Up here in the frozen tundra, preparing for winter can be a bit of a weekend time-sucker. So, last week I decided to get to it and start the winterizing process. I realize it can save us on our energy bills – so it is worth the time/effort. For those living in the south – feel free to skip over this post for today and head out to the golf course (or whatever it is you do with your time when you're not prepping for winter).
Here's several things that are recommended be done to properly winterize your house which will save you money over the winter months:
- Check gutters. A couple years ago, we had one of the worst winter hazards befall our home: an ice dam. There was water everywhere in our basement and ended up causing about $15k worth in damages. Fortunately our insurance covered most of this. Little did we know that one of the big contributors to ice dams forming is clogged up gutters. When the water has no place to go, it freezes and just keeps building up along your eaves so that any melting water gets pushed up under the shingling – and sometimes – into your walls.
- Examine attic for proper insulation. Another contributor – and by many accounts, the biggest one – is having an attic that is not properly insulated. Before the snow sets in, take a look in your attic to see if there is adequate insulation up there. Better yet – get an insulation pro to come out and offer a free estimate/quote and they'll do it for you. Attics can be yucky places – so you may just want someone who knows what they are looking for. We found out our house wasn't properly insulated before the ice dam and thus was likely a factor in its formation. What you want to avoid is heat in your house proper escaping up and into the attic. This causes the snow on the roof to melt – which leads to ice build-up along your eaves (where it isn't as warm).
- Check for leaks. You can get someone from your gas/electric company to come out and perform an “energy audit” of your home. This can be a bit spendy – so this is something you can do yourself. Amazon has a Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector you can get for about
$52(currently on sale for $32). This will help you detect any drafts you can't determine by yourself. Even your electric outlets can have “drafts”.
- Seal your windows. This is something I do every year – especially since our windows are older and probably need to be replaced soon. If you have a newer house, you can pass on this annual winter ceremony. While it can be a bit of a chore – I do take some joy in “shrink-wrapping” the window with the blow-dryer. If you've ever done this before you probably know what I'm talking about. It's a little bit like popping those packaging bubbles…
- Shut-off outside water. Another potential winter hazard can be frozen pipes. Not as likely to happen – but best to prepare against it. Any water spigot you have on the outside of the house should be shut-off on the inside of your home.
- Call your HVAC pro now. BEFORE winter sets in to check on your heating/ventilation system. These guys are going to get pretty busy once the snow flies – so better to get 'em in your house before things start heating up (no pun intended).
Anything you do to winterize your home that can save money down the road?
All these little ‘tricks’, while they might seem useless to some, really help one keep the utilities to a less shocking cost during winter, not to mention the heating will be more efficient. Great advice.
These are great tips Aaron. I’d also add consider insulating your garage doors. We did this a few years ago it has made a big difference. Not only does it keep our garage warmer but also any internal walls that shares a wall with your garage space. Not very expensive and an easy task for any DIY’er.
Huh – haven’t thought of garage doors but that is a super idea being they probably let in a lot of cold air. Thx!
When we bought our house several years ago I noticed air coming through the outlets, so we installed the foam outlet and switch plate insulation pieces, no more cold air coming in through there! We also re-did the weather stripping on all doors, these two little things helped more than you would think. Another thing that really helped was installing a programmable thermostat on our furnace.
I need to do the foam around the doors too. Thanks for reminder!
“You can get someone from your gas/electric company to come out and perform an “energy audit” of your home.”
Many electric and gas utilities offer energy audits for free – either to meet regulatory requirements or because the free home energy check helps the utility market other free energy saving programs and rebates.
Make sure to check http://www.dsireusa.org/ the USDOE’s comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. The database is searchable and provides links to any incentives, rebates and tax credits you may qualify for when you purchase and install qualifying products.
Thanks for the tip KC!
Great tips, Aaron. We are definitely going to seal up some of our windows/patio doors this year. One in particular has a huge draft coming through, and I know we’re losing tons of cash ot of that baby.
Hear ya. Drafts seem to be more prevalent on those older homes :(
I need to do this, too. Our condo is actually generally warm, except for the seats right by the windows.
Speaking of your HVAC…don’t forget to change that furnace filter – a blocked airway contributes to an inefficient heating system.
Great point Travis. I was reading somewhere about these furnace filter whistles thingys you put on your filters to alert you to when they need replacing. Dunno if they’d work though. Be nice to know when it’s “clogged” up, instead of just automatically replacing every month.