No matter where you live, there are ways to winterize your home and prepare for the colder temperatures that winter brings. For some, those cold and freezing temperatures will be persistent. For others, they will come and go and likely be mixed with warm spells that spike to 80 degrees. Even in areas where the cold is mild and short lived, the efforts to keep cold air out will help keep cold air in when the temperatures rise outside.1
Here are a variety of ways you can get ready for cold snaps, freezes, snowstorms, and winter in general. Pick and choose from these suggestions, selecting the ones that best fit your climate, house, and situation.
Replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. You could also switch to a permanent filter to reduce waste and hassle. If you need to replace your furnace, it will cost more, but a modern machine will be more efficient and save you money every month it is used. Keep your furnace clean, lubricated, and properly adjusted to save 5% to 15% off heating costs.2
Many ceiling units come with a switch (usually on the motor housing) that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes; switching to clockwise makes it warmer. Air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space, which can cut your heating costs as much as 10%!3
Drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and make sure you don’t have excess water pooled in equipment. If your AC has a water-shutoff valve, turn that off. Similarly, make sure hoses are drained and stowed away neatly. Turn off exterior water spigots. Seal water leaks around your house, and don’t forget to remove window AC units and store them so you don’t invite cold drafts all winter.4
While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit by installers, most households don’t need that much steam, and they end up paying for it—in dollars and the occasional scalding burn. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or lower) could reduce your water heating costs by 6% to 10%.5
Most people could save about 20% on their energy costs by sealing up air leaks, according to the Energy Star program.6 Start simple, and adopt that old Great Depression fixture, the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door. You can also use scraps of fabric sewn in a tube shape and filled with sand or kitty litter for mass. It pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weather stripping. Pay close attention to places where different building materials meet, such as in corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit, and along the foundation. Light a stick of incense and move it along walls. (Avoid flammable materials.) Wherever the smoke flutters, you have air sneaking in—and heating or cooling slipping out.
Pick up a window insulation kit at your local hardware or discount store. Properly installed window plastic is essentially invisible, and it adds a buffer against drafts. Still air space can give a nice boost to your home’s ability to hold heat. Want to go the extra mile? Installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45%. It does this by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Similarly, storm windows can make a big difference when cold winds are blowing and when the summer heat is radiating.7
Insulation is one of the best ways to save energy and money at home. It can make a significant difference to add more insulation between walls, and also make sure your attic floor and basement ceiling are well covered. The average home requires 12 to 15 inches of insulation in the attic, according to the Department of Energy.8
Insulating pipes and hot water heaters not only saves you on hot water but also decreases the chances of your pipes freezing. If your pipes are warm to the touch, they would do well with insulation. Preslit pipe foam is available at most hardware and home stores. Just cut it to size, and use duct tape to keep it in place. Insulating your hot water heater will take a little more effort but is still a DIY project for many. According to Energy.gov, it could save you 7% to 16% annually.9
Studies show that 10% to 30% of heated or cooled air in an average system escapes from ducts. It might pay to hire a professional to test your duct system and fix any problems. Properly sealed ducts also offer better protection against mold and dust.10
We hope that these tips on winterizing your home this fall were helpful!