Although winter has started off unusually warm this year, freezing temperatures could arrive in a blink of an eye and you should ask yourself if you home is prepared to handle the winter conditions. In this article, I will walk you through the steps of how to “winterize your home”. I categorize winterization into two groups: 1. Indoor Efficiency and 2. Outdoor Protection.
There are many simple tips and tricks that any homeowner can complete inside their home in order to help keep the utility bills low through the winter months.
Lower your thermostat: The average homeowner prefers to keep their thermostat set between 70 to 75 degrees. Some studies show that for every degree lowered on your thermostat, you can see up to a 3% savings on your utility bill. I personally like to keep my thermostat at 66 degrees in the winter and if I am a little chilly I will throw on a sweatshirt. It is important to be comfortable in your house, so you make the judgment on how much you are willing to lower the temperature.
Install a smart thermostat (ST): There are a lot of technologically advanced thermostats on the market these days (I will not list any in particular), and they may be expensive up front but can really save you a lot of money down the road. Smart thermostats have the ability to be controlled remotely which significantly increases the efficiency of your home. Say you like to keep your home set at 70 degrees while you are home, with a ST, you would
have the ability to set the temperature at 60 degrees while you are away from home and then program your typical arrival time to be set at 70 degrees. The thermostat will learn how long it takes to warm the home in order to reach the set temperature at the specified time so that you always arrive to a comfortable home. Another benefit of having a smart thermostat is during vacations. This time of the year a lot of people are traveling for the holidays and with a ST you would be able to lower the temperature of your thermostat for an extended period of time while you are away but have it set so that you return to a warm home.
Eliminating the drafts: I live in a 65+ year old house and I am well aware of the drafts that can enter your home. It is important to locate these drafts and block them so that your home stays warmer and you stay cozy. Obvious spots are around windows and doors, but you should also check around receptacles, vents, base trims and other connection points of your home. There are many different air barrier kits that can be purchased at your local hardware stores as well as many tutorial videos online that can help pick the right product for your condition.
Lower your water heater temperature: For home owners that receive a municipal water supply (city water), the temperature of your water fluctuates with the outdoor temperatures. For well water users, water temperatures typically maintain a constant temperature due to the depth of the water in the well. It is important to know the source of your water supply. By lowering the temperatures of your water heater you can significantly increase the efficiency of the unit. During the winter, if the water entering the water heater is colder than normal, the water heater will have to work harder than usual to heat the water to the same temperature as it normally would during the warmer months. Just like the thermostat temperature, it is important to be comfortable in your home, but keep in mind that your water heater is constantly heating water even when your are not using it.
Service your furnace: It is always a good idea to service your heating and cooling systems once or twice a year and change the filters on a monthly basis. A well serviced furnace will work more efficiently and produce higher temperatures which will save you money. Many HVAC companies provide yearly service contracts that are affordable, and typically include emergency service calls. It is important to know who to call in the event your furnace stops working so that your home does not drop below freezing temperatures which can lead to pipes freezing or even bursting.
There are many things a homeowner can do to the exterior of their home in order to prevent damage due to the winter weather.
Positive drainage: Positive drainage away from your home is important during all seasons of the year, however the winter may be more deceiving then other rainy months. Water is intended to flow away from your home, and snow will have a tendency to pile up against the foundation and eventually melt. If the ground around your foundation is sloped towards your home, the snow melt will slowly seep between the soil and foundation and find weak spots in your foundation and enter your basement. This infiltration will rapidly increase during a rain event causing a concentrated flow of melting snow and rain to enter the basement.
Trim overhanging branches: Snow and ice can become extremely heavy causing tree branches to sag or break. All homeowners should inspect and trim tree branches that may be hanging over power lines and roof structures, including, sheds, garages, and porches. Those branches could fall and cause damage.
Clear all gutters: Most likely you spent this fall raking and bagging leaves but did you remember to check your gutters? Leaves and other debris will enter your gutters and block your downspouts. As snow melts on the roof, water will need to flow into the gutters and drains through the downspouts. If there is a clog due to leaves or debris, water will rest in your gutters, freeze overnight and create issues such as ice damming. As snow melts the next day
the ice will continue to build up and creep closer to the ridge of your roof. The longer water and ice rests on your roof, the risk of water seeping into your home will increase significantly and decrease the lifespan of the roof. The weight from ice buildup in the gutter may also cause the gutter to pull away from your roof. Ice damming can also be accelerated by the lack of attic insulation. As heat loss from inside of your home escapes through the roof, the bottom layer of snow will melt and drain towards the gutters and then refreeze. I usually plan my annual gutter cleaning around the same time I am hanging Christmas lights.
Drain outdoor pipes: Do you have an outdoor hose connection or an irrigation system? If so, you should close all valves and drain the lines. All irrigation lines should be winterized in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Hoses should be disconnected from the spigot and stored away for the winter. Most spigots have a valve inside of your home. Close the valve and drain the remaining water in the pipe between the valve and outdoor connection. There is typically a drain plug on the valve that can be opened to remove the remaining water. If the water is not drained sufficiently, it could freeze, cracking the pipe and causing water to flow into your home.
There are many videos and resources on the internet that can provide further details on anything mentioned in the article above. For more information, please contact Nick Backert with Backert Inspection Services, LLC at 443.398.2225, Nick.Backert@gmail.com, or www.backertinspectionservices.com.