Fall is a good time to start making your winter preparations. With today’s ever rising energy costs, it is a good idea to have your home winter ready.
A few tips, that anyone can do, will certainly help reduce your utility bill, whether it is electric, gas, or both.
In this article, I will cover several topics that can help make your home more comfortable and energy efficient. I will also cover tips for protecting your vehicle’s, pets and outdoor plants.
Stopping Winter’s Chill Around Doors And Windows.
A large portion of energy waste when it comes to heating your home is cracks around your doors and windows.
These cracks do not have to be large to make a large impact on your energy consumption. One of the best ways, that dates back to the days before electricity, to test the areas around your doors and windows is to take a lit candle and hold it a few inches from the inside of doors and windows, preferably around the edges. (Make sure curtains and other flammable materials are well out of reach of the candle)
If there is a leak, the flame will flicker. Depending on how much air is getting in around the window, the harder the flame will flicker. If you have a breeze getting in through these cracks, you have heat getting out.
There are several types of weather stripping on the market. The easiest to install is the self-adhesive styles. They do not require any tools, only a pair of scissors to cut the weather stripping to the length desired.
When using weather stripping around doors, make sure to start at one corner of the door frame and work to the other, then the next corner until you are back at the beginning.
Make sure the weather stripping is close enough to the door jam that it does not interfere with the door closing.
As you start at one corner, peel the protective backing off the back of the corner of the weather stripping. Peel the backing as you press the weather stripping in place. You do not want to remove the entire backing all at once, this will cause the weather stripping to stick to other areas before you have it in position and will cause it to lose its “tackeyness” preventing it from staying in place.
After you have installed the weather stripping around the door, open and close the door a few times to make sure the weather stripping is not snagging or being pulled loose.
Note; If you currently have weather stripping installed around doors, check for wear and a tight fit when the door is closed. If there are signs of wear or the door does not close tightly against the weather stripping, it is probably a good idea to replace it.
Weather stripping around windows works pretty much the same way as with doors.
Before installing weather stripping around windows, you can check to make sure the trim and ‘flashing” around your windows is secure.
This is an area where caulking can be very helpful. If the caulking around your windows is dry, cracking, or non-existent, it would be a good idea to replace or add new caulking.
When adding new caulking, start at one corner, where the window frame joins the house. Run a line or “bead” of caulking all the way around the window, back to where you started. You can then simply take your finger and smooth it out, this will also help make sure all cracks are filled in.
If you are using a latex caulking, it will clean up with soap and water. If you are using silicone, you will need a solvent to clean and remove excess.
Other Cracks Or Openings
For areas where gas lines, plumbing, etc. come into your home from the outside, spray expandable foam is a good choice, it will expand to fill hard to reach areas and ensure that all openings have been filled.
Expandable foam can increase its mass by more than half, so you will want to use it sparingly.
Heat Loss Through Your Roof
Another area where heat can be lost is your roof (Attic). Since heat rises, this is a very important area to check. Many older homes lack adequate insulation to prevent heat loss.
Below Is a basic guideline to help you decide the best insulation for your homes attic.
Recommended Home Insulation R– Values
Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value the better the thermal performance of the insulation. The table below shows what levels of insulation are cost-effective for different climates and locations in the home.
Recommended insulation levels for retrofitting existing wood-framed buildings
R30 to R49
R25 to R30
R30 to R60
R25 to R38
R13 to R19
R30 to R60
R25 to R38
R19 to R25
R38 to R60
R25 to R30
5 to 8
R49 to R60
R38 to R49
R25 to R30
Pets can be hit hard when the temperatures really start to drop. By natures design, most animals are adapted to survive in the conditions they are native to.
However, pets that are on tethers or in smaller enclosures can be subjected to elements they would ordinarily be able to take appropriate shelter from.
This can include rain, ice, and prevailing winds. There are some steps you can take to make your outdoor pets more comfortable during the winter months.
A well- constructed shelter is crucial for protecting your pet from wind and rain, and cold.
Igloo dog houses are a great defense against harsh conditions. These pet shelters are very sturdy and draft free.
If you have a homemade pet shelter, be sure that it is enclosed on all four sides with an opening large enough for your pet.
You will also want to check the top to make sure that it does not leak, or have any protrusions that can harm your pet.
Bedding is very important in your pets outdoor shelter. This is the insulation that will help keep your pet warm.
There are many types of bedding. Wood shavings (not sawdust, as this can be inhaled easily by your pet) is always a good choice.
Some people use pins straw, but this can act as an irritant to some pets, while other people use old blankets or pet beds. The issue with blankets and pet beds is, while they help retain heat, they can also retain moisture as well as microscopic organisms and fleas.
Check your pet bedding often to make sure it is clean and dry, and replace as necessary. (some pets will dig it out)
Adequate water is essential at all times. This can be especially difficult to manage in the winter, as it can freeze fairly quickly.
Some pets will actually consume more water in the winter than they do in the summer. For this reason, it is important to check your outdoor pets water several times a day.
Exercise is important in the winter months for outdoor pets that have limited space to roam. It is especially important for older pets whose joint can become stiff and sore due to colder weather.
Freezing temperatures can cause big problems for your vehicle if you have not made preparations.
Antifreeze is just as the name implies. It keeps the water, that circulates through your engine to keep it cool, from freezing.
Different makes of vehicles have different specifications as to the amount of antifreeze to water ratio they require. These specifications can be found in your owner’s manual or posted on a sticker on the housing above your radiator, or the inside of the hood.
An improper antifreeze level can lead to serious engine damage if temperatures drop low enough to freeze the water in your cooling system, so it is a good idea to check or have a mechanic check to make sure your vehicle is protected.
Under-inflated tires can be a real hazard as conditions become more slippery due to increased rain.
As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to check tire pressure each time you fill up. This will help you set a routine so you can catch a problem before it starts.
Fall is a good time to change your windshield wipers, even if they do not show heavy signs of wear, they can actually be “dried out” from the previous summer sun, yet show no wear.
Changing your windshield wipers now will save you from potentially being in a situation that limits your visibility as well as not having to change them when the rainy and cold season starts.
Outdoor plants, like pets, are designed by nature to withstand the elements.
However, certain varieties, not native to your area, will need some help.
The best solution to help these plants is to bring them inside and keep them where they have plenty of access to sunlight through a window.
If bringing those plants inside is not an option a garage, shed, or carport, not exposed to heavy winds will suffice.
Most plants will wilt during the winter months. As long as the roots and/or bulbs are covered and insulated, most will come back in the spring.
It is a good idea to put a good layer of mulch around your earth planted plants, this will provide insulation to the roots.
Garden hoses are pretty simple to protect during the winter. If you use your garden hose during the winter where freezing temperatures are imminent, simply drain the garden hose completely after use and store it in a garage or carport until you are ready to use it again.
Note; If your garden hose has attachments, it is advisable to remove them. Even though you have drained your garden hose, moisture left behind can freeze and expand, cracking the attachment.
Busted water lines are something no one wants to deal with. Not only can this be an inconvenience, depending on the amount of damage it can be expensive.
Pipe insulation is the best and a relatively inexpensive way to eliminate this problem.
Good quality foam pipe insulation can be purchased at most all home improvement and hardware stores. It is easy to install and lasts a long time.
Any water lines that are exposed should be wrapped as well as lines under your floor or in buildings that do not have a constant heat source.
These are a few basic tips to help you get prepared for the winter months ahead.
Another tip and probably the most important is; Make sure to check on neighbors, the elderly, and people that may not have adequate heat sources.
Let’s have a great, hopefully white (but not too much white) Winter!!!!!!