Preparing Your Home for Winter

There’s nothing like needing to rinse your hair and discovering that not only are you out of hot water, but you’ve lost water pressure all together. Now, imagine that happening in the middle of winter.

A busted water pipe in the freezing weather is one of those things that can turn the refuge you call home into a nightmare. It’s also something that can be prevented by taking the right measures before the coldest months are upon you.

Richard Hodge, owner of Mister Sparky in Houston, Texas, said investing in your home will ensure your family is safe and comfortable. It also may save you hundreds of dollars on your electricity bill in the long run, he added.

“Some improvements are financial investments but they don’t have to be a burden on your budget,” Hodge said. “We understand that not everyone has the budget to insulate the attic or replace the water heater. But there are some tips that will cost little to no money but can save you some.”

NO COST

Changing your habits, at least for the season, is the most inexpensive way to protect your home and pocketbook. “We all can make an effort to use a little less energy, without impacting our comfort and lifestyles,” said Jim Steffes, vice president and general manager of Direct Energy. “Even the smallest efforts can yield big results.”

  • Keep the curtains open during the day to allow the sunlight to heat your home and keeping the curtains drawn as soon as it gets dark will keep that heat from escaping.
  • Before moving the thermostat or turning on the heat, consider adding another layer of clothing. Put on that sweater or throw a blanket over your legs as you watch TV.
  • Ceilings fans can be your friend in winter as well as summer. In the winter, set the fan to blow toward the ceiling. This pushes the warm air away from the ceiling and evenly distributes it in the room, according to the Department of Energy.
  • Change your thermostat setting. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home in the winter. Their stats also reveal that you can save 5-15 percent a year on heating costs when the heat is set back 10°–15° for 8 hours – like when everyone’s at work and school, for example.

LOW COST

  • Install a programmable thermostat which can automatically lower and raise your home’s air temperature when you are at work or sleeping.
  • Weather-stripping or caulking around windows and doors is one of the best ways to minimize leaks and keep drafts away. Removable caulking is a good option for windows that you open in the summer but not in the winter.
  • If you want to make your home feel warmer without turning the thermostat up, consider buying a humidifier. Humidity makes one feel warmer in colder months. About 20 to 40 percent relative humidity is recommended.
  • Maintain the furnace by cleaning filters monthly and replacing them if needed. When it comes to using the fireplace, less is more
  • Use the fireplace sparingly, particularly if it’s an older natural one as they are inefficient and draw more heat out of the house than they produce. Close the flue to eliminate drafts when not in use.

BEST TO INVEST

  • If your budget allows, insulate your attic. According to the Department of Energy, about 43 percent of one’s electricity bill goes toward heating and cooling costs. So check the attic insulation levels, or ask a professional to come in to check for you. Attic insulation prevents energy waste during both winter and summer months, so top up as needed.
  • To prevent getting stuck with shampoo in your hair and no water in the shower, insulate water pipes with half-inch foam or pipe tape. According to the Department of Energy, insulating your pipes can save you up to $25 a year and a big headache later.
  • Ensure cavity walls are filled with insulation, which could help you save money every year.