Another winter is upon us. Now that the kids are back in school and fall is in the air, it's time to use those spare hours to winterize your home and get it prepped for the inevitable temperature drop. Small things done annually keep your house poised and ready for all that lies ahead - and safeguards your checking account from being rocked by excessive energy bills. Think of it as the flip side of spring cleaning.
1. Add Insulation
Take a peek around your attic. If you can see the tops of the two-by-fours, it may be time to beef up your insulation. The Department of Energy says you can reduce your energy bills by as much as 30% just by freshening up the insulation. For a 2,000-square-foot home, this should run you anywhere between $1,000 and $2,500. It's a hefty expense, but when you consider the long-term savings, it's a worthy upfront investment.
2. Find and Fix Leaks
A recent California Housing Finance Agency study shows the average home in this country has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall - except it's in 10–15 different places! Just think of the cold air being let in and the valuable - and costly - heat that's escaping. The best way to find these drafts is to grab a lighter or candle and walk around your home on a windy day. Hold it up to door frames, windows, and all electrical outlets. Close up the door frames with door sweeps and weather stripping, and use caulk for the windows. Outlets can be fixed with specialized gaskets, and for outdoor fixes, use weather-resistant sealant. Energy Star estimates you can save 20% on your utility bill.
3. Inspect Furnace
First off, turn on your furnace now just to make sure nothing's gone wrong since last winter. Next, consider having it cleaned and tuned by a professional. Some utility companies offer this service for free; otherwise, it should cost around $100. Either way, having it done yearly can prevent costly repairs down the line. Finally - and actually the most important thing - is to change out the furnace filter twice yearly. Many people do it when they adjust their clocks for Daylight Savings Time. A clean furnace is an effective furnace.
4. Adjust Ceiling Fans
If you have ceiling fans, you know they can reduce your energy bills, often by using them instead of that large heating and cooling system. But to get the most out of them, they need to rotate in the proper direction depending on the need: counterclockwise in the summer, clockwise in the winter. As the seasons change, just flip the little switch on the side of the fan's main housing. If you don't have fans, consider getting them installed. They're relatively inexpensive and another upfront investment that will yield long-term cost cutting.
5. Clean Gutters
Okay, this may not save much in the way of home energy costs, but it can save you big time in some serious home repair bills. Clogged gutters don't allow rain and snow to drain properly, and it will ultimately freeze. As it thaws, this runoff can leak into the frame of your house and cause serious damage. Whether you throw up a ladder or hire a handyman, get this DIY home maintenance job done right away.
Your home is usually your biggest investment, so it's important to take care of it. None of these jobs are particularly sexy, but it's necessary work. There are also lots of free things you can do to make a dent in those heating bills: use area rugs, Try some space heaters, and exercise to keep warm and negate the need to use your equipment. If you need ideas on how to afford some of the pricier maintenance jobs, consider clipping coupons to rack up some extra cash.
What other ways can you think of to winterize your home?