Winterize on the Cheap

In snowy areas where temperatures really drop, there is a need to “winterize” the homestead to improve efficiency of heating methods, to save money on heating costs and to prepare for the worst. But it’s a tough call to make. The economy stinks and inflation is out of control; most people are living in homes that aren’t worth what they thought they were. This keeps people from investing in home improvements of any kind. But there are some small things you can do that won’t smash your wallet and may improve the value of your pad over time.

I wanted to address both the cheapest and simplest ones and also the most important ones. There are things you can afford to do because they don’t cost much but then there are things you can’t afford not to do because they will give safety in case of the worst situation that can happen. Winter storms are nothing to look forward to, but it’s a good idea to be ready just in case.

Start out by insulating. Read my post on Insulating With Fabric Scraps to get a cheap and easy idea; if you get the juices flowing, you’ll come up with some of your own. Don’t forget to caulk around windows, doors and vents. Seal up behind the dryer vent and where hoses drain water from the home. When insulating the attic, whether it’s with foam, scraps or prefab sheets, build it up to at least 12 inches, with the optimum being around 15 inches in thickness. This will keep the heating costs down by keeping the drafts out.

Along with caulking, try to seal every air leak in the house. You can find the leaks by putting your hands over cracks and gaps. If you feel air moving, you must seal it or end up heating the front yard. Use weather stripping, door sweeps, even shrink wrap and any other imaginative material. Whatever you can imagine using and does not cost a lot. If you have an older fireplace, you might consider installing glass doors to keep heat from escaping through the chimney. If you have the old metal doors, check them for leaks and use metal filler if necessary to get them to close tightly. Sometimes all it takes is a new metal strip along the groove. Check it out and see if you can get it sealed.

Cover the outdoor water pipes with insulating jackets, blankets or layers of old newspaper. Wrap it around and secure tightly with outdoor tape, rubber bands or bungi cords. Leave these in place to keep your water hotter and put less strain on the water heater. If you are hit with a storm, you can just go out and open the faucet, letting a trickle flow. This will keep the pipes from cracking and save you a fortune in repairs.

Seal all the indoor heating ducts. Leaky ducts from forced-air or heat pump systems can allow up to 20% of your heating to escape. If your ductwork is hidden in the walls and floors, you can still seal duct leaks on your own in the attic, basement, or garage. Don’t forget the areas where ducts meet the floor or wall vents. Sealing these ducts can cost you over a hundred smackers on a yearly basis.

Before the first snow starts, clean out all gutters and downspouts. Do this to aid runoff during winter blizzards and to keep ice from building up on the roof. It’s worth the days work to save yourself a huge roof repair in the dead of a freezing spell. Nothing is worse than suffering through a snow storm with ice pouring into the attic or, worse yet, your living room.

This is a great idea year round and people everywhere should do it. You should install a programmable thermostat. You should get sn Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostat. This unit only costs you about $30 while it saves you $100 or more every year on heating costs by automatically turning the heat down when you are asleep or away. Program it correctly and you won’t have to think about it again.

Plug window drafts with rope caulk, wide tape or folded newspapers. This is not only a great way to save heating in the winter, it is great insurance in the event of a storm. We do this down here in the warmer regions during hurricane season to protect against violent winds. It can also protect against snow flurries. It will keep the heat in and save you a bundle on heating costs while it is insurance against your worst fears. Who wants to replace windows in the middle of a costly winter season?

Before things get bad, you really should upgrade your furnace. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-rated model. I know this looks like a big expense up front but maybe you can charge it and spread out the damage. This switch up will cut your energy costs by up to 30%. That’s no chump change. But before you buy, make your home as efficient as possible by following all of the tips I’ve already given you so you can purchase the smallest system that will fit your newly reduced heating needs.

Tax breaks and other incentives are offered by your utility company and maybe also your state government. Check their websites and see what programs they are currently running. If you are a homeowner you are likely to benefit by these programs and they can save you a bundle. Renters, however, are less likely to find programs geared for them. As part of the recent bailout plan, the fed has outlined certain home improvements that will be eligible for tax credits in 2009.

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