It’s going to get cold outside. Yes, I know you don’t need to be reminded, but the fall is the time to prepare before the cold weather gets here. I have listed a few housekeeping tips that may save you time and money in the long run and give you some peace of mind over the winter.
1. Beef Up Insulation in an Unfinished Attic
Pop your head up in the attic and check insulation levels. In addition to sealing gaps in the attic floor and framing, we recommend upping insulation levels to R-49 or even as high as R-60.
How to do it: If insulation is level with or below the ceiling joists, add loose fiberglass or cellulose—even over existing batts—using a rented blower. Make sure the material is well distributed, with no low spots. Even a small gap greatly undermines performance. The payoff is up to 10% on your heating bill.
2. Button Up Interior Doors to the Basement and Garage
It’s not just the front and back doors that you need to worry about. Cold air can also enter the house through gaps around any door leading to an uninsulated space, such as a garage or basement.
How to do it: Weather-strip the top and sides, and add an inexpensive door sweep to the bottom. We recommend a wood sweep that you can stain or paint to match your door and that has an attached nylon brush to follow the contours of irregular flooring or carpeting. Sweeps usually need to be cut to size, so be sure to measure the width of the door first. To insulate the top and lock-side jambs, use peel-and-stick high-density foam tape or nail-on vinyl gaskets. For the hinge-side jamb, a premium adhesive-backed strip made of EDPM rubber will retain its shape after years of use. The payoff: For $20 and 30 minutes of your time, reduce cold air infiltration by as much as 11 percent
3. Door Weather-stripping
A. Apply peel-and-stick or nail-on strips to the door stops on the top and lock-side jambs.
B. Use a peel-and-stick rubber strip for the hinge-side jamb.
C. Secure a brushed sweep at the bottom of the door.
4. Seal Exhaust Vents
Exterior vents, particularly those for clothes dryer; allow heated air to seep out of your house, while letting cold outside air in.
How to do it: Swap your dryer’s louvered or metal flapper-style vent for a Dryer Vent Seal (About $20; Battic Door), which consists of an elbow pipe topped with a plastic cap and shuttle. When the dryer is in use, the floating shuttle beneath the hood rises to let warm air, lint, and moisture escape. When not in use, the shuttle drops down to seal the hole and prevent drafts. The Payoff: Vent sealing can prevent 4 percent of your home’s heated air from escaping…
« 5. Replace Damaged Asphalt Roof Shingles»
Many leaks are caused by a broken shingle or a rusted nail that allowed a shingle to slip out of place. A drip now can become a flood later, and the last place you want to be on a frigid winter day is on the roof.
How to do it: Spot damage from the ground using binoculars, or get a closer look from a ladder at the eaves. On the roof, use a pry bar to loosen the shingles above the one that’s broken. Then pry out the nails holding the damaged shingle to remove it. Slip in a new shingle that’s the same width, and secure it with nails. The payoff: Catching a leak before it happens can save you $300 or more to repair a ceiling or wall and up to $6,000 for mold remediation.
6. Quick Change: Screw in LED Exterior Bulbs
Shorter days mean you need outdoor lights to find your way without tripping. So take this opportunity to swap burned-out incandescents for LED bulbs, which screw right into your existing fixtures. For a bright beam that’s equal to a 75-watt incandescent, try Sylvania’s Ultra High-Performance Series LED Narrow Flood, $50; Lowe’s. While pricey, LEDs are more durable and use 75 percent less energy than incandescents. They can also last 22 years or more, so you may never have to climb a ladder to change a burned-out bulb again
7. Quick Change: Set, Then Forget, the Thermostat
It’s human nature to fiddle with the temperature on an unusually hot or cold day. But overriding the pre-sets on a programmable thermostat wastes energy and reduces the technology to an old-school rotary dial. Achieve peak performance and save up to $180 a year in heating and cooling costs by keeping the temperature fixed for at least eight hours at a time, such as while you’re asleep.
8. Quick Change: Flush the Water Heater
Sediment build-up displaces water and prevents the heater from operating at full capacity. By flushing the tank once a year, usually before winter, you won’t be wasting cash by heating this gunk. Start by turning off the heater and letting the tank cool; then shut off the water supply. If gravity is on your side, connect a hose to the drain cock and run it to a floor drain. If you don’t have a drain, send the water to a sink or bucket using a drill pump (a $15 attachment that will suction water out of the heater). Draining 3 gallons is usually enough, but you may have to fill and flush a few times until the water’s clear.
DAVID H. WULFF, ARCHITECT welcomes the design challenges presented by new projects and is dedicated to developing innovative design solutions to meet every project requirement. Contact him at 167 Trails End, Lake Lure, NC 828-625-5537. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org