Winter temperatures are on their way into town. With cooler winds and dropping temperatures, now is a great time to winterize your home. Winterizing your home can keep areas cleaner and lower your energy bill, but the cost of winterizing a home often takes homeowners by surprise. The cost usually comes in the form of several hours of hard work.
You will spend far less time and money on your main residence than on an unoccupied home, you have listed for sale or a second home that you do not plan to use for several months.
A quick note about vacant homes:
This article will focus mainly on winterizing an occupied home to help save money on utilities and to keep fixtures and outdoor items in working condition. Winterizing a vacant home takes time and involves shutting water off to the property from inside the home and from the street. A few other things you must do include: opening all faucets to drain the waterlines and running the faucets (after shutting the water off) to ensure that all water is out of the pipes. You will also need to drain toilets, water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines. Set the thermostat low enough to keep things above freezing but not too warm, unplug all appliances and consider shutting off all gas water heaters.
Getting a vacant home ready for winter will take at least a few hours, a few phone calls and a bit of hard work. Check out this helpful website to learn more about winterizing a vacant home to protect the property against mold, mildew and the winter chill. Are you are wondering how much it costs to winterize a house with professional help? Some companies will winterize a vacant home for around $200. In most cases, you can do it yourself for less than $20.
Winterizing your occupied home:
Taking time to prepare your home for the winter will ensure that you protect all exterior portions of your home against the wind and wet weather, while the interior of your home stays warm, without sending your utility bill through the roof.
Here are a few ways you can keep your home clean and warm when the winter winds start blowing:
Check for drafts: Now is a great time to check your windows for leaks and drafts. Did you know that drafty windows can increase your energy bill (and cool your house) by between 10 and 25 percent? If purchasing new windows is not in the budget, you can reduce the amount of heat you lose by making a few simple repairs yourself. If you want, you can pay a professional to do a home energy audit. This will set you back somewhere between $300 and $500 though.
• Cover window frames with clear, thick plastic sheeting. You can also use clear tape around the edges of your windows to block leaks and drafts. You can purchase a window-insulation kit from your local hardware store. Your home will stay warm without affecting the curb appeal of your home.
• Hang thick curtains and close them at night to keep cold air out.
• Check the weather stripping on your doors and windows. Check that all window/ door joints are interlocking, to reduce leaks and drafts.
• Block drafts with a homemade draft blocker (using felt and rice) or purchase one from your local hardware store for less than $30. These blockers sit at the bottoms of your doors to keep out cold air.
• Add caulking to drafty areas. Calking will help keep cold air out when applied to gaps in the home. Keep an eye out of corners, chimneys and around the foundation. To check for leaks, light a piece of incense and move it along corners of the walls and windowsills (be careful around the curtains). When the smoke flickers, you have a leak.
Check your furnace/air conditioner: The end of fall/early weeks of winter is a great time to have your heating and air system checked. You should schedule regular service on your heating and cooling system, including cleaning and changing of the filters at least twice a year. Clean filters will allow air to flow through your home better and keep allergens away. If you have a little wiggle room, consider investing in a permanent filter, which only requires regular (monthly) cleaning instead of replacement.
Have your furnace checked before the temperatures dip, so you can rest easy knowing your heating is in good working order. If you choose to hire a professional, you will pay somewhere between $100 and $250. If you purchase a new filter on your own, you will have a much smaller bill of closer to $30.
Winterize AC and outdoor water lines: While the local heating and cooling company checks out your furnace, ask them to winterize your AC water lines (or do it yourself).
To winterize your AC lines, drain all of the hoses and air conditioner pipes and check for pools of water inside the unit. Store any hoses in a safe place. If you have a window unit, remove it and store it elsewhere to keep drafts at bay.
Take a walk around the outside of your home and drain all water spigots. Make sure you turn them off completely and seal any leaks around the edges of the spigots.
Winterize your lawn and yard: Cooler temperatures can do a lot of damage to your yard and garden. You can protect your yard against frost and freezing water with a few simple steps.
• Apply fertilizer to your lawn. Make sure to follow instructions so you can minimize the amount of fertilizer used.
• Use an aerator to get a little extra air into the soil. Aeration will improve your lawn as a standalone treatment. If you have limited time, choose this step.
• Spread cool-weather seeds, rake and water. Keep the ground moist until the cool weather sinks in. Your lawn will look great when the warmer weather returns.
• Clean off the outside of your air conditioner, clean all blades and coils.
Protect your garden: Keep your favorite plants and/or veggies safe this winter with a few preventative measures. Cold air can kill all of your hard work in a snap, so make sure to plan ahead of the cold temperatures. Follow these steps over a few days or weekends to get your garden ready:
1. Remove old vegetables/flowers etc., for compost. Remove any dead or dying flowers, leaves and branches. (Make sure to check after the first frost and remove dead foliage as well).
2. Rake up all leaves, remove weeds from the edge of your garden and sidewalks, and mow your lawn one last time.
3. Cover any containers you plan to keep outdoors. If you leave them uncovered, they could fill with water and freeze. Consider using stainless steel, aluminum, or copper covers. Waterproof plywood would also work.
4. Drain any water from pipes, sprinklers and bird feeders.
5. Properly clean and store any Terra Cotta pots. Terra Cotta can deteriorate and it can hold on to diseases from soil. Empty all pots and scrub the inside and outside with room-temperature water and a hard brush. Let the pots dry completely before storing.
6. Properly clean and store all garden tools. (Oil any blades and hinges prior to storing.) Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower as well.
Check the outside of your home: One of the most important things you can do before the weather gets cold is to inspect the exterior of your home. Check the foundation, look around your shed and make necessary repairs to keep bugs and damage at bay.
• Pull weeds and leaves away from the foundation of your home to prevent rot and to deter bugs and rodents.
• Remove any weeds, dead leaves, and other foliage from around the foundation of your home.
• Seal any outdoor cellar doors (check for rot and holes too.)
• Check crawl spaces for bugs and rodents, exterminate if necessary and seal tightly.
• Check sidewalks and patios for cracks. Repair them before the weather gets too cold. If water gets into cracks and crevices it could freeze, melt and freeze again which will make the cracks worse.
Many of the tasks necessary for winterizing your home are easy enough to accomplish yourself, or with the help of your family. Set aside a few days and strategically tackle each area so you do not get overwhelmed. When you are finished, you will be able to enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate warm in your home, while the winter winds rush outside.