to 30 percent.
In addition, you'll want to make sure your programmable thermostat is:
− Properly programmed. Many people install a programmable thermostat only to forget to program it, forget to check it over time to ensure the programmed schedule still reflects their daily lifestyle, or their builder or service contractor never provided clear instructions on programming the thermostat. Each scenario defeats the whole purpose of having a programmable thermostat in the first place! Truth is, it won't save you money if you don't program it.
The savings we get from a programmable thermostat comes from the "offset," or lower temperature that we allow the house to reach when we are away, asleep, etc. During these periods, we are simply not heating to our regular comfort set point. Because we are not raising and holding the indoor temperature as far from the outdoor temp, we slow the transfer of heat (heat loss) to the out of doors. Allowing a 10-degree offset from your comfort setting will help maximize your energy savings in the winter. But no worries, you can just as easily set your control to take you off of the "away/asleep" setting and bring you back up to "return/awake" setting each morning or when you return home in the evening.
− Installed in a smart location. Make sure your thermostat is installed in a heated space that is well-sealed and not in direct sunlight or near a heat source such as a table or torchiere lamp. You also don't want it to be in a spot where airflow from a supply register may affect the thermostat. Your thermostat needs to accurately sense the average temperature in your home. If it is not installed in the right place, contact a heating professional to have it relocated.
2. Wear socks and sweaters indoors so that you can lower your thermostat. Lowering the thermostat by just one degree can reduce energy use by 3 percent. Invest in some thick blankets to cover you up at night, or try an electric blanket to keep you extra cozy. And if you have hardwood floors, purchase some thick area rugs to help with insulation. You'll be surprised what a difference some quality rugs can make!
3. Check your air filters to see if they need cleaned or replaced. If you have a forced air furnace, inspect, clean and/or replace your filters in the fall and then monthly throughout the heating season. Dirty air filters can negatively impact your furnace's performance and even cause your furnace to blow cool air, so it's important to stay on top of your filter maintenance to keep your home as warm and toasty as possible.
While you're at it, get your furnace tuned up, too. According to the U.S Department of Energy, a properly applied furnace tune-up or boiler tune-up can actually save you more than its cost over the entire winter season in reduced operating costs. That's why we often say that − Good Service doesn't actually cost − it Saves!
Plus, it's better to find out if your furnace isn't working well before the cold weather strikes, so make furnace maintenance a top priority when winterizing your home.
Bonus tip: Make sure your fireplace is in good working order before you need to use it! If you have a wood-burning fireplace, be sure to keep it clean and hire a professional to inspect and clean your chimney as needed. If you have an electric or gas fireplace, check that it's working properly − if not, contact a professional to service it.
4. Consider installing a humidifier. The air inside your home can be very dry in Colorado − drier even than the average humidity in Death Valley. Moist air feels warmer, so a humidifier can help you feel more comfortable while allowing your thermostat to be set at a lower, energy-saving temperature. Be sure to opt for a whole-house humidifier to ensure your entire home stays comfortable throughout the winter months.
Did you know that increasing the humidity makes for healthier sinuses, too? Indoor air that is treated by a humidifier can help alleviate nosebleeds while reducing your family's chances of catching colds and the flu. When preparing your house for winter, consider your home's humidity to keep your family comfortable and healthy.
Already have a humidifier? Remember that given our dry conditions and the number of run hours we experience over a Denver winter, you will need to have your humidifier media replaced annually or checked by a service pro to ensure your comfortable home stays that way.
5. Open your blinds in the morning. Blinds that are normally kept closed in the summer should be opened each morning to let sunlight in and warm up your home. Closing them again at night can help slow heat loss to cold windows. Metallic blinds can actually speed the transfer of heat to and from a window, so avoid them and look for sturdy PVC, cellular, or thick cloth blinds instead.
In addition, invest in some blackout curtains when winter proofing your home. These effective yet inexpensive curtains are made of a special foam-backed, insulating fabric that helps retain heat in the evening and overnight hours.
6. Leave your central duct system some room(s) to breathe. Walk through and make sure any closed registers are fully open − after all it's a central system − and one that works better when airflow is at maximum. It is tempting to close down registers in unused rooms, but just don't shut down more than about 5-10% of the registers on a single comfort system. With most systems, that's only one or two registers that you can close off without too much risk of restricting system air flow.
Many of us tend to think of air as being fluid and easily divertible. In most cases, this isn't as true as you may think. An air duct can carry only so much air and then it reaches maximum static pressure, and no additional volume of air can be carried. In order for all the air that we attempt to redirect to other rooms by closing registers to actually get redirected properly, the ducts to those spaces would generally have to have been oversized at the time of installation. And how many contractors do you think are out there installing oversized ducting at no additional charge? Right.
So let your central system breathe. In the vast majority of cases you'll find that your comfort will increase as room air will get a greater mixing from head to foot and be filtered more often, while your furnace and blower motor will breathe a sigh of relief (of sorts) and last longer.
Bonus tip: Many homeowners make the mistake of letting their pipes freeze over, which can cause pipe bursts. A pipe breakage is a plumbing emergency that requires immediate attention of a qualified 24/7 plumber. If you wake up one chilly morning only to discover that no water is coming out of your tap, call a plumber immediately. Otherwise, make sure to insulate your pipes this fall and take other precautionary measures to prevent pipe bursts and prepare your home for winter.
Taking the necessary steps for winter proofing your home will ensure you and your family stay warm and snug all season long without having to break the bank on a last-minute major repair. For more winter home tips, check out our blog post on tips for efficiently heating older homes.
Until next time − stay warm and comfortable!