With the holidays upon us and much of the country facing months of chilly or even sub-zero weather (and it's coming to CT), it’s not too late to make sure your home is adequately weather-proofed and save a few dollars (or more) on your utility bills. Here are some things you can do to improve your home’s efficiency and make sure you and your family are comfortable through the winter months:
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, in a typical home, about 10 to 20 percent of the fuel bill is the result of unintended air infiltration. Even in a well-insulated home, energy may be wasted through air moving in and out or infiltrating through the home’s building shell or structure. Air leaks around doors and windows, attic hatches, window air conditioners, and through cracks and holes.
Make sure your attic has a sufficient amount of insulation to ensure it stays at least five to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air, otherwise too much heat escapes. Not only will this cause your heat bills to be higher, but it can also cause frozen water to melt and refreeze which can result in a collapsed roof.
Inspect the weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows to make sure it hasn’t cracked or come loose, allowing air to leak, and replace it if needed. This can also help reduce infiltration by insects, dust and moisture and noise. Or, consider replacing your windows or doors with new ENERGY STAR-qualified windows or doors, which can save you about seven to 15 percent on your energy bills.
Wrap your pipes with heating tape every winter and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages or sunrooms if they contain exposed pipes. Check pipes for cracks and leaks and have any damage repaired immediately to prevent costlier repairs later. Keep your house warmundefinedat least 65 degrees. Don’t neglect your basement and crawl spaces, and insulate pipes in those spaces to protect against freezing.
It’s also important to know the location of your pipes and how to shut the water off. If your pipes freeze, the quicker you shut off the water, the better chance you have of preventing pipe bursts and major water damage in your home.
Be sure to have your heating system serviced every year, and maintain your furnace, fireplace, boiler, water heater, space heater and wood-burning stove. Change your heating and air conditioning filters regularly, and while you’re at it, check the batteries and operation of your smoke and fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
By setting aside a few weekend days now, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle later and your family can relax and be warm and comfortable throughout the winter months. For more information on home maintenance, go to www.nahb.org/forconsumers. To find help from a home improvement contractor, contact the local HBRA chapter in your area.