Winterize your house in mild or harsh climates

| by Teena Hammond
Winterize your house in mild or harsh climates

Winter is coming fast, with the days growing shorter and outdoor temps dropping. It's crunch time for preparing a house for winter to maximize energy efficiency and save on utility bills.

The typical U.S. homeowner, regardless of location, loses approximately $40 of every $100 spent on air heating and cooling to duct and air leakage alone. Every house is different, so for homeowners to get the biggest bang for their buck on improvements, it's smart to diagnose the causes of high utility bills and energy loss.

Here are winterizing tips to save energy:

  • Program your thermostat based on your schedule. For instance, have your thermostat set to warm your home 5 degrees before you get home from work, allowing your home to be cooler and use less energy during the day. The Nest Learning Thermostat represents the latest and greatest in programmable thermostat technology.
  • Insulate water pipes. Homeowners can reduce their monthly energy bill by reducing transmission losses. You will also use less water by not having to wait as long for the water coming out of the tap to get warm.
  • Keep your fireplace damper closed when the fireplace is not in use will prevent heat loss and save money. Also have your fireplace inspected each year before you build that first fire in order to make sure it's in working order.
  • Keep gutters clean so that ice dams do not form within the gutters. As the ice melts each day, it gets underneath the shingles and then feezes again at night and can damage drywall, electrical lighting and more.
  • Though small, Christmas lights can consume an exorbitant amount of energy. Replacing traditional holiday lights with LEDs and putting them on timers can help reduce the amount of money and energy homeowners spend on holiday cheer.
  • Dirty air filters not only affect indoor air quality, they can also reduce airflow, costing you more during the winter months when heating is crucial.
  • Drain water hoses outside so that they do not freeze pipes.
  • Weather-stripping windows and doors and sealing building leaks helps keep cold air from coming in and warm air from getting out. It's a simple way for homeowners to reduce energy consumption during the cold winter months.
  • Add additional insulation to your attic. Even just 6-8 inches of blown-in insulation can significantly increase energy savings.
  • Change furnace filters every month during the heating season. Better yet, switch to a permanent filter you can clean regularly. This will ensure that your heating system works efficiently.
  • Do annual maintenance on your HVAC unit, including an annual inspection.
  • Some states offer improvement incentives, including providing and installing a free programmable thermostat; paying a portion of insulation upgrades; or providing rebates on the cost of materials. At the end of this year several valuable home improvement federal tax credits will expire. Take advantage of them now.

Sources: SolarCity; Greg Haskett, vice president of shared services for HomeTeam Inspection Service; Andy Snyder, director of operations for Home Team Inspection Service.

For more information, see our Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling and Energy Rebates and Tax Credits research centers.

Topics: Energy Audits, Heating & Cooling, Maintenance & Repair, Rebates / Tax Credits, Windows

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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