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Winterizing in late summer and into fall helps you seal up and insulate your house to keep energy bills low. Here are some of the common trouble spots.

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Before it gets cold, winterize your house. Yes, it’s easy to find drafts when the cold north wind is blowing, but spare yourself, and get it done in the late summer and into the fall. So much winterizing is DIY and inexpensive, and you get your money back in the savings on your energy bills. It’s also a small investment to protect your home.

Doors and windows

As houses age, they settle. Doors and windows shift, creating spaces around the edges. When the wind blows, cold air comes in to displace heated air. It costs money to heat that cold air!

Caulking where the trim meets the wall and at every seam stops those drafts. If you are feeling ambitious, remove the trim and beef up the insulation in and around the frame.

Check the weather stripping around door frames, and replace it if necessary. It gets worn out with the door repeatedly rubbing on it.

If air is coming in the bottom of the door, put a draft snake at the bottom. You can buy one or make one from a tube of scrap fabric. Fill it with rice or more fabric scraps. If it annoys you to replace the snake every time the door opens, install a door sweep.

Heating

Call your utility, and ask if they do furnace inspections. They might offer credits or incentives if you keep your system in good shape.

At the very least, replace the filters. Buy extra to use over the heating season. HEPA filters are best for indoor air quality and human health. They remove small airborne particulates, such as pollen and animal dander, which cause respiratory problems..

Seal your ductwork. It runs through unheated spaces, and a small leak means a huge heat loss. Once it’s sealed, wrap it in insulation.

Get the fireplace or woodstove cleaned and inspected. Shore up stone or brick chimneys by sealing or replacing the mortar. Make sure the damper is functional and closes all the way. This could be a major source of heat loss!

Install a ceiling fan. Heat rises, and a ceiling fan turning clockwise will bring that heat back down to the living space.

Plumbing

Drain the water from air conditioning units and swamp coolers. Cover them with an insulating blanket, and seal the spots where they meet the wall, roof, or trim.

Insulate water pipes with sleeves that look like swimming pool noodles. In some spots, loose insulation or heat tape might work better.

Put an insulation blanket over your hot water heater.

Outdoors

Clean your gutters of leaves and debris. If water can’t pass through them, ice will build up and damage the roof, possibly causing leaks. Install leaf guards, which are screens placed on top to keep gutters clean.

Replace loose and worn shingles for the same reason. Prevent leaks by keeping snow and water from getting under the shingles.

Remove window screens, and put up storm windows. Make sure they fit securely so they do their job. The added air space between the storm and the window acts as an insulator, so it needs to be a tight fit. Exterior doors should have storm doors, too.

Drain your irrigation system, put hoses away, and insulate outdoor spigots. Put your snow shovel in a handy place, and tune up your snow blower.

An energy audit

If you really want to know how energy efficient your house is, get an energy audit from a certified RESNET auditor. Information about your home’s size, insulation, and HVAC system will be entered into the software. A blower door test will determine where leaks are, and a final report will show how to improve the entire structure for better performance.

You can also get a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score, showing how efficient your house is compared to a model. When you do upgrades recommended in the auditor’s report, the score will improve. The report is a living document that will always change as the condition of your home changes.

Now is the time

While the days are still warm and nights above freezing, it’s time to get the house ready for winter. It can be as easy and DIY as caulking and adding insulation, or as detailed and expensive as hiring contractors and auditors, and doing a big upgrade.

Basic winterizing is important. If you want to do more, make a budget and a plan. Then plug away at the improvements over a year or two. It’s always a wise investment, and you’ll get your money back in energy savings.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.