How to be a Pro When Winterizing your Home
Just when we least expect it, winter can still strike a deadly blow in our region. It not only puts personal safety at risk but also can lead to costly damage to homes.
Yet, a few basic winterizing steps are often enough to prevent this type of damage. If you haven’t already taken them, it's definitely not too late to take action.
And it needn't cost a fortune. It's perfectly feasible to winterize a home on a budget. In fact, some of the most effective precautions you can take are also among the lowest cost measures.
Furthermore, the time and money you invest now could see your home more effectively protected in future years -- as well as adding to its year-round energy efficiency.
What do I need to winterize my home?
When people ask, "How do I winterize my home?", there's often a simple one-word answer that encompasses most of the tasks: Insulate.
If you wrap insulating materials around your water and gas pipes, especially any that run outdoors or in cold areas like garages and attics, you've probably done the most important thing you can to protect yourself from bursts and the damage they can cause.
How do you winterize your pipes from freezing?
Without getting too technical, the effectiveness of insulation depends on what is known as its "R-Value". The US Department of Energy says your pipe insulation should have a minimum R-Value of 3. But, whatever you go for, bigger is definitely better!
The easiest and best-value types of pipe insulation are foam and rubber tubing. It usually comes in packs of 6ft lengths, with a split along the full length, making it easy to install. You cut it to size and can then seal it if you wish with duct tape.
Foam insulation costs from around $1.50 per length, while rubber tubing can be around twice that -- still good value though.
Don’t forget to check the diameter of your pipes before you buy. Most internal piping is half-inch but supply branches can be three-quarters.
What Else Needs Insulation?
Insulated pipes are just the start of a safer, warmer home. Other items and areas you need to protect include:
- Your hot water tank. This is more a protective measure against heat loss than against leaks. Installing a single-piece tank jacket takes just a few minutes and costs from around $15 to $30, the money you will easily recoup over time with lower energy bills. You can pay a lot more for advanced-insulation jackets.
- Your roof void. In modern homes, you lose most of your heat -- some say as much as 85% -- through the attic and roof. Laying down rolls of glass fiber, if they're not already installed, can make a huge difference to your home comfort. However, there are some safety precautions you need to follow to avoid injury from this material. Find some useful tips here: https://tinyurl.com/fiber-protect Or, this might be a job you hire a contractor for.
R Values are important here. For a mid-range R-Value, expect to pay around $25 a roll.
Other materials are available for insulating roof voids, such as no-itch polywrap.
- Your outside and garage faucets. These should be done already. If not, get them covered now. You can buy simple-to-install, purpose-designed covers for just a couple of dollars.
- Your windows. We're not talking about pricey dual-pane glazing here. You can achieve almost the same effect on a budget by buying and installing a special film that can be cut to size and mounted. A 5-window kit costs around $20 - though you can buy more expensive but easier-to-install systems with plastic frames.
- Doors and other draft routes. Cold outside air will search out any possible opening to invade your home. Even if you have dual-pane windows, drafts can still creep in through cracks around the frame -- so caulk them.
But door frames are the main culprits. Installing draft exclusion in the form of either adhesive foam or rubber strips that run around the frame is quick and cheap -- from as little as $5 for a 15ft roll. Also, consider anti-draft strips for the bottom of the door. And if you don’t have time for that, buy or make a fat draft excluder "snake" you can run along the bottom of the door.
- Your walls? People who live in an older property often ask, "How do you winterize an older home?" All of the above tips apply -- but you're possibly also losing heat through the walls, which probably were not insulated when the home was built. Although wall insulation is a more expensive and possible contractor-fitted job, you can reduce some heat loss by hanging wall rugs and tapestries. Accomplished DIYers might be able to tackle more complex wall insulation projects. Check out this article for more: https://tinyurl.com/wall-insul
More Home Winterizing Tips
There's a handful of other things you can do to winterize your home at little or no cost. For instance:
- Close up your fireplace if you have one.
- Add heavy drapes and area rugs.
- Change furnace filters.
- Replace an old or standard thermostat with a smart-device that learns to adjust to your heating needs.
- Clean gutters to remove fall leaves and loose roofing material debris.
- Have warm air ducts cleaned.
- And here's a great but oft-overlooked tip that can add to the warmth of your home: switch the direction of ceiling fans to clockwise.
- Yes, reversing the direction of fans you normally use for cooling makes them push hot air across the ceiling and down towards the floor, at the same time as drawing up warm air from any floor vents.
While winterizing your home is an important way of protecting your home, don’t overlook the power of insurance to put things right for you if they do go wrong.
Homeowners insurance can meet the cost of damage caused by bursts, windstorm, and several other perils. Flood insurance (not usually included in homeowners insurance) provides additional protection.
If you'd like to discuss any of these or other insurance needs, please contact your friends at Newbridge Coverage.