Whether you put any confidence in the global warming/climate change issue or not, it’s fairly easy to trust the annual Farmers’ Almanac. They’ve published the newest edition and included the 2010/2011 winter weather prediction.
Winter weather is like any other natural phenomenon, what you get depends on where you live. The Almanac prophesies that the eastern US will be colder than usual, the west will be milder, and folks in the middle of the country will see average temperatures. No matter where you are, it’s critical to winterize your home to save on utility bills.
Residents of the south and southeast likely have a good idea of their home’s condition, having completed their hurricane checklist. Others will have a bit more work to do. Either way, here are four easy things to look at.
Tighten up Your Home’s Envelope
A drafty home wastes a lot of energy, especially in windy areas. Focus on doors and windows first. Weatherstripping doesn’t last forever, but the good news is that it’s inexpensive and a DIY project within anyone’s reach.
Seal electrical outlet plates on exterior walls. Most home improvement stores carry foam gaskets made to go behind the plates. Another cheap fix, and all you need for the job is a screwdriver. For the base of your doors, consider door snake draft stoppers. They stop drafts and provide a bit more insulation value.
Beef up Your Home’s Insulation
Not only does insulation pay for itself quickly, the purchase price (not the labor cost) qualifies for an energy tax credit, and who couldn’t use that? Attic insulation is the easiest to beef up, but exterior walls can also be filled, although it’s more expensive.
Consider installing Energy Q radiant barrier foil on your attic floor. It’s usually associated with keeping the heat out in the summer, but in the winter it keeps the heat in the living space. Yes, it’s another worthy tax credit.
Call up the Local Chimney Sweep
A fireplace chimney that hasn’t been cleaned in a while poses a real risk for a home fire, possibly while the family is asleep. The problem is a creosote build-up. At a minimum it should be inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep and swept when needed. This is not a DIY job.
In the case of a wood stove, it does need a thorough cleaning every year. And be sure to have a chimney cap with a screen on the top of any chimney. Not only is it safer, it keeps the bird nests out in the summer.
Finally, Insulate Your Water Pipes
There are not many jobs you would rather avoid than trying to thaw a frozen water pipe before it bursts. The obvious thing to do is protect it before the cold weather hits. Lengths of pre-slit foam insulation are available at the home improvement store.
For pipes that extend outside the home, such as for garden hose faucets, it really depends on where you live. In very cold areas it’s best to shut off the water and drain the lines. For areas that just get minimal hard freezes a couple of times, a Styrofoam spigot cup is sufficient.