Don’t let the mild temperatures so far this 2015 winter fool you. Strong snowstorms and ice storms are predicted all throughout late winter into early spring because of El Niño. These sudden cold snaps can cause headaches when reviewing your power bill for the month, but they could also put your property and even its inhabitants in danger if proper steps are not taken first. In light of this problem, here are some of the best ways of winterizing your home to keep your home safe, secure and stingy with energy this winter:
Seal Your Home’s Envelope
A “building envelope” refers to what should be an almost completely-closed system encircling your home like a figurative shrink wrap. If your home has drafts around every door and cracks all along the siding, your building envelope will be severely compromised. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, problems like these lead to a 5 to 10 percent increase in home heating costs.
- Apply weather-stripping around all door and window frames
- Seal any cracks in exterior molding or siding with weather-rated exterior caulk
- Use draft guards for entry/exit doors
- Consider applying shrink film over windows that are not regularly opened or used for viewing
- Make sure your HVAC system is working properly
- Replace outdated windows with Energy Star rated insulated models
- Shut your chimney’s flue if you do not intend to use your fireplace this winter. Do not forget to open it before starting a fire, though!
Invest in Adequate Insulation
Even with a perfect building envelope, your home will not be able to regulate its temperature and moisture levels without proper insulation. Consider hiring a contractor who can identify problem spots where your insulation is inadequate or ineffective. A home energy audit can identify these spots as well as pinpoint undetected drafts. Adding the needed amount of insulation afterwards promotes efficient, consistent heating of the house.
Remember that proper insulation in your attic and along the underside of your roof decking becomes especially important in regions with constant freezes throughout the winter. Improper insulation heats the roof exterior, which can lead to the melt/refreeze cycles that form harmful ice dams.
If Vacating Home for Long Periods, Prepare Adequately
If you are leaving your home for several weeks or months at a time to become a “snowbird”:
- Shut off all plumbing and drain all the lines afterwards by running water
- You can pour non-toxic antifreeze or, if there are no alternatives, cheap vodka into your drained toilets and sinks to keep P traps from freezing
- If you want to leave the plumbing on, ensure that your home’s heating system maintains an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing
- Secure all doors with strong anti-intrusion deadbolts
- Shut off and drain all exterior faucets
- Have your home inspected before you leave for any electrical, structural or general safety problems
- Install a chimney screen to keep out pests
- Have someone clear the snow from your roof after blizzards; 4 feet of snow is enough to place serious stress upon most roof structures
- Have someone to detect and handle any formed ice dams
Winterizing Your Home Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
You don’t need to follow every last one of these tips to have a better winter. Simply identify the areas in need of most attention and do your best to rectify them as soon as you can. For instance, weather stripping can be bought inexpensively, as can window film or even bubble wrap to improve insulation.