Getting Ready for Old Man Winter

House in SnowIt’s getting colder here in Kentucky, a sign that winter will soon be upon us in full. Winters these past couple years have been uncharacteristically harsh, and all the signs are pointing to a repeat performance. So before those cold winds start blowing in, you really should be taking some steps to winterize your home. Winterizing your home makes your place more energy-efficient so you can keep your family warm and toasty without breaking the bank on energy bills. In addition to making your house more energy-efficient, winterizing your home also entails doing small chores that will help prevent damage to your home from snow and ice.

It doesn’t take much to get your home ready for Old Man Winter. The Voice-Tribune spoke with Mark Clore of Clore Construction Company in order to pass on some winter wisdom, ensuring that you have a warm, safe house this winter and money left in your pocket for holiday shopping.

The first obvious thing to do is to have your furnace looked at, so call an HVAC professional to inspect it. Before you turn on that furnace for the first time this winter, have that HVAC professional give it a tune-up. They’ll make sure your furnace is running efficiently and safely. During a furnace inspection, the HVAC will likely do a safety check for carbon monoxide, clean and replace air filters, check blower operation, clean the motor and fan and inspect gas piping to the furnace. A furnace inspection will set you back $100 or more, but the energy savings and your family’s safety is well worth the investment.

You’ll also want to block air leaks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30 percent of your energy use. To find those leaks, Clore says it’s easy as putting your hand up near a window: “It’s really easy to do this in the winter because there’s a 45-degree difference between the temperatures inside and outside your home. If there’s a leak, that transfer will happen real quick,” he says. If you have leaks near your windows, get some weather-resistant caulk and caulk them from the outside. You can use weather stripping as well. If you find a leak underneath your door, put a draft snake across the bottom of it. A simple rolled up bath towel will work. Other places you might want to check for leaks are where pipes and wires exit your foundation.

Make sure to check your insulation as well. Simply adding more fiberglass insulation in your attic can boost the energy efficiency in your home. You need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If your insulation falls short, just add another layer of the pink or yellow itchy stuff. Clore says that you’ll also want to do this for your basement or crawlspace.

Another easy way to prepare is to wrap your pipes. Insulating your pipes reduces heat loss and can raise hot water temperatures delivered through your pipes, which allows you to reduce the heat on your boiler. That will save you money on your gas bill. By making your pipes energy efficient, you also don’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on the shower, which helps conserve water and time. Wrapping your pipes with insulation will also help prevent your pipes from freezing during those long cold nights. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at the hardware store. Simply cut the foam to the length you need, wrap it around the pipe and fasten it in place with duct tape.

Two big fixes that Clore says often get overlooked are gutters and chimneys. Clogged gutters can lead to the formation of ice dams on your roof. Ice dams occur when water backs up and freezes near the edge of the roof. The ice continues to build up and eventually forms “dams” that block the path of melted snow from your roof. Water starts pooling in mini reservoirs and begins to seep into your house, causing water damage. To prevent ice dams, clean out the dead leaves and other gunk in your gutters so water can drain freely, and before you start roasting chestnuts on an open fire, have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney. Thousands of fires each winter originate in chimneys. A chimney sweep can check the structure of your flue and remove any combustibles or obstructions in your chimney.

And we’ve saved the easiest for last: reverse ceiling fans. Most people don’t know that you can use your fans during the winter to keep your house warm. On every ceiling fan, there’s a switch that allows you to reverse the direction of the blades. Switch it so your ceiling fan rotates clockwise. That will push warm air down and force it to recirculate throughout the room. Don’t forget to make the switch again when it starts to warm up!

Clearly, there is a host of ways to protect your home and save money this holiday season. Most of them are light on your wallet as well. If you have any questions or need professional assistance, give Clore Construction Company a call. They’ll be happy to help you out. VT

Clore Construction Company may be contacted at 502.491.1760 or at cloreconstruction.net.