Phinney Neighborhood Association, a
nationally recognized neighborhood group in Seattle.
2. Block those leaks
One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks
around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American
home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according
First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit
incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and
door frames, electrical outlets.
Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or
apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots, says
Danny Lipford, host of the nationally
syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner.” Outlet gaskets can easily be
installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold
air often enters.
Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use
masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. “Even if
it’s a small crack, it’s worth sealing up,” Lipford says. “It also
discourages any insects from entering your home.”
3. Insulate yourself
“Another thing that does cost a little money — but boy, you do get the
money back quick — is adding insulation to the existing insulation in the
attic,” says Lipford. “Regardless of the climate conditions you live in, in
the (U.S.) you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic.”
Don’t clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, though. Here’s
Lipford’s rule of thumb on whether you need to add insulation: “If you go
into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don’t have
enough, because a ceiling joist is at most 10 or 11 inches.”
A related tip: If you’re layering insulation atop other insulation, don’t
use the kind that has “kraft face” finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts
as a vapor barrier, Lipford explains, and therefore can cause moisture
problems in the insulation.
4. Check the furnace
First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it’s even working, before the
coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when
firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it.
But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a
It’s a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will
often run about $100-$125. An inspector should do the following, among other
Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly (check
them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could
even cause a fire in an extreme case. Toss out the dirty fiberglass filters;
reusable electrostatic or electronic filters can be washed.
5. Get your ducts in a row
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can
lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if
ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through
unheated spaces. That’s a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a
chilly house. (Check out this
Ducts aren’t always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the
attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched,
which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a
metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn’t stand up to the job over
Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the
abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause
6. Face your windows
Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm
windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home.
Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass
windows. But if you don’t have storm windows, and your windows are leaky or
drafty, “They need to be updated to a more efficient window,” says Lipford.
Of course, windows are pricey. Budget to replace them a few at a time, and
in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Lipford and Broili recommend.
Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that’s affixed to a window’s interior
with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the
sheeting onto the window. (It can be removed in the spring.) “It’s temporary
and it’s not pretty, but it’s inexpensive (about $4 a window) and it’s
extremely effective,” says Lipford.
7. Don’t forget the chimney
Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because “chimney
sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed,” says Ashley
Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
That said, don’t put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace,
Eldridge advises. “A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every
year,” says Eldridge. Not true. But a chimney should at least be inspected
before use each year, he adds. “I’ve seen tennis balls and ducks in
chimneys,” he says.
Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily
accessible portions of the chimney, Eldridge says. “Most certified chimney
sweeps include a Level 1 service with a sweep,” he adds.
Woodstoves are a different beast, however, cautions Eldridge. They should be
swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning
should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, “anywhere that it’s
found.” Why? “If it’s ash, then it’s primarily lye — the same stuff that
was once used to make soap, and it’s very acidic.” It can cause mortar and
the metal damper to rot, Eldridge says.
Another tip: Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen, advises
Eldridge. “It’s probably the single easiest protection” because it keeps out
foreign objects (birds, tennis balls) as well as rain that can mix with the
ash and eat away at the fireplace’s walls. He advises buying based on
durability, not appearance.
One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their
chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. And for the same
reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep
them closed when the stove isn’t in use.
And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their
stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn’t in use.
Checkout this site where you can Search for a CSIA Certified Professional
Simply enter your Zip Code and hit enter or click Search for a list of the
CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps and CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technicians
within the mileage radius you designate .
8. Reverse that fan
“Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often think
of,” says Lipford. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the
fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you
more comfortable. (Here’s how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you
look up, the blades should be turning clockwise, says Lipford.)
9. Wrap those pipes
A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before
Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the
water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve),
and that the lines are drained, says Broili. In climes such as Portland,
Ore., or Seattle, where freezing nights aren’t commonplace, you can install
Styrofoam cups with a screw attachment to help insulate spigots, says
Next, go looking for other pipes that aren’t insulated, or that pass through
unheated spaces — pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages.
Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation,
available at hardware stores. If you’re really worried about a pipe
freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an
electrical cord that emits heat.
10. Finally, check those alarms
This is a great time to check the operation — and change the batteries —
on your home’s smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years,
fire officials say. Test them — older ones in particular — with a small
bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the “test” button. Check to
see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still
Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least
Article source page:
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