Fall is a great time of year. The hot days of summer are winding down and the leaves are beginning to fall. Fall brings some of our favorite holidays but it is also the time to begin thinking about ensuring that our homes are ready for colder temperatures. Here are some top tips that will keep your home cozy when the winter winds start to blow.
1. Clean the gutters: This is important all year and particularly in the fall because of falling leaves which can clog drains and downspouts. Rain or melting snow, depending on where you live, can cause the leaves to clump together. When the gutters cannot drain the water has to go somewhere. Eventually it will end up running down the side of your home. This can cause the ground around the foundation to erode and moisture can seep inside. One solution many people are choosing to eliminate the need to clean gutters several times a year is the installation of leaf guards. They are made of a plastic mesh and they simply snap into the gutters to keep leaves from piling up and causing problems.
2. Have your HVAC system checked: Your heating and air conditioning system should be checked twice a year in the spring and fall. Preventative maintenance can save you expensive repair costs later. Filters should be changed on a regular basis. When they are dirty and dusty your system works harder to maintain the set temperature. Making certain that there are no leaks or loose joints around the ducts is essential to keep the warm air from escaping. A programmable thermostat can help as well. The temperature can be set a few degrees cooler when no one is home and programmed to come on and raise the temperature so it is warm and cozy when everyone gets home. This can result in a savings on your energy costs.
3. Turn the Water Heater Down: Most water heaters are set at 140 degrees when installed. Water heaters account for about 18% of your energy costs and setting them to 120 degrees can result in a big savings. It won't have to work as hard to maintain 120 degrees compared to 140 degrees which means it will last longer before it needs replaced. This can also help to reduce the risk of accidental burns for young children and the elderly.
4. Reverse the Direction of your Ceiling Fans: Most ceiling fans have a switch to reverse the direction of the blades. Instead of blowing down or counterclockwise set them to run on low clockwise during the winter. This will pull the cool air up and push the warm air that rises to the ceiling down to keep the room warm. This can help to reduce your heating costs as well.
5. Curtains and Blinds can Insulate: If you use heavy curtains or drapes that are insulated they can offer the added protection of stopping heat loss. The will reduce drafts that are often noticed around windows in the winter. Blinds can help as well. Both can be opened during the day to let sunlight in which helps to warm rooms. Lower them at dusk and the room will be warmer and it will help to save on heating costs.
6. Insulate Pipes: This is one of the most important things you can do to keep from paying thousands for repairs. There are various ways to do this including foam that is made especially for pipes. Insulating tape is another method. Don't forget inside pipes that are not in heated areas of the home such as the garage or a crawl space. Frozen pipes can burst and flood your home causing a lot of damage and costing a lot of money.
7. Drain Outdoor Hoses and Water Lines: Frozen garden hoses can cause an interior pipe to burst. The water that freezes in the hose will expand and this increases the pressure on the entire plumbing system. They need to be drained and disconnected. The faucets they are attached to should be drained as well. Faucet insulators can be installed to help protect them. Don't forget sprinkler lines. They should be blown out to prevent bursting and the need to replace them when summer arrives.
8. Check for Drafts: Under doors and around windows are the number one places you will feel cold air seep in when the weather turns chilly. In addition to making you feel cold, they can add to your heating costs. Caulking and weatherstripping can be used for cracks around windows and door frames to stop the cold air. Placing a rolled up towel in front of your door is one solution if you feel cold air coming from underneath. Since the door is used quite a bit, just tuck it firmly into place when you are in for the night.
9. Sweaters for Winter: A heavy sweater can actually make you feel 4 degrees warmer. Even a light sweater with long sleeves will result in added warmth of 2 degrees. Put on your sweater, turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees and you will still be cozy. A couple of throws on the sofa to snuggle under while watching television can help and save money on heating costs as well.
10. Heating System Upgrade: If your heating system is 10 years old or older you could be spending a lot more than you realize on heating. An old furnace can cost 50% more to keep your home warm than a new more energy-efficiency model. It will at least save you from 15% to 20% which is quite a bit when you consider how high heating costs can be in the winter. Additionally you reduce the risk of it breaking down in the middle of winter. If this happens your home is going to be at risk from the cold temperatures and since this is a busy time of year for repairmen you may have trouble finding someone to install a new one.