5 Questions About Winterizing Your Home

FAQs about Winterization

5 Questions About Winterizing Your Home

Are you tired of rising utility costs every winter? Well, there are a variety of things a homeowner can do to help reduce their winter expenses. Frequently, these actions are called winterizing or weatherizing your home. If this sounds complicated, then rest assured, there are some frequently asked questions about the process. We hope the following helps enlighten homeowners about winterization and demonstrates the items that require professional assistance from DIY basics.

What is weatherization?

For inexperienced homeowners, there might be some ambiguity between weatherization and winterization, however, these are essentially same things. From Wikipedia: winterization is preparing something for winter.

However, that does not help homeowners because it lacks details, such as, what are those preparations?

Winterization actions are home improvement, modifications and/or repairs that help neutralize the impact of cold weather.

Winterization helps homeowners prevent cold air from influencing the warm interior air.

How does winterizing work?

There are two main foundations to proper winterization. Insulation and air sealing are the critical steps to properly restricting the air from flowing out of your home. Winterization works by identifying “leaks” in the interior/exterior of the house. From our high school science class, which we tried to forget, we know that hot air rises, therefore, in the winter, the air heated to keep your family warm rises towards the attic and roof of the house. Because air is a gas, there only needs miniscule gaps (not seen by the human eye) that allows the hot air to escape. Winterization works by stopping the air from escaping.

As Art of Manliness notes, according to the US Department of Energy, air drafts cause about 5-30% of home energy use to be wasted. However, there are some professional (like proper insulation and air duct sealing) and DIY actions to restrict this unnecessary energy waste.

You’re likely to find drafts underneath doors and near windows. If you find a leak underneath your door put a draft snake across the bottom of it. A simple rolled up bath towel will work. If you have leaks near your windows, get some weather-resistant caulk and caulk them from the outside. You can use weather stripping as well. Other places you might want to check for leaks are where pipes and wires exit your foundation.

Handyman caulking a window frame

Winterization also works to help protect homes from water drainage issues. Mold and mildew, which are year round concerns, are often caused by porous foundations that are common in older homes. These homes frequently suffer from moisture and water drainage issues, but dehumidifiers and sump pumps help counteract the moisture buildup. However, these are stop gaps and do not address the root problem, which relates to moisture-filled air seeping into the house and condensing in the hot/cold air dance. Again, proper insulation and air sealing prevents the interior and exterior air from entering and leaving the house, which helps eliminate the moisture inside the house.

What are the benefits of winterization?

The primary benefit of winterization is lower bills. There are some residual benefits, but saving money is the main reason why homeowners undertake the winterization process. Related, these steps also protect the long term value of your home because (as noted) they prevent mold, mildew and moisture buildup that can cause damage to your home over time.

Additionally, winterizing your home has benefits, such as improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency improves the environment.

The benefits are driven by controlling your home airflow through insulation because heating (and cooling) systems do not work as hard. The reduced workload means less energy costs because the HVAC system is not constantly in use during the winter, which translates into reduced savings for you, the homeowner.

Another great benefit of winterization is improved air quality. Particularly in the Atlanta area, air quality can be an issue. To really generate benefits of winterization, then consider a professional inspection of your furnace and heating ducts. If these units are old and dirty, then that filth infects the air that is blown throughout your home. Following the inspection, then homeowners can set a schedule to check and replace, as needed, the furnace filter. Furnace filter replacements are something any homeowner can complete.

What are the costs associated with winterization?

It might sound counterintuitive, but prior to taking any action (particularly for your initial winterization campaign) then complete a home energy checkup. The energy checkup is vital to understanding what needs modifications and/or repairs, if any. An energy checkup helps identify air leakage, which means you’ll understand where money is seeping through your house.

The initial effort to winterize your home can be quite costly, especially if you have an old home. However, there are government subsidies (such as the George weatherization assistance program) and financing available, as well as tax rebates that can offset some of the upfront costs. It is important to weigh the costs against the long term savings as well.

Debbie Markman, Economic Security Corporation Resource Development Director provided some information for National Weatherization Day, where some municipalities weatherize homes in low-income neighborhoods.

Once work is complete, officials expect the changes to have an impact of at least 35%. Homeowners will see about a 35% decrease in their electric bill. Organizers say working together is key to making a project like this possible.

What are the basics DIY steps?

For DIY homeowners, then there are some basic actions to take that will make an immediate impact and are cost effective. To start, remember that air leakage is the primary action that you are trying to contain, so it is important to understand the building envelope. Although this may sound technical or complicated, the building envelope is simply the physical barrier between the interior and exterior of a building. The main items of the building envelope are:

  • Windows.
  • Doors.
  • Roofs.

Now that you know to concentrate your efforts on places where the interior and exterior are adjacent, find or develop a checklist (available for download). It may take some time to work through the items to check and perhaps modify or repair, so start soon!

winterization_checklist_2

Obviously, one major area with air leakage are doors, however, another overlooked area are power outlets. For DIYers, then there are some simple ways to make your own draft dodger and insulate power outlets. Importantly note, that insulating power outlets could be a major fire hazard, so please follow instructions carefully or have a professional insulate (or inspect) the outlets.

Winterization is protecting the value of your home, but also your family. We want to keep our family comfortable, which means warm in the winter, while not constantly worrying about the temperature inside your home and the impending utility bills. However, another safety issue are the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. As the Art of Manliness notes, homeowners should be aware of the downstream effects of overused and outdated appliances and check these detectors as part of the winterization process.

Winter sees an uptick in the number of home fires and cases of carbon monoxide poisoning because people are running their furnaces and boilers overtime in order to keep warm. To keep your family safe, check the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change them if needed.

Leaves in rain gutter.

Not everything involves doors and air ducts. There is also yardwork! Winter storms shed rain, sleet and possibly heavy amounts snow on trees. While the weather permits, trim any trees that are near your home to prevent damage during the winter. Also, clean the gutters and possibly install leaf guards to help proper drainage of snow and rain caused by winter storms. By helping ensure clean water ways, it will prevent buildup that may lead to ice dams during cold and freezing temperatures.

Another appliance to consider is the air conditioner unit. Most likely, you will not use your AC unit during the winter. If that is the case, then winterizing your AC should extend its life, plus it is pretty easy.

  • Drain any pipes or hoses (so they don’t freeze).
  • Vacuum out any pools of water in the drain pan.
  • Cover the central air unit with a plastic air conditioner cover (which keeps rain/sleet/snow out and prevents rusting).

For any and all winterization questions, then Snappy has the expertise to answer your specific questions. Homeowners should consider a home energy checkup because the findings truly identify the gaps where air leakage occurs and will save you money over time. If the checkup reveals that you may need any upgrades or repairs, then Snappy has a deal because we are offering:

  • $200 off hot water heater replacement
  • $150 off winterization repairs (any insulation, air sealing or crawl space repairs).

These deals are good through November 31, 2015 and cannot be combined with other offers.

We hope this was helpful and explain what, why and how winterization works to protect your home value, family safety and save some money over time. Please feel free to reach out to Snappy with any questions or schedule a service!

Any questions? Please ask or share your favorite winterization tactics with us on Twitter and Facebook!

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