It’s October, and that means summer’s heat and mugginess slowly gives way to mild daytimes and cooler evenings. That’s probably just enough to remind us that the cold slap of winter is just around the corner. It’s time to think about winterization of your home.
The key to proper winterization is to be sure your house is energy-efficient. This is not something to address when that polar north wind blows down from Canada. Address your heat-efficiency issues now and you’ll have a cozy and, perhaps, significantly less expensive winter.
But where to start? Well, the most obvious area to address is your home’s insulation. Over the years insulation can break down, separate or pack down depending on the type of insulation you have. If you are new to your house, you may want to be sure it has adequate layers. Without it, or even with failing insulation, your house’s structure is no match for winter. It will be cold, drafty and expensive. Having adequate insulation may save you 10 or 20 percent on your fuel bill. That could make for a better Christmas!
Fact is, anywhere on your building that has joints or places where spaces may appear is ground zero for energy inefficiency. That’s why inspecting your house for failed caulk and other seals, and replacing with fresh seals, is so important. Check the caulk around windows and doors, trim, even bathroom fixtures to ensure a tight seal. Grab a flashlight and inspect the laundry room, attic, basement or other out-of-the-way places to ensure cold air is not sneaking in.
What about around fireplaces? Does you flu close securely? Is the seal of the chimney on the outside of the house air-tight? If you burn wood fires frequently, you should understand what impact that creature comfort can have on your fuel bill – good or bad depending on the setup.
If your windows are old and drafty and replacing them is not in the budget this year, consider sealing them with rope caulk. Then add a protective secondary layer of plastic. Plastic window insulation kits are available at any hardware store and can make a big difference. They’re easy to install and actually make good use of that old hair dryer sitting at the back of your linen closet.
Are your seals around the doors that lead outside tight? This may be a concern, especially in older homes or in those that have a porch or mudroom. If you have drafts, there are inexpensive kits that you can install to keep the cold air out and the warm air in.
Here’s another place you might not have considered: outlets or light switches on exterior walls. Take off the wall plates and look inside. Are these areas adequately insulated? If not, that may be an indicator of a larger problem.
Remember, also, that your appliances can have a dramatic effect on energy efficiency. When it’s time to replace your old appliances, consider purchasing those that are Energy Star rated, meaning they meet certain standards for energy efficiency. Over time that can save you some significant coin.
Not sure about your home’s energy efficiency needs? Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy audits to help you determine where you can make improvements to make your home more fuel-efficient.
And most important… do it now while the pleasant weather allows.