Winterize Your Home
Once the snow begins to fly, we turn our focus to: What do home builders and buyers consider in making their homes as “winterized” as possible? Jason Black, founder of Artisan Signature Homes, and formerly of Stonecroft Homes in Louisville, Kentucky, shares his knowledge.
1. Insulate the attic. A third of a home’s heat loss occurs through the attic. “I’ve been in many homes where the builder has either forgotten to insulate the attic or sometimes the insulation has just settled over the years,” says Black. That’s one of the reasons why you want to pick a quality builder, he adds. Local professionals like Eric George from Building Performance will come out and take a look at your home to see if they meet energy efficiency standards.
2. Shut off water spigots and unhook the outside hose. “Not only do you have to turn off the outside spigot, you need to unhook the hose and then most houses come with actually a water shut off that will be located either in the basement ceiling, maybe in the first floor powder room or a basement powder room. Simply shut that off, make sure the water run has been drained out to get that water out there and just eliminate any possible chance of that water freezing in those pipes,” Black explains.
3. Make sure all your windows are properly locked down and doors shut. People are sometimes too hesitant to push hard down on their latches, but Black says ensuring a proper seal makes quite a difference. “You may have to shove those double hung windows down a little bit and snug that latch just to make sure you don’t have any air infiltration coming in underneath the sash,” he says.
4. Program your thermostat to turn down three or four degrees while you’re sleeping and away from the home. “If you’re going to be gone for eight to ten hours a day and just a couple of degrees will make a difference over the year on your utility bill,” Black explains. Furthermore, you may even find that you sleep better when the house is a bit cooler!
5. Change the furnace filter once a month. Think your furnace “isn’t working”? It could just be that you need to change your furnace filter! When you don’t change that filter, it gets clogged with dust and the system does not operate efficiently. If you’re forgetful, do what Jason does – and set yourself a cell phone reminder.
6. Change the direction of your ceiling fans. Most people don’t think of using fans in the winter, but most come with a reverse direction mode that is ideal for keeping rooms toasty and comfortable. “As you think about it, heat rises, so all that heat gets caught up in the upper part of the room,” Black explains. “Reverse that fan, push that heat where it comes back down, circulates the air a little bit more.”
7. Have the wood-burning fireplace flue pipe cleaned by a professional once a year. “You don’t want to burn the house down so simply spend a few bucks, clean that chimney sweep out and you’ll be good to go,” says Black. Homeowners may think they’ve shut the fire off for the night, but debris combusts within the pipes, so it’s not just a matter of efficiency – but safety as well.
8. Seal the duct work on your furnace. Older homes may not have full seals at all the joints, nail holes, screws and filter systems, which makes the furnace work harder. You can paint on “duct butter” yourself or call a professional to test your system’s efficiency and track down any leaks.
9. Take advantage of tax credits from Uncle Sam and consider energy efficiency upgrades. “One option you could do is go to a geothermal,” Black suggests. All the newest homes going up in the Northern section of Norton Commons must be geothermal. This type of system frees you from hefty utility bills by using the Earth’s temperature to naturally heat and cool your home. With a 30% tax credit, it’s more affordable than ever.
10. Insulate your basement concrete walls. Basements are often overlooked, but having inadequate basement wall insulation is “the equivalent of having an open window.” The basement walls can be insulated using form board on the exterior or interior and spray foam.