Preparing for the cold winter weather is a great way to green up your home and make it more energy efficient so that you can turn your thermostat down a few notches and save energy and money on your heating bills this winter.
Here are a few easy and affordable ideas to weatherproof your home for winter:
1. Make sure your storm windows are installed correctly
If you have older windows, be sure that your storm windows are in good repair and closed correctly all around your home. Storm windows help to provide an additional layer of protection against the cold winter air.
2. Add plastic coverings to the inside of your windows
On the inside of your windows, you can easily add plastic covering that further helps to insulate old, drafty windows. We put the plastic over our wooden blinds, and poke a little hole at the top to pull the cord through so that we can still open the blinds and let the sun shine in, which also helps to heat up the house.
4. Use door draft stoppers
You can buy a door draft stopper (there are lots of cute ones on Etsy!), or if you’re crafty, make one yourself. Place them along your outside doors to help keep away the draft that seeps in underneath the door.
5. Fix leaks around doors and windows
Light a candle and move it around the door and window frames in your home. If it flickers, you know there is a draft coming in, so patch the leaky spots with caulk or weather stripping.
Around the House
6. Get a water heater insulating blanket.
Insulating your hot water heater saves energy by reducing heat lost through the sides of the water heater by 25-40%, which will help save you money on your energy bills.
7. Insulate your outlets
This one might seem a little silly, but many electrical outlets, especially in older homes, don’t have insulation around them. These could be a source of drafty cold air or a place that the warm air can leak out of your house since they are essentially just a hole in the wall. To insulate your outlets, purchase foam padding that easily fits around your electrical outlets or light switches. Remember to take care and follow directions when working around electricity!
8. Add attic or basement insulation (or both!)
This one will probably cost you the most amount of money, but it will also give you the largest return on your investment. Large amounts of heat can be lost through non-insulated, or under insulated, basements, crawl spaces or attics. Adding insulation to your attic may be a DIY job, even if you just roll out some extra insulation along the floor and walls of the attic.
The basement probably requires an experienced contractor because of the issues of moisture, which can lead to mold, and increased radon, which can lead to lung cancer. You can also seek out greener types of insulation made from recycled materials like denim, newspaper or wool that are formaldehyde-free.
These tips are great, but before utilizing them, however, it may make sense to get a home energy audit to find out your home’s weak spots.
Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.
How to Prevent and Deal with Frozen Pipes
Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem
Preventing Frozen Pipes
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
- Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
- Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
To Thaw Frozen Pipes
- If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
- Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
- Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
- Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
- Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
- Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
- For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.
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