15 Ways to Winterize Your Home

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What is

We had our
first freeze here in Oklahoma last week, a sign that winter will
soon be upon us. Granted, winters aren’t too bad here in Tulsa,
but there are always stretches of frigid cold during the season.
So before those cold winds start blowing in, I’ll be taking
some steps to winterize our home. Winterizing your home makes your
place more energy efficient so you can keep your family warm and
toasty without breaking the bank on energy bills. In addition to
making your house more energy efficient, winterizing your home also
entails doing small chores that will help prevent damage to your
home from snow and ice.

It doesn’t
take much to get your home ready for Old Man Winter. A single weekend
is all you need to properly winterize your home. Below, I’ve
listed 15 things you can do to ensure you have a warm, safe house
this winter and money left in your pocket for holiday shopping.

1. Call
an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace.
Before you turn
on that furnace for the first time this winter, have an HVAC professional
come check it out and give it a tune-up. They’ll make sure
your furnace is running efficiently and safely. During a furnace
inspection the HVAC will likely do the following:

  • Do a safety
    check for carbon monoxide

  • Clean and
    replace air filters
  • Check blower
  • Clean motor
    and fan
  • Inspect
    gas piping to furnace

A furnace inspection
will set you back $100 or more, but the energy savings and your
family’s safety is well worth the investment. You might get
the bad news that you need to replace the entire furnace. If that’s
the case, take advantage of federal
tax credits for new furnaces
, which cover 30% of the cost, up
to $1,500.

2. Have
the HVAC guy clean and inspect heating ducts.
While the HVAC
man is at your house inspecting your furnace, have him do the same
to your heating ducts. Studies have shown that up to 60% of heated
air escapes from ducts before making it to the vents. That’s
a lot of money leaking out of your pocket. The HVAC guy can check
for any leaks in your air duct system and then take steps to seal

3. Trim
any nearby trees.
If you have any tree branches hanging near
your roof, windows, or driveways, trim them back. Snow and ice will
weigh them down and possibly cause them to break. A few years ago
we had a pretty bad ice storm here in Tulsa. I remember driving
by one house that had a parked car in the driveway. So much ice
had accumulated on a large branch that it had snapped off and smashed
the car’s roof. The owner could have easily prevented this
misfortune if he had taken the time to trim his trees.

4. Reverse
ceiling fans.
Most people don’t know that you can use your
fans during the winter to keep your house warm. On every ceiling
fan there’s a switch that allows you to reverse the direction
of the blades. Switch it so your ceiling fan rotates clockwise.
That will push warm air down and force it to recirculate throughout
the room. Don’t forget to make the switch again when it starts
to warm up!

5. Block
air leaks.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts
can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. To find those leaks use
the Black
and Decker Thermal Leak Detector
. You’re likely to find
drafts underneath doors and near windows. If you find a leak underneath
your door put a draft snake across the bottom of it. A simple rolled
up bath towel will work. If you have leaks near your windows, get
some weather-resistant caulk and caulk them from the outside. You
can use weather stripping as well. Other places you might want to
check for leaks are where pipes and wires exit your foundation.

6. Winterize
the A/C.
You’re probably not going to be using your air
conditioner during the winter, so taking some steps to protect it
during this time can extend the life of your machine. Winterizing
your A/C is easy. Drain any pipes or hoses coming from your air
conditioner. You don’t want them freezing during the winter
months. Also make sure to vacuum out any pools of water you have
in the A/C’s drain pan. Another step you can take is to cover
your central air unit with a plastic air conditioner cover. The
cover will keep water and snow out of the unit and prevent rusting.

7. Replace
your furnace filter regularly.
Regularly change your furnace’s
filters throughout the winter. A dirty filter impedes air flow,
reduces efficiency, and could even cause a fire in an extreme case.
You might consider replacing your disposable filters with reusable
electrostatic or electronic ones. You just have to give them a monthly
wash, and they’re good to go another round.

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13, 2010

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