It’s undeniable that the days are shorter, and school has started in some locales signaling that summer is coming to a close. I am putting up food to eat over the winter, and I can’t help but think it’s time to make sure the house is tight to keep out the impending cold.
I know my kitchen door needs weather stripping. I can see light and feel cold winds through a couple of places where the door does not meet the jamb. That’s one chore so far. I’ll be checking the house for other leaks over the next couple of weeks.
You want to seal up all the small places like my kitchen door has so that cold air does not enter and warm air does not escape. If you are paying to heat your house (and aren’t we all?), you don’t want your dollar bills seeping out through small cracks and holes. No point in heating the outdoors!
Check around doors and windows. Buildings settle, and openings are not as snug as when first installed. Caulk around window frames and trim, inside and out, and weather strip around the movable parts. Check the door sweep on exterior doors, and repair or replace as needed. These are inexpensive ways to stop air flow, save fuel, save money, and stay warm.
Windows and exterior walls
Put up storm windows if you use them. Make sure you have heavy drapes to block cold air. You can also cover windows inside with plastic sheeting that is as clear as a window. Consider buying new windows if yours are old. The technology is always getting better to block out hot sun in summer and keep warm air inside in winter.
Check around electrical outlets, cable entries, air conditioners, recessed lighting fixtures, and anywhere a hole was made in an exterior wall. Air will easily move through these spaces. Insulate inside the wall or ceiling, if possible, or install a gasket, and be sure to caulk around where the fixture meets the wall.
Add insulation to your ceiling. Heat rises, so you will keep the heat in the house with additional ceiling insulation. You can install batts yourself or high a company to spray fiberglass into the space. I did this several years ago and felt the difference that night!
Replace your furnace filters. You should have your furnace checked out by a heating company. They will give it a tune up and a new filter, but you should check and replace the filter monthly throughout the heating season. Also insulate ductwork in crawl spaces and the attic.
Most utility companies will do an energy audit for their customers. Check with yours. You can also find a Certified Home Energy Auditor through Resnet, do a blower door test, and get recommendations for improvement. As you do the improvements, the auditor will input the new data into your file, so it becomes a living document.
Consider a HERS score, especially if you plan on selling. HERS is based on a value of 100 for a model home. The more energy efficient your home is, the lower your score will be. I did this when I remodeled my old ranch house, and the HERS score was 88, so my house was 12% more efficient than the model home. Some of the new super-efficient homes have scores as low as 20! As you continue to make your home more energy efficient, your score will change.
Check with your utility and DSIRE for tax credits and incentives. Save money twice – once on energy bills, and again on your taxes.
Consider installing solar hot water and solar pv to really cut your bills and save natural resources. Solar has gotten very affordable over the last few years, and when the real estate market picks up, energy efficiency will be a good selling point.
Plant trees as windbreaks and shade. Cutting wind speed will reduce the drafts where cold air infiltrates. Shade can keep your house cool in summer, too.
And remember – winterizing for cold weather also helps reduce air conditioning bills in summer, so don’t feel as though your time and money are only fixing a seasonal problem. Your investment will be well worth it all year!