Winter is coming. No but really, it’s going to be getting chilly before you know it! Let’s leave the cold where it belongs and keep your money in your wallet.
Comfort and Cash
Besides not wanting to be cold for months, making sure you winterize your home properly can save you some serious money. Energy.gov estimates that the average household could cut 10-20% of their energy bill just by sealing air leaks and drafts!
Cold air sneaks into your house in all sorts of ways. Some are probably obvious (like old doors and windows). But when was the last time you checked your outlets?
The Big Offenders
If your windows haven’t been updated in the last few years, chances are you’re losing heat either through the glass itself or through old seams. New double-glass and insulated windows hold heat well, and it’s easy to tell how you’re are doing. Simply walk slowly past the window, then run your hand an inch above the glass around the perimeter. You’ll be able to feel if the air is colder.
The fix: For leaky seams, re-caulking the window is easy and cheap – and worth it. For thin glass or older windows, consider shrink film insulators. I used these for years as a renter, and my parents used them yearly when I was very young living in frigid Chicago. You tape around the window and apply a thin plastic film that you then heat, shrinking the plastic and creating an air-tight layer of insulation. This stops drafts and allows the air trapped against the window to remain warmer — further decreasing heat loss.
Just a 1/8-inch gap around a door causes as much air loss as a 6-inch hole through the wall.
The fix: Weither stripping is extremely cheap, comes in every color, and takes about two minutes to apply to the door. Just make sure you measure any gaps before buying. Some areas of a door may have much larger gaps than others.
The Less-Obvious Culprits
You may have heard to check your drier vent for clogs, but you should also check the seal around it. This is a direct outlet to the outside and is often not well-secured.
The fix: Heat resistant caulking is all you need.
Several years ago, I discovered that several of my light switches were covered in frost during a severe cold snap. I was living in a nice, but old, apartment off West End. Outlets are pockets in a wall, and if that wall is an exterior wall? There will be insulation around it — but not between it and the outer wall. Put two switches and three outlets on one wall and that can make a big difference. Simply check if the faceplate is cold to the touch. You might be surprised.
The fix: Believe it or not, they actually make little foam inserts for outlets and light switches for just this reason.
Ceiling & Attic
We all know from elementary school science, hot air rises. If your attic or ceiling insulation is not thick enough, that air is just going to keep rising right out of your house. Old insulation can break down or get compacted over the years, so check how many inches you’ve got up there!
The fix: Insulate. Different types of insulation hold different amounts of heat, but in general, in Middle Tennessee your insulation should be so thick that it totally covers the floor joists (the wood pieces you probably walk on to put away your Christmas decorations). To get specific recommendations based on your house’s size, age, and condition, you can do a free energy audit online here.
The pull-down stairs or door to your attic can also be an energy-sucker. Pull-down stairs are not insulated, and the frame is rarely sealed well. Weather stripping can be placed around the stairs or doorway.
If cold weather is taking a huge chunk out of your bank account every month,
you may want to invest slightly more to save in the long run.
- Get a professional, in-person energy audit. They will do thermal readings and can show you exactly where heat loss is occurring throughout your home.
- Replacing windows is costly but can drastically cut heating and cooling costs.