Ready for a Prescott Winter
Not to put a rush on the seasons, but winter is near and it is important that homeowners take a proactive approach to perform some winter weatherization around the home. As our column indicated last week energy audits are often the first step in making your home more efficient. Winter weatherization is another way to prevent loss of heat which is the single most expensive reason for high heating expenses during the winter and the greatest heat loss is due to air leakage. Winter weatherization can prevent dangers and damage that can arise from cold weather. It is never too late to prepare.
My wife and I recently relocated to Prescott from Palm Springs. We were never faced with freezing winters and we are unfamiliar as to what steps and tips to follow to stay warm. What do you suggest we do to ready for a Prescott winter?
An inspection of your furnace would be the best place to start to ensure that it is operating properly and a heating system should be inspected at least once a year. Lubrication, cleaning, changing filters, checking the belts, vents and returns is a must to ensure that your system will operate through the winter. Preventative maintenance allows the equipment to function and operate properly. Make sure the duct work is clean and sealed properly. If you do not have a programmable thermostat installed, it would be wise to do so. A programmable thermostat is not necessary and for winterization, however they are an easy way to save money and can deliver warmth without sacrificing comfort.
Another winterization tip is to check all doors and windows for weather stripping. This will avoid excess cold air from creeping into the home. Also caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, duct work and electrical wiring come through the exterior walls, ceilings and floors.
When a fireplace is not in use during the winter, keep the damper closed, this will prevent warm air from escaping. Then remember, open the damper when using the fireplace!!!!
Most infiltration of cold air happens when the warm air rises and escapes through openings as we have described. You can find these leaks on cold days by just feeling for cold drafts, again around windows and doors. Or you can hold something that smokes, such as incense and watch for smoke being sucked out through any openings. This will indicate where air is leaking and areas that you should seal. All exterior doors should have weather stripping even the attic hatch should be sealed. Another good winter weatherization tip is to feel the pipes that are coming off your hot water tank. If you can feel any warmth as all in the pipes, they should be insulated with foam pipe that can be purchased at all hardware stores. This was a do-it-yourself project that I did and it was really easy. You can cut the foam pipe to any length with a pair of household scissors.
To give you a priority of weatherization tips regarding insulation, starting with the most important, we would suggest starting with the attic. If you are unable to inspect the attic yourself, call in an insulation specialist and they can advise you of any air leaks and insulation loss. Installing insulation in attic side walls is also another good tip for prevention of heat loss. The basement and crawl spaces should be checked for insulation and the payback will come through in the months ahead. Inadequate amounts of insulation or the wrong type of insulation will allow heat to escape through the roof. This one improvement can save on your heating and cooling bills. However, prior to insulation improvements, make sure that all air paths in the attic and basement are properly sealed. Insulation is not an air barrier and does not prevent air from escaping through a hole, not mater how much insulation you block the hole with!
Here are some additional thoughts on winterization. If any of your windows are single-pane, they should be replaced with dual-pane. If you cannot afford that improvement then covering the window with a plastic sheet that is made specifically for windows can be installed and will act as a second layer during winter. The plastic sheet should be installed to the inside of your window frames and it must be sealed tightly.
Here are the “DO” Tips:
1) Service your furnace
2) Seal duct work
3) Have an energy audit
4) Seal attic and basement air spaces
5) Wrap the hot water heater pipes
6) Make sure you have sufficient insulation
7) Cover single-pane windows
8) Add weather stripping on doors and windows
9) Seal holes and voids in plumbing cavities, ceilings, etc where air can move in and out
10) Close fire place damper when not in use.
The easiest and best way to evaluate your homes needs for winterization would be to have an energy audit and in our opinion is the best place to start. These building professionals will provide you with a plan of action for winterizing and this plan will also help you during the summer months to stay cool and again save energy.