Winterizing Your Home

By: Danny Lipford

House with snow around it

With the colder months here many Americans are looking for ways to save money on the rising cost of heating their homes. In addition, this is also the time of year when homeowners may want to take a look at some unwanted visitors who can do some real damage to areas of the home you may never see.

Sealing Up and Insulating Your Home

The main goal of sealing up and insulating your home is simple – keep the warm air in and the cold air out! In the average home, if you added up all the cracks and gaps, the area would be approximately three square feet! Just imagine the amount of cold air that can come in through those spaces and of course the amount of warm air that can sneak out. Check out the following areas where the biggest losses can occur:

Attic Insulation

Since warm air rises, it goes without saying that if you don’t have enough insulation in the attic, your heating bills are quite literally going through the roof. One of the most common and effective ways of saving heat is by making sure you have enough. If you’re not sure, go in your attic and see if the ceiling joists are visible. If they are, you need more. Also, different areas of the country require differing R-values of insulation, which translates into a thickness of the insulation. Check with your local home center, and they will be able to advise you on the recommended R-value for your area.

Sealing Up Cracks

Cracks around windows, on perimeter walls and at electrical outlets that are located on an exterior wall can create a tremendous leak of warm air out and cold air in. Caulk any gaps and seal up cracks and holes to provide a more airtight envelope around your home. Also, check your weather stripping, and replace or adjust any that is worn or doesn’t fit tightly.

Inefficient Windows

While this is a time of year that many homeowners choose to replace old windows that rattle and the wind blows right through, purchasing new insulated glass windows is expensive and requires some planning. A terrific interim solution is to install window insulation kits that contain plastic sheeting to cover the window. They are very easy to install, can completely insulate the window, and costs only about $3 per window.

Unwanted Guests

In the summer the unwanted guests include ants and in-laws while in the winter it’s rodents and in-laws, but all year long the worst uninvited guests are termites. This is an excellent time of year to have an annual termite inspection to make sure that, if any termites are present, they are eliminated COMPLETELY. According to the National Pest Management Association, damage caused by termites is upwards of two billion dollars.

Getting the Most of Your Heating System

Now that you have insulated your home and made sure that there are no critters gnawing away at your foundation, the next step is to make sure you are getting the best possible performance from your current heating system. One of the first steps is to have your heating system serviced by a professional to make sure it is operating at maximum efficiency. It is also a good idea to change your air filter at least once a month.

Another way to maximize on your current heating systems is to replace your existing thermostat with a computerized setback or progammable thermostat. By setting it to fit your daily routine, you can be sure that your home is warm when you want it to be, and not when you are way from home.

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22 Comments on “Winterizing Your Home”

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  • tina Says:
    August 18th, 2015 at 1:10 am

    This winter will be our first in this home. The attic is a walk up. At the top of the steps, it just opens in to the attic via the hole in the attic floor (it is not a pull down staircase). How do i insulate to keep the cold attic air from coming down the steps and my nice warm heated air from rushing up?



  • bill collins Says:
    March 2nd, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Hello,

    Is it safe to use UL approved electric pipe wrap directly on the pipe, and then cover over the whole thing with foam pipe cover also?

    Thanks,
    Bill



  • Denise W Says:
    December 27th, 2012 at 6:52 am

    How do you keep the roof vent from freezing all the time, our roof is dangerous to be climbing all the time in the winter, we have insulation wrapped around the pipe up in the attic, which doesn’t seem to help besides building a box around it on the roof and insulating it, or heat tape which we would have to get a long extension cord to plug in on the outside of the house, are there any other ideas you have for this recurring problem. Thanks



  • Cassandra Says:
    December 17th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve just bought a ranch home built in 1956. There are large vents under the overhang of the roof in 4 different places. Two in front and two in back of the house. Two are by the bedrooms and the other two are by the garage. Are these the soffits? Should they be covered for the winter? Thanks.



  • Jeanne Mitchell Says:
    December 13th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I need to see a video of blowing water supply lines using an air compressor when winterizing a house. From startto finish ( what parts I need to buy, how and where to hook the compressor, what the gage should read etc/ …….. so that I can do it correctly. I have not been able to see a video for this specific issue anywhere.
    I appreciate your help
    Thank you
    Jeanne



  • Katherine Says:
    November 2nd, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I have vaulted ceilings in my home (manufactured)…how to check insulation in the “attic” area of this type of home. When it is windy can tell it is much cooler in the home. Can I still caulk around windows (can feel the cool air in this area a lot with the wind,when it is getting down to below 20 degrees at night now. Keep the temp about 64 in the home but on those windy days it seems colder.



  • JoeVanSumer Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Hi all. There is another place to consider for insullation. Installing insullation between the joist around the perimeter of your house will do a lot to keep winter wind from pullig heated air from your home. Two inch foam board and or exbanding foam might be good choices. Good luck.



  • Montana Mark Says:
    September 15th, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Other than water damage I can’t find any reasons for keeping a winterized but unoccupied home heated thru the winter. Any ideas?



  • Charles Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Winter is the time of the year where we prepare a lot because of the gustily winds. One of the preparations is to set the house ready for a warm winter. Out attic as part of the house must be ventilated in order for the air circulate. Having an attic ladder can allow us to utilize our attic and make use of the space. There are a lot of things kept in the attic because most of the time it is used as storage.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 27th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Jim,
    Inflatable dampers are available at The Home Depot website. Or try searching for “inflatable damper” at Google or other search engines. Good luck with your project!



  • Jim Maguire Says:
    January 26th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Were can I find the inflatable damper?


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 1st, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    I’d start by working on getting the damper to close completely, then fitting a permanent sheet metal cover over the chimney. Finally, I would cut a snug fitting insert from thick Styrofoam (3/4″ or more) to fit in the top of the fireplace below the damper so that it wedges tightly in place. I did that to my fireplace that we didn’t use, and it made a big difference. There are also inflatable damper “pillows” available to purchase that block the air. Good luck with your project!



  • Peggy Says:
    November 1st, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I’d like to hear your suggestion for blocking my unused fireplace. It was here when we bought the house, but it’s not original to the house. And I should add that it doesn’t sit flush on the floor, but sits up some 23 inches. My husband tried closing the damper, but it doesn’t close all the way. He’s even capped the top of the chimney with a small tarp via bungie cord. Would making a foam box, like mentioned for the attic stairs, be a solution for my problem? I’m at wits’ end for thinking outside of the box for possible solutions. And I don’t relish the idea of having a cold basement again this year. Please Help!!!


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    October 31st, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Annie,
    It can be hard convincing a landlord to upgrade the energy and water efficiency of a rental home, since they’re usually not the ones paying the utility7 bills. The biggest saving would come from tightening up your windows and doors (which you’re already working on), and adding insulation to the attic if it doesn’t have much or any at present. Check out our article on How to Winterize an Apartment to Save Energy for more ideas. Good luck with your project!



  • Annie Says:
    October 31st, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I rent, but my landlord is not interested in winterizing. My gas furnace has not been serviced in the 11 years that I have lived here. I can not afford to have it cleaned.

    I put plastic around my sliding glass door, heavy drapes/curtains on most of the windows. Plastic on one window. I am thinking of putting a strip on the bottom of the interior side of my front door (half inch gap). Is there anything else you can think of for me to do.

    Since I am low income, I am eligible for a not for profit to come to my town house. They will do an evaluation and then fix or replace things. The cost is nominal(they have some sort of government grant) and would make the total house energy efficient. But my land lord is not interested.

    So to keep the heating bills down, I keep the house temperature 58 to 63.

    Any suggestions?



  • GLORIA Says:
    January 11th, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    INSIDE WALL THERMOSTAT IS VERY MUCH CONTROLED BY WINDY CONDITIONS. AS A WOMAN HOW DO I FIX THAT MYSELF?

    THE WALL IS BETWEEN MY KITCHEN AND MY DINING ROOM IN THE CENTER OF THE HOUSE ITSELF.

    THANK YOU,
    GLORIA



  • Jerry S Says:
    November 9th, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Does it benefit heating costs to insulate floors above a basement? and if it does, what type of insulation should you use?



  • John Cannamela Says:
    January 29th, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    1st get some blue foam board
    2nd get in the attic-close the door and measure how hi the folded ladder extends through the hole and then measure across the width of the stairs-draw the shape and cut the board-make sure the side are measured from the ceiling or floor of attic. then duct tape the box–make a handle from cord-through the body of the largest part then save energy



  • Dawn Says:
    January 19th, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    I caught the tail-end of Danny’s piece about creating a “foam-board box” to enclose the attic stairs. I was hoping to find either that clip or written instructions on how to make the foam-board box. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



  • John Cannamela Says:
    January 15th, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Travis here goes
    1 any time remember heat loss is heat gain in the summer
    2 Don’t know for sure
    3 don’t seal anything that needs to breath like weep holes
    4 attic doors-outlets-ductwork-door gaskets-windows
    5 caulk-duct tape-vapor barrier material-gasket material
    6 yes and don’t forget you have to be aware of energy saving practices like tstat adjustment or light usage.
    7 68-74 @ 40% RH
    Hope this helped
    John cannamela
    http://www.infraredsurvey.com
    more examples on my site



  • Travis Morehouse Says:
    December 3rd, 2007 at 11:11 am

    I am doing a story for my school newspaper about winterizing your home and it would be great if you could answer a few questions for me.

    1. When is the right time to start Winterizing your home?

    2. About what percentage of Americans actually winterize their homes?

    3. What percautions should be taken when winterizing your home?

    4. What are the main points of the house that should be winterized?

    5. What main equipment do you need in order to winterize your home?

    6. Is the whole winterizing process done on the home itself?

    7. What’s a healthy temperature for your home during the winter?



  • John Cannamela Says:
    September 15th, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Sealing a home may not be easy, but the biggest problem people over look is something everyone remembers at the holidays when they have to get those decorations out of the attic.When that cold hits you that money loss.Sealing that alone can save up to 40% or higher.Would you put up a 1/4 in of plywood for your front door?
    No well make a simple foam board box with foil tape or buy one of the many systems out there.

    John Cannamela
    http://www.infraredsurvey.com


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