Winter is Coming; Is Your Home Ready?

Here are some thoughts of what needs to be done before it gets to cold and you turn the furnace on.

Furnace:

First and foremost get the furnace checked, cleaned and serviced now before the heating contractors get too many calls. The more efficient your furnace is, the lower your gas bill will be. Also change the filters and have a few extras on hand to change periodically. Use upgraded filters if possible which are much more efficient.

If your furnace is 20-plus years old, you may be ready for a new one which are now up to 90 percent efficient. This is a major investment, but the highest efficiency furnace available is recommended and is one of the fastest payback improvements you can do.

Crawl Space:

When the weather gets cold make sure all openings are sealed tight (access door, vents, etc.). The perimeter bond should be packed with insulation, the dirt floor should have a sheet of vapor barrier plastic over it and if possible install a Styrofoam type insulation around the perimeter of the walls. The idea is to keep this area dry and warm so as to help protect pipes from freezing and also keep the floor above from getting to cold.

Insulation:

Did you know that about 70 percent of heat loss is up through your roof? How much insulation do you have in your attic? This type of investment is a fast payback in relation to the energy it saves you. For years the standard was 6 inches of blanket. Now (depending on the type of insulation you use) if can be 15 inches or more. Always remember, though, if you increase your attic insulation, you typically have to increase ventilation into that area (this can usually be done by your insulation contractor).

Also, go in your basement and look where the top of the foundation wall meets the wood framing around the perimeter. This “bond” area should be packed with insulation.

Cracks And Holes:

As we have said in the past, take the time to carefully walk around the outside perimeter of your house and seal any crack or hole where different utilities, penetrations or pipes enter the house (such as a/c lines, electrical service cable, dryer vents, hose faucets, etc.). Also, seal any cracks in the foundation where possible.

Check the perimeter of every door and window to see if they are sealed. Many times these areas have been caulked, but the caulking has dried up, cracked and even fallen out. Air can get into these areas so bad at times that during the winter winds you can actually see your drapes move.

Doors And Windows:

First and foremost, make sure that all windows are working properly and close tightly. Make sure all doors are efficiently weather stripped. If you have an older single glaze type window you should preferably have a storm window. If your budget is limited then seal these older windows from the inside perimeter with “rope” caulking that comes in a roll and can be removed when the weather warms up again. Also, there are the relatively inexpensive plastic type interior window covers.

Thermostat:

If possible, try to have a computerized thermostat installed that automatically raises and lowers the temperature at different times of the day automatically. These are affordable and not that difficult to install. You can set it so that when your working or sleeping the heat is down and the heat turns up before you get home or wake up. Hint: Make sure you program it differently during the weekend (we know this from experience). This is a great item and helps to minimize the heating bill.

Fans:

Do you think that fans in your home work only in the summer? Wrong. Don’t forget hot air rises, so we want to get it down to floor level. This is an excellent item especially when you have a multi-level home. My wife spends most of her winter upstairs since that area is warmer. If nothing else, the fans mix up the air so that the temperature is more consistent throughout and the furnace is not turning on as often.

Extra Hints:

Try to remember in what room the cold air was the worst last year. There may be some areas that you can shut off. In addition, most gas forced air heating systems have dampers located on each heat run leading to a room and these can be turned adjusted so as to force more air into the cold areas. If your system does not have dampers, you can adjust the heat flow by the registers. If you are unfamiliar with this damper adjustment, your heating contractor will be happy to help.

Fireplaces are nice, but can draw hot air out of your house if the dampers are opened and there is no fire. Older (historical type houses) many times do not have dampers and these areas should be plugged with insulation or similar when not in use and in cold weather. Fireplaces in general will draw more heat out of the house through chimney than they radiate back into the house via the fire itself (unless you keep a roaring fire going at all times).

If your house is older and sided check the outside perimeter where the bottom of the siding meets the foundation. Many times, due to the irregularities in the older foundation, there are gaps just underneath the siding which can be sealed with insulation, urethane foam or similar.

You may want to remove some of your electrical covers at outside walls and install protective inserts which keep air from infiltrating these uninsulated areas (very common in older houses). Of course, always be very careful when dealing with electrical. If you are not sure or confident in this task, hire an electrician.

Use your interior doors to help balance the heat. Close warm rooms and open cold rooms. If the furnace is in the basement, you may want to open the door at the top of the basement steps to allow the basement heat to rise up in the living area. Stairs leading to the second floor should always be left opened in the winter.

For the original article click here: http://www.thetimesherald.com/story/life/2017/09/22/get-home-ready-winters-chill/105872052/