After spending a week huddled in front of our space heaters wearing fleece sweatshirts and Uggs, we finally got a small reprieve in the icy vortex of weather that has gripped a large part of the country. And certainly, those of us in Middle Tennessee had nothing to complain about! Did you read the news coming out of New York? Those poor people! No amount of “winterizing” could have prepared their homes for the massive snowfall and frigid temperatures they’ve been battling. Fortunately, most of us have gotten a reprieve from the freezing cold weather, so it’s a great time to head outdoors and check off some of those to-do items I wrote about last week. If you’ve already conquered your outdoor winterizing, you’re ready to tackle the indoor chores and prepare your home for Winter 2015 (a season that’s received a less than stellar report from our friends at The Farmer’s Almanac). Let’s get busy…
Now that we’ve moved inside, we’re still going to take a “top-down” approach, just like our exterior inspections and plans. First, check your ceiling fans and make sure they are set to rotate in a clockwise fashion. Many homeowners think that ceiling fans only help to cool their homes, but this is absolutely not true. During the warm summer, fans should rotate in a counterclockwise fashion to push air down and around, but in the winter a clockwise rotation recirculates warm air and can cut your heating costs by up to 10%.
Your furnace is getting ready to run a marathon, so it’s important that you give it some TLC in preparation for its busiest season. Call your utility company and see if they provide free annual check-ups. At the very least, you need to make sure that you change your furnace filters MONTHLY during the winter. Dirty filters can restrict air flow and increase energy demand. I suggest that my clients buy filters in bulk and replace them when they pay their mortgage each month. If you really want to go all-out for your furnace and HVAC systems, consider hiring a professional technician to inspect and clean your duct work.
Conserve energy and cut costs by eliminating drafts around doors and windows. Your local home improvement store has plenty of options to help you find and eliminate drafts that might be wasting up to 30% of your home’s monthly energy. Inspect and caulk around areas of your home where two different building materials come together. Similarly, a thorough insulation inspection can help you determine whether or not adding insulation will help you keep your home warm and save money at the same time. Attics, basements and crawl-spaces are huge energy-sucks. Adding insulation there can be a big boon to your heating bill. Best of all, Uncle Sam will reimburse up to 30% of the cost of high-efficiency insulation. Speaking of insulation, it’s also a great idea to insulate your pipes. Not only will this decrease your risk of frozen and ruptured pipes, but insulated pipes produce more hot water for less money. Most hardware stores sell pre-slit foam that can be cut to size. And, if you’re saving money on your hot-water bills, you can also turn your water heater down from the factory pre-set of 140 degrees to a more reasonable (and less expensive!) 120 degrees.
Last, but not least, consider installing storm doors and windows. I know, this can be an expensive endeavor, but these extra layers of protection can increase your energy efficiency by 45%! That adds up to monthly savings very quickly. Like high-efficiency insulation, energy efficient doors, windows and skylights qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 of your costs. If you can’t afford storm windows, consider putting insulating plastic over your windows. Installed correctly, it is virtually invisible.
As your home (now fully winterized!) gets ready to hunker down for a brief winter’s rest, you should treat yourself to the joys of the season by cozying up by the fireplace (after having the chimney cleaned, of course!) and relaxing with a cup of hot cocoa. You — and your home — have earned it!