Tips To Improve Your Homes Efficiency For The Winter

Tips For Saving Money This Winter

As we are going into the winter months, many of us have a checklist of things to do.  As homeowners, maintenance is a never ending job, however the type of maintenance is dependent on the time of year.   The winter months can be a little more challenging and if you live in an area where the temperature gets below freezing and into the teens for extended periods of time, you have more probability of water lines freezing and water damage.  We will discuss preventative maintenance another time though.  So what are some of the things any average homeowner can do to help the wallet?  Below is a list that any diy-er can accomplish and should add to their fall maintenance to improve your homes efficiency for the winter.


1.  Check your door weather stripping

Weather stripping becomes compressed and worn out over time and as a home ages it can settle.  These are things that can cause your door not to seal up properly, but can be fixed with some adjustment.  With the door closed and using your hand, you can slowly move around the  edge of the door to feel for leaks.  The colder it is outside makes being able to notice any air gaps more obvious.   Any little bit of air you feel is considered a leak and should be addressed.   Another way to check weather stripping and air leaks is at night time with a flashlight.  It also take two people.  With all lights out inside and out, have a person on the outside with a flashlight.  Have them go around the edge of the door while closed while the second person is on the inside.  Obviously, any bit of light noticed and considered bad and should be addressed.  This is also a good time to have the person with the flashlight shine it on the threshold to check for needed height adjustment.  Some weather stripping is easily replaced and not very expensive.  If the weather stripping appears old and worn out and causing issues, replace as necessary.  Consider the cost to replace to how much it is costing you annually.  Older homes may have a metal or copper weather strip, which can be adjusted as well.  

2.  Windows

The age of your house can play a large part on how much your windows can factor in on overall home efficiency.  Homes built before the 1980's typically have an outdated, inferior product compared to what is being sold and installed in newer homes of today.  If this is your case, you are limited on things that can be done to improve their potential short of putting a temporary plastic weather covering on the outside of each window.   This is effective, but not very attractive and some hoa's will even be against it.  Check with them should you decide to install. We strongly recommend having your windows updated, which can be costly, but in comparison to how much money they are costing you a year, would be a smart financial move. 

Most all newer homes have a quality window installed when built, so there become an issue where windows that are used often can become disengaged from the track, causing it to operate but not seal up properly.  Checking all of your windows for proper function and that the weatherstripping is intact and not faulty can add a substantial improvement if multiple issues are found considering the amount of windows most homes have.  

3.  When is the last time you were in the attic?

Heat rises, and if you haven't been in you attic for some time, you could be throwing money right out the roof.  Take time to go into the attic.  Be careful where you walk and build a cat walk if you don't already have one for safety purposes.  First assess the insulation,  what does the coverage look like?  If you are seeing sparse coverage with uneven areas, it's time to either add or remove the old and put in new.   Insulation compressed and become less effective over time.  Some attics actually lose insulation in strong windy storms.  Check with you local code on the R factor to use and depth needed for you attic.  Next, check around the bathroom vents, look for any possibility for loss of heat to the attic.  Spray foam in a can can be very effective for sealing small gaps.  Also check where the kitchen stove ventilation fan comes through the ceiling.  You shouldn't feels any amount of air seepage through any pipes or lights that may be protruding into the attic.  Recess lighting, or can light, are also another big issue for loosing heat if the proper ones were not installed or installed correctly.   

4.  Light switches and AC outlets

In my years of remodeling and being around the home industry this is something that is dependent on the builder and how much they pay attention to detail.  Do you feel any air draft coming though any of your light switches or AC outlets??  If so don't worry it's very common and overlooked by many builders.  How well the insulation is tucked and properly installed around the outlet boxes is the job of the insulation installer, so if they do a poor job, you will get the results. Sometimes it's not the installer, but the electrician that moves the insulation in order to do his work.  Then the drywall is hung, not allow the builder or anyone see that the insulation needs to be fixed.  Taking off the switch or outlet cover will allow to to feel any possible draft.  We suggest fixing this problem with foam outlet seal off.  They only cost about a buck a piece and basically look like an outlet plate but made out of foam.  ( A few pictures of what these look like are at the bottom)   If after installing these you still are having drafts come through your problem outlets, we suggest paying an electrician to seal the actual outlet box with fire proof caulk.  This is sure to take care of the outlet draft problem.

5.  Replace the Air filter

This is something I think most everyone is guilty of forgetting.  It's so easy and takes very little time however, with our busy lifestyles this is neglected and causes more problems that could have been avoided.  Change your filter every 2-3 months at the least.  Put it on the calendar or whatever it take to help you remember.  You will wish you did if you ever have to pay the heating and air guy to come dig one out of the furnace.  They will eventually clog with dust and dirt causing the fan to pull them into the unit.  That can get expensive depending on how much damage it caused.

6.  Check the fireplace

If your house has a fireplace or two, these could potentially be the biggest money sucker in your house.  The largest opening to the outside besides your windows and doors, plus it's designed to draw air.  Make sure you have the flue damper door shut,  and most importantly, that you have a insulated fireplace door that seals up properly.  Checking for air movement and drafts around the door.  If you need to add more insulation around the door add ONLY insulation that's fire proof.  This particular type of insulation is sold in a rope and makes it easy to tuck in where needed.  Making these adjustments will insure that your fireplace isn't allowing your money to go right out the chimney. 

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