Fall is upon us. Schools are back in session, football players are back on the gridiron and it’s time to begin thinking about preparing your home for winter.
Aww, do I have to?
It’s the age-old whine of reluctant homeowners everywhere: Do I really need to winterize my home? “You should if you want to save energy,” says Don McPherson, co-owner of Home Repair Solutions (www.cincyhandyman.com or 513-242-2000). He’s been in the home repair business for more than 30 years. McPherson estimates that winterizing your home can result in savings of 5 to 8 percent on utility bills. “It’s not a whole lot, but it’s enough to save you something.”
Renters need to consider winterization too. Your landlord isn’t likely to come by with a winterizing kit. Many of these tips apply to you, too. Take matters into your own hands.
Fine, I’ll do it
McPherson, The Home Depot and the experts at People Working Cooperatively, Inc. (4612 Paddock Road, Norwood) all agree, the best place to start is with your windows. Drafty panes can be a real pain. Over time, windows and doors can shift and warp. There are several solutions. The most efficient fix is to replace old, single-pane windows with new, energy-saving ones.
If a big purchase like that isn’t in the budget, plastic sheeting is an option. Though McPherson is skeptical about how well covering the inside of windows with plastic works, Kim Sullivan of People Working Cooperatively believes it does make a difference. “It will make a huge difference on how it feels to you,” she says. “You won’t get the instant draft.” Her advice is to use a thicker plastic. “The kits we use really help a lot. It’s just a simple thing”
Floor and Wall Supervisor Kevin Quinn at The Home Depot in Pleasant Ridge (3400 Highland Ave.) says the key is to make sure the plastic is pulled tight. “Use a blow-dryer on it to tauten it up. What that does is create an (insulating) space of air in between the window and the plastic.”
Another good — and cost-effective — solution is to make sure the seals around your windows and doors are in good shape. Use caulk to fill cracks and other leaky spots. Quinn recommends using a foam or rubber sealant around doors and windows. A good seal should not allow light or air to pass
through. “You’re looking at about $3.50 per window or probably $7 to $8 per door depending on what type of product you decide to use,” Quinn says.
Full of hot air
Before the summer dew turns to autumn frost, fire up your furnace. It’s best to find out if it isn’t working properly before you really need it. According to Sullivan, “Simple things like changing the furnace filters and cleaning and tuning the furnace … insulating the hot water heater, insulating pipes … (those are things) that people don’t often think of.”
As a project manager with People Working Cooperatively, Mario Roberts specializes in winterization. He says, “You should definitely make sure that you keep a clean furnace filter.” This will reduce the amount of dust and dirt blowing around your home and help keep your heating system running smoothly. “If the filter gets clogged up then the furnace will run more than what it should and cause the bill to be higher,” Roberts says. “Plus there’s the added wear and tear on the furnace.”
Kevin Quinn of The Home Depot suggests making your heating ducts do more for you by installing boosters in your floor registers. Boosters (about $40 per vent) maximize vent efficiency, making rooms warmer while allowing you to save money by turning down the thermostat.
While fireplaces make for cozy, romantic moments, they do not necessarily make your home any warmer. “I don’t think fireplaces really heat your home,” McPherson says, “that’s just my personal opinion.” Roberts concurs: “The fireplace is sort of a myth on saving energy … If you are going to use your fireplace, make sure it is cleaned properly.” The U.S. Fire Administration recommends having a fireplace cleaned and inspected annually by a certified chimney specialist. Fireplaces can also cause drafts, so make sure the flue is tightly shut when there is no fire in the hearth.
Looks like cotton candy, tastes like fiberglass
One thing most homes can always use more of is insulation. McPherson recommends adding more of the fluffy pink or yellow stuff to attics. He says you should have enough insulation to cover the rafters — about 12 to 16 inches of the blow-in type. Shop around as prices can vary.
Out damn leaf!
While beautiful on the limb, fallen autumn leaves can wreak havoc on gutters. While the days are still warm, dig out the ladder and clean your rain gutters and ridge vents. Clogged troughs promote water and ice build-up leading to sagging and breakage. Ridge vents should be cleaned to allow for proper air circulation.
Since you’re already up on the roof, now is a good time to inspect your chimneys. Look for fallen twigs, animal nests and other debris that may have collected in side. You may want to install a screen to keep such items out in the future.
Once you are back on solid ground, it is time to wind up garden hoses and shut off outdoor spigots. McPherson says, “If you have a shut-off on the inside (of your home) you should shut that off and then open the valve on the outside so (water) won’t freeze inside the line.”
Winterizing is all about staying warm and saving money. All our experts agree: Once you’ve prepared your home, turn down the thermostat a few degrees and dress in layers. So, listen to your mother and wear a sweater.