|One final clean of your gutters before winter will prevent them from getting warped or broken by ice build-up. (photo: Shutterstock)
As temperatures fall in autumn and winter, the cost to keep a warm home begins to rise. Winterizing is necessary to avoid freeze-related home damages and keep your heating budget manageable. Pick up a few of these tested tips, and you can help control those energy and financial leaks before they start.
This most common form of winterization involves sealing the cracks around movable joints in your home, most commonly for windows and doors. There are many kinds of weatherstripping products on the market, including vinyl, copper, aluminum, felt, reinforced foam or stainless steel.
By detecting air leaks, you can determine which windows and doors you should focus on first, and then measure the perimeters of each to know how much you will need to purchase. Additionally, it is recommended to add 5-10% in your calculations to accommodate waste from measurement or cutting errors.
Since each product is designed to work in a different area of the home, read product packaging carefully to determine if it is best suited for windows or doors, as well as indoor or outdoor use. Weatherstripping should always be applied to clean, dry surfaces and shouldn't interfere with the operation of the window or door.
Many of the same manufacturers that offer weatherstripping products also make door sweeps to accommodate various sizes of doors. They are most effective when installed at the same time as weatherstripping, as they require many of the same measurements. Automatic sweeps are available for a steeper price, but are easier on carpet.
Perhaps the most quick and simple way to guard your interior against chilly breezes and pests is with a commercial sealant. They come in many varieties, including expandable foam, silicone caulking and oil or resin, among others.
Each type of sealant will have a different use, although it is recommended that you avoid sealing gaps larger than one inch. For best results, the area being sealed should be clean, dry and free of any previous sealant, and the product should be applied in one continuous line, as compared to multiple, short applications. Because some types of caulking can shrink over time, avoid being skimpy on your application.
If your home's windows came with additional storm panes, it is important to install them in the weeks before colder weather starts. If not, you may find it too expensive to purchase stand-alone storm windows. For a more affordable approach, plastic insulation kits can give windows of any size or shape a better insulating factor when installed on the inside of the home. Kits start at around $3 per window and usually include everything needed for installation.
Hot-water heater wrap
The majority of homes still use a single electric or gas hot-water heater for all of their hot water needs, and covering these appliances with an insulator can prevent heat from escaping during the winter months. Covers, or "blankets," can be purchased at most home improvement stores for between $35 and $70 and are easy to install without professional help. However, be certain that the placement of a blanket will not void your manufacturer's warranty.
Leftover leaves and debris can cause gutters to clog, causing headaches for homeowners when the temps reach freezing. To be sure that your gutters aren't warped or broken from ice building up and expanding over the winter, do one final clean before the snow flies.
Get a furnace check-up
While this one may involve the help of a professional, it can be well worth the cost. Have your furnace or heating system inspected at least once a year, before the elements require you to turn it on. A simple inspection of the working parts can ensure that you'll have heat when you need it, and it can prevent a costly after-hours emergency call when you'd least expect it.
While you're at it, make sure your vents are clean and any filters have been changed. Your furnace professional or a helpful home store associate should be able to point you in the right direction for the type of filter you will need.
The bottom line
It's a long list, but once you've tackled all the necessary winterizing tasks, you can sit back and stay warm all winter long.