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Winterize your home for less

by in Home savings
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Winterize your home for less

 

A lot of the homes on Cape Cod are summer homes. If you're one of the people we welcome back every year, you might winterize your home before you leave. Here are 11 tips and tricks to winterizing your home efficiently and cost effectively. 

 

 

 

1. Clean Your Gutters

You've heard it before, but we can't stress this enough. Making sure that water can flow freely through your gutters now will help prevent icicles and ice dams from forming later. Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home's gutters -- by hand, by scraper or spatula, and by a good hose rinse -- so that winter's rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams, in which water backs up, freezes and causes water to seep into the house, the Insurance Information Institute says.

As you're hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house's foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage. Cost: Other than your sweat and time, free.

2. Flush the Water Heater and Check the Furnace

Particles and sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit's efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out the material and keep your heater functioning at its best. Cost: 100% free!

For the furnace, turn it 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 professional.

It's a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125.

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.

3. Clockwise Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are everyone's favorite summer budget-saver. But they can help out in the winter as well! Have your ceiling fans move in a clockwise direction so they push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor. If they're going counterclockwise, they won't be as effective. Cost: free if you have a fan.

4. Replace Filters

Regularly changing the filters in your central air and heating system can significantly improve its efficiency and longevity, while easing the pressure on your wallet. Cost: a new filter runs about $10.

5. Window Insulation Film

It may not be the most fashionable tip, but window insulation film can keep up to 70% of your heat from leaking out of windows. Cost: $20 to $35 per kit.

6. Draft Guards

Draft guards can help save heat from escaping under the door. Cost: $10 to $15. (If you don't want to shell out for a draft guard, a rolled towel placed at the bottom of an exterior door will also do the trick.)

7. Weatherstrip Tape

Drafts and air leaks increase your heating costs, so make sure your windows and doors are sealed tight with weatherstripping. Simple, easy, and smart. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group. 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. If you see the smoke, or smell it, move then you have a draft. Plug it up! Cost: $5 to $10 per roll.

8. Fiberglass Insulation

For maximum heat retention, pack fiberglass insulation around basement doors, windows in unused rooms, and window AC units.  Make sure your attic floor is insulated, too. Just remember to be careful and wear gloves! 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 a rule of thumb on whether you need to add insulation: If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists, you don't have enough. Cost: around $25 per roll.

9. Get a Programmable Thermostat and Check Those Alarms

The US Department of Energy says you can save as much as 1% on your energy bill for every degree you lower your home's temperature during the winter. Install a programmable thermostat now and save money by keeping the temp down when you're not at home.

This is also 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 works.

Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.

10. Just Caulk It

Any remaining gaps in siding, windows, or doors can be filled with caulk. For extra drafty windows and doors, caulk the inside too, pulling off moldings to fill all gaps in the insulation. Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. Even a small crack is worth sealing up. It also discourages any insects from entering your home. Cost: $20 for a basic caulk gun and $5 to $10 for a tube of caulk.

11. Take a Look at Your Chimney

Your chimney is a huge source of heat loss come wintertime. If not in active use, plug it up with a chimney balloon to keep drafts out and heat in. Cost: $55.

A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year. Not true. But a chimney should at least be inspected before use each year. Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney, most certified chimney sweeps include a Level 1 service with a sweep.

Woodstoves however are a different beast. They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote.

You can also buy a protective cap for your chimney. 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.

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