We had our first freeze here in Oklahoma last week, a sign that winter will soon be upon us. Granted, winters arent too bad here in Tulsa, but there are always stretches of frigid cold during the season. So before those cold winds start blowing in, Ill 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 doesnt take much to get your home ready for Old Man Winter. A single weekend is all you need to properly winterize your home. Below, Ive 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. Theyll 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 operation
- 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 familys safety is well worth the investment. You might get the bad news that you need to replace the entire furnace. If thats 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. Thats 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 them.
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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 cars 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 dont know that you can use your fans during the winter to keep your house warm. On every ceiling fan theres 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. Dont forget to make the switch again when it starts to warm up!
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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. Youre 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. Youre 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 dont want them freezing during the winter months. Also make sure to vacuum out any pools of water you have in the A/Cs 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 furnaces 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 theyre good to go another round.
November 13, 2010