Tips to prep your home for winter and add value
The Appraisal Institute encourages homeowner to winterize their homes to potentially reduce energy costs, increase comfort in cold months and possibly improve resale value.
"With the fall season coming to a close, now is a great time for homeowners to consider making seasonal updates to their properties," said Appraisal Institute President Ken P. Wilson, MAI, SRA. "Not only can these types of home improvements make the colder weather more manageable, many can provide a nice return on investment in resale value."
The Appraisal Institute encourages homeowners to focus on three main updates for the winter: windows, exteriors and furnaces.
Adding vinyl or wood windows to a home can have an average payback of nearly 80 percent, according to the 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, published by Hanley Wood. Vinyl and wood replacement windows have a higher projected return on investment than many other home improvement projects, including a bathroom addition, family room addition, garage addition or roof replacement.
That same study found that a combination of interior and exterior replacement projects retained the most value in home improvements. For example, a minor kitchen remodel returned nearly 83 percent of homeowners' original investment, while a wood deck addition returned more than 87 percent.
A furnace doesn't just provide heat and comfort during cold months, but proactively tuning or replacing a home's furnace can alleviate issues when considering resale. According to Consumer Reports, the average lifespan of a furnace is 15 to 18 years. Homeowners should keep this timeframe in mind when debating servicing versus replacement.
While making improvements inside and outside the home can help during the winterization process, now is also a good time to get your lawn ready for the cold weather. According to DIY Network, planting and fertilizing are among the steps needed to winterize your lawn.
The Appraisal Institute further encourages homeowners to contact an appraiser before deciding on any winterization projects. "A qualified, competent appraiser can make recommendations about which updates will likely provide the most impact on resale value, as well as how to not exceed community norms for the local area," Wilson said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners can also make updates now to see an immediate saving in their energy bills.
Cover drafty windows. Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
Adjust the temperature. When consumers are home and awake, set the thermostat as low as is comfortable. When asleep or out of the house, turn the thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours and save around 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills.
Find and seal leaks. Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Add caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
Maintain heating systems. Schedule service for the heating system. Find out what maintenance is required to keep the heating system operating efficiently. Replace the furnace filter once a month, or as needed.
Reduce heat loss from the fireplace. Keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
According to the DOE's Energy Saver Guide, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200per year on home utility bills, and heating and cooling accounts for the biggest portion – approximately 48 percent. The DOE says that those bills could be reduced by up to 25 percent by taking steps such as installing a programmable thermostat to efficiently manage those systems. The DOE further recommends that homeowners check the insulation in attics, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors and crawl spaces, as well as checking for air leaks around walls, ceilings, lighting and plumbing fixtures, switches and electrical outlets.
Other heating tips from the DOE include:
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
- Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to perform this task, contact a professional.
- Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
- Turn off kitchen, bath and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after finishing cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
- During winter, keep the draperies and shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter the home and closed at night to reduce the chill from cold windows. Windows can account for 10-25 percent of a heating bill by letting heat out.
For additional information on home improvements that can be made throughout the year, see the Appraisal Institute's Home Improvement Tips fact sheet.
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