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10 Quick Tips To Winterize Your Home

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Winterize Your HomeWith winter coming, I thought it was important to review a few simple tips to help you winterize your home and save some money in the process. Most of these tips are really simple, cost little, and can help reduce your energy bill – thus helping both your wallet and the environment!

Insulate your attic. One of the easiest ways to save some money is to ensure that you have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. Hot air rises and through the attic is where it’ll go unless you sufficient insulate it. The rule of thumb is that if you can see your ceiling joists (the wooden beams), you don’t have enough because those are often shorter than 12 inches.

Turn off exterior water lines. Chances are you won’t be using any of the water faucets outside of your home, so shut the valve that allows water to those exterior bibs. This prevents the water inside from freezing and cracking your pipes.

Wrap your water boiler. Since it’ll be cold, it’s more important than ever to invest in a water heater blanket and warp your water heater so it loses less heat into the ambient air.

Open the blinds in sunny rooms. Be sure to keep the blinds open on any rooms that get a lot of sun, ever little bit of extra heat can help keep those bills down.

Get a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can help you save a ton of money by only turning on when you most need it. All HVAC systems work the same way – they are either on or off (there’s no low, medium, or high intensity setting). If you can keep your system off when you’re not home or when you’re asleep, you can save yourself a lot of money. They are easy to install and often break-even (cost vs. savings) within the first year. Here are the things I do to make the hVAC run as little as possible:

  • We set the minimum temperature of the home to 55 degrees F.
  • The thermostat is otherwise set to 65 degrees when “on.”
  • It’s set to be turn on about thirty minutes before we wake up and shuts off at around 9:30.
  • It turns on at around 5:30, which is approximately half an hour before we get home.
  • The system shuts down at around 11:00, about half an hour before we go to sleep.
  • I work from home now but I haven’t worked from home during the winter yet, so I’ll have to see how cold it gets… so far it’s been fine in the summer (which nothing changes except the temperature settings).

Consider lowering the temperature setting on your thermostat. A lower temperature means the system is on less, so try lowering the temperature a degree at a time. You’ll either adjust or reach a point where the temperature is far too low. Either way, you’ll find your sweet spot where your wallet meets your body’s needs. There’s no sense dropping the temperature so low that you get sick, that just doesn’t make financial sense. And put on a sweater. :)

Replace your HVAC air filter. I recently replaced my air filter after the fall season and noticed it was remarkably dirty despite our limited use (Maryland is fairly temperate so we don’t use our HVAC system much in the fall). During the winter, when the system will run more often, it’s good to replace it monthly so that you don’t have a dirty air filter ruining the efficiency of the system.

Flip the switch on your ceiling fan. This one is really easy, just flip the rotation direction on your ceiling fans. As hot air rises in the winter, you want the fan to blow upward and slowly. This circulates the hot air back down into the room. When it becomes warmer, you want the fans to blow downward and quickly to cool you off.

Install window insulators. Window insulators are simply plastic sheets you tape up over windows to add an extra layer of protection from the cold. This is especially effective if you have drafty windows as the head from your home can easily escape from those spaces. If you have especially drafty or old windows (especially if they’re single pane), consider replacing them. Window replacements fall under the renewed energy tax credits for 2009 explained next.

Home energy improvement tax credit returns in 2009. In 2007 and 2008, you could get a tax credit for energy saving home improvements of up to $500 (calculated based on what on the home improvement. We took advantage by replacing our 20-year old drafty windows and sliding doors with Energy Star compliant versions. It had expired on 1/1/08 but the federal tax credits for energy efficiency have been brought back through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (that’s the bailout bill) and is valid on all improvements made during 2009 (2008 improvements will not receive this credit). The limits for the credit remain the same, $500 over 2006, 2007, and 2009 (which means we’ve already used our allotment); but this makes it available for people who didn’t take advantage of the credit the first time.

(Photo: steffer)

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11 Responses to “10 Quick Tips To Winterize Your Home”

  1. MoneyNing says:

    Great tips. Why don’t you program your thermostat so it doesn’t even automatically turn the temperature back on? I can understand that you will forget to turn it down when you leave the house but if it’s too cold when you come home, you will turn it back on. Yes it probably takes 15 minutes to heat up the room but that’s another chunk of money you are saving because you are willing to bear it for a little bit!

    Also, not having it automatically turn back on will save a ton for times when you come home late etc.

  2. Larry says:

    Two things:

    First, I heard that you can have flooring installed with a waterline underneath it causing the flooring to be heated by hot water cycling through the water heater. I don;t know how much it cost but It could help reduce overall heating cost.

    Also, I know it isn’t exactly a part of your house but if you have plants that do not do well in cold weather, make sure you wrap them in plastic when it dips below freezing (Nightime).

    Cheers!

    Larry

  3. Great tips I’ve been playing around with a few of these ideas myself lately. I redid one room in my house adding insulation to the outside walls a new front door and three new windows. This saved me a lot on my heating bill. In fact there was a great tax credit I was able to take advantage of because of doing these things.

  4. Dan C says:

    Great tips! I am thinking about replacing my drafty windows and sliding doors. I am wondering how much did it cost you to replace them, and if the Energy Star compliant versions make a big difference in keeping your house warm. Thanks!

  5. jim says:

    I think they do a good job, I knew our windows were drafty because I could hear people talking outside when the windows were closed. :) I think they’re a good improvement.

    Plus, our sliding doors were horrible (grinding when you slide them) and many windows wouldn’t stay open on their own… it was more than the energy savings, it was a quality issue too.

  6. Patrick says:

    Great tips Jim. I agree with just lowering the thermostat really helps save. You can always get space heaters or just put on more clothes. Too many people like to keep their thermostat’s really high in the winter and really low in the summer just to be slightly more comfortable.

  7. WB says:

    I just signed up for BGE’s Peak Rewards program. I’ll get a free programmable thermostat and installation in exchange for allowing BGE to cycle my central air during the summer months. The first summer I’ll get a $200 credit, after that, it’ll be $100 a summer. BGE will install the thermostat in Jan or Feb. , so I don’t know much else about the program, but Maryland residents might want to look into it.

  8. Don says:

    Everybody should let the utility company take control of your thermostats.

    If it sounds to good to be true… I hope you don’t sweat in your home when it gets hot and you have to wait on hold for an hour to tell them to PLEASE turn my AC back on.

  9. WB says:

    I didn’t go into detail about the Peak Rewards program because I don’t think this is the place for that. I just wanted to let people know about it, so they can go to BGE’s website and read through all of the details and then decide if it’s for them.

    I’m not worried about the issues Don brought up. Cycling occurs during “peak electricity demand” hours (1-7pm) when I’m usually at work and you have the option of 2 overrides per year. Judging from the questions they ask before you enroll (health issues, elderly residents) I don’t think the utility company wants to be responsible for anyone suffering heat stroke. Besides, selling electricity is what they’re all about, so it’s still in their interest to keep your AC on as much as possible.

  10. Jason Todd says:

    Along the lines of saving money, not only can you obtain advanced digital thermostats for less online, getting a high-efficiency media filter (4/5-inches wide instead of 1) will allow more efficient airflow and only need to be replaced every 6 months. It amounts to savings on air filters and more efficient airflow through the HVAC system resulting in lower utility bills.

  11. gwen thompson says:

    I thought It was very helpful. Thanks


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