Winterize Your Home and Reap the Benefits

Posted: Sep 2, 2015 by BHHSMT

Living in an older home, as in 1960's older, I realize how important it is to winterize this year after we had a prior winter of $400 per month power bills!  I know what you are thinking, how could that be possible?  Well, I'll tell you, my arch enemy has been gaps and cracks around our windows and doors.  After a bit of research as to just HOW much manual labor I would have to partake in, I have compiled a good list to get us all started on the path to saving some bucks and making our homes more energy efficient.

1. Check The Windows and Doors for Drafts:  The unsealed crevices and cracks around windows and doors can account for up to 5-30% of your heating (and cooling) costs.  I know, that's a lot, so grab some incense and let's see where those pesky air leaks are hiding.  Check for drafts by lighting a stick of incense, if you don't know what a stick of incense is, you must consult someone who survived the 70s!  Hold the lit stick of incense near windows and doors on a breezy day, check for smoke disturbance, where the smoke is wafting around, there needs to be some caulking maintenance!  There are several do-it-yourself tutorials on the interwebs on how to properly caulk windows and doors, I would suggest you check them out before you start globbing on the goo!

In addition or as an alternative, there is plastic sheeting that can be placed over windows during the colder months, it isn't the best looking solution, but it will look great when you see the savings on your energy bill!  These plastic window covering kits are very inexpensive and relatively easy to use, I have used this method in our basement and I must say, there is a significant difference in the temperature of the room.

Feeling like you need to make a more permanent change?  Install some Energy Star windows!  Our windows are the originals in our home, made from wood and single pane glass...in Montana, this isn't really working!  Older windows, especially wood, tend to cause problems with their seals after decades of being exposed to the elements.  Ours have some missing "chunks" of wood and are in dire need of being replaced, which although it can get costly, the return is an easy 45% savings on your heating and cooling costs, not to mention, it can greatly reduce the risk of further damage to the home due to improper window seals letting in unwanted moisture. 

Change out any old or non functioning weather stripping on your doors, if you don't already have heavy duty storm doors, switching these out makes a big difference in the temperature and the amount of cold air that is getting into your home. 

2. Reverse Ceiling Fans:  Think that a fan is only useful for keeping the home cool?  Well, you are wrong!  On most ceiling fans, there is a small switch that changes the direction that the fan rotates.  Keeping the fan in the clockwise rotation allows warm air near the ceiling to be circulated back down into your living areas...who knew?  Well, I did, but now you do, too!  This simple flip of a switch can account for up to 10% savings on your home's heating costs.

3. Turn Down the Water Heater:  I love a nice hot shower, and my current temperature setting along with most homeowners is 140 degrees.  By turning this down to 120 degrees, you can expect between 5-10% savings on your heating costs.  Do you feel like you don't even need a tank?  Do some research on a tankless water heater or go solar!  If you decide to buy a new water heater, make sure you take advantage of the federal tax credit that will pay up to 30% of the purchase price of a solar water heater or up to $1,500 for a conventional heater. 

4. Use Alternative Energy Technologies:  This one isn't for everyone, but hey, it can make a huge impact on the money you spend on energy!  Use solar panels or geothermal heating and cooling, or even small wind turbines.  There are numerous sources online where you can do research on each of the options available.  There are various local, state and federal tax incentives that exist to encourage the use of these alternative energy technologies.  Many tax credits cap at $1,500, however, for the alternative energy methods, 30% of the total cost is credited back with no cap on the amount!

5. Install a Programmable Thermostat:  This is really just a no brainer.  Remember the time you were freezing and turned the heat up to 75 and then forgot to turn it down before you left for two days?  Well, I've done it, too, and this is the ideal solution.  You can purchase a programmable thermostat for as little as $50 for a return of on average $180 per year.  For every degree that you turn the heat down, expect between 1-3% savings on your heating and cooling costs.  There are several options out there, hop online with a cup of tea and find the one that's right for your needs.

6. Check Your Furnace: A professional can come and check for carbon monoxide leaks, they will check and replace filters, inspect gas lines and the operation of the blower/fan.  During this inspection, pick the brain of the inspector and see what they advise you to do to keep the furnace in tip top shape.  Check your filters monthly, as dirty filters can suck up extra money in energy costs.  There are alternatives to the traditional disposable filters, one of them is a permanent filter which reduces waste and hassle.  Disposable filters only trap between 10-40% of debris, while the permanent electrostatic filters can trap up to 88%, pretty significant.  In addition, these permanent filters are better at combating bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen.

7. Insulate Pipes and Outdoor Spigots: Take some time to wrap your exposed pipes with pipe insulation or sleeving.  Areas to pay special attention to are pipes that are exposed in the garage, under sinks, in the attic and in the crawl space of your home, these pipes are at greater risk of freezing.  Use insulated covers on outdoor water spigots and be sure to turn off the water source to the spigots.