Steps you can take to protect your home this winter from water, wind and wasted energy.
Your home is among your biggest investments that you’ll make in your lifetime, so you’ll want to do anything you can to protect it. This can sound overwhelming, but it is really a series of little things that can make a big difference. Our staff at The English Contractor is known for their attention to detail—it’s this attention to these small details that make a big difference in your home as the seasons change. We build homes and we build relationships with our clients, so a lot of theses steps that we’ve listed are things that we do for our clients.
Now you can take care of your home The English Contractor way!
To help you all prepare for the winter season, we’ve made many of our winterizing tips into a list that every homeowner can use. And to make it even easier, we’ve identified the three big winter enemies of any home and given you steps on how to protect your home and your family from each one: Water, Wind and Wasted Energy. As you’re walking through your own house, as you’re cleaning, decorating for the holidays or going about your day, keep in mind our 3 W’s to help you know what your priorities should be as the seasons change.
Your HVAC system can be a big contributor to wasted energy. It’s a good idea to have a maintenance plan with an HVAC company and have inspections of your entire system twice a year, preferably before you’re about to turn on your heat in the winter and your air conditioner in the summer. This is a great time to trouble shoot and change filters to take care of any issues before the weather gets really extreme. Dirty filters not only restrict airflow, but they make your system work that much harder to heat or cool your home, which can drive up your energy bill and create increased wear and tear. Put a reminder in your calendar to change your filters once a month.
Are you holding off on replacing your furnace in order to protect your wallet? You might have initial sticker shock at the cost of this big home improvement project, but an older, inefficient system can be costing you more in maintenance and energy bills. A new system will render some monthly cost savings, which will quickly add up. Plus, you might be eligible for a federal tax credit for a new furnace, that might cover a percentage of your total cost.
A lot of our work with water is keeping it away from the house. But down here in the basement, this is a good time to pay attention to the water we use in the house with the water heater.
So, after you’ve checked on your furnace, give your water heater a check. This can happen any time of the year, but I feel like as we experience the swing in temperature in the winter, it is a good time to make sure all of your systems are running efficiently.
Many home water heaters are set to 140 degrees when they are installed. However, most homes don’t need their water heated to that temperature. Not only does heating your water impact your energy bill, but having water that is turned up to too high a temperature is a safety issues, particularly if you have young children in the home. Consider turning the temperature down to 120 degrees. It’s much safer and can lead to energy savings of up to 10%.
Did you know that more than half of your energy consumed each month is from either heating or cooling your house? Are you heating your house when no one is home? Consider lowering your thermostat when you’re leaving the house. Every degree you lower, you save about 1% on your heating and cooling bill. Lots of our customers are installing smart systems to make this something you can even down when you’re away from home. Just don’t make your heat too low while you’re gone. We recommend no lower than 60-degrees to make sure your pipes do not freeze.
While you’re checking your home temperature, check the vents in each room. Make sure that vents are open in the rooms where you live the most. You’ll also want to make sure that your vents are not obstructed by any of your furniture, which will restrict air flow and efficient heating of each room.
Windows, Doors & Outlets
There are lots of places in a home where energy can escape. Think about it in terms of entry points to the home. Doors and windows are an obvious place. But also pipes, that allow water to exit and enter the house. Just by spending time in your home in the colder months, you can probably pretty easily locate drafty areas within your home. Those drafts are places where you are losing money! The winter is not a great time to start replacing windows and doors. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer all winter long. If you notice drafts coming from a window, try adding caulk or weather stripping around the window. If you notice a draft coming from your door, you can add weather stripping, but sometimes a rolled up towel will do the trick. Insulation added to pipes on the inside of the house can keep them from losing heat or from freezing. The basement and attic are other places where you can lose a significant amount of heat. You may want to consider scheduling an energy audit. You can do this by calling Duke Energy. They will often provide an energy audit for free and give you lots of tips on improving the energy efficiency of your home.
Wood Burning Fireplace
Will you be using your chimney a lot as the weather turns cold? Call a good chimney sweep to make sure you chimney is clean from ashes and creosote. To keep your chimney running well, make sure it if fitted with a cap to keep out birds and rodents. Inspect the damper to make sure it is opening and closing properly. (And make sure it is open before you start a fire!) You’ll want to make sure your fire wood is stored in a dry place, ideally away from the house, since it is a great hiding place for critters.
It is important to note that masonry fireplaces are pretty energy inefficient, as heated air from the room is drawn up the chimney. If you have burning embers in your fireplace when you go to bed a night, you’ll want to keep your flue open to protect yourself from carbon monoxide. Don’t keep your flue open all of the time because you will lose a great deal of heat this way.
Ceiling fans are everyone's favorite summer budget-saver. But they can help out in the winter months as well! Have your ceiling fans move in a clockwise direction so they push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor. If they're going counterclockwise, they won't be as effective.
While this step doesn’t quite fit into our 3 W’s, as we work harder against energy waste and weather elements, we have to think about safety from carbon monoxide and fire. That’s why its important to think about your home alarms. The usual rule of thumb is to change your fire and carbon monoxide batteries with the seasonal time change. But if you haven’t done that yet, take the time to do it now. A fire in the fire place and the use of space heaters increase the hazards for carbon monoxide and for fire, so having these alarms in good working order is critical for your safety. While you’re at it, think about other supplies you might need in a weather emergency. Now’s the time to stock up on flashlights and batteries, candles and matches and perhaps bottled water and canned food, in case of a multi-day power outage.
Roof & Gutters
Leaves have been falling! Have they been collecting into your gutters? Make sure they get cleaned out. Gutters help direct water away from your home. You want to make sure they are able to do their job. And consider installing leaf guards in the spring. This small investment can help save you time and money in the fall and winter. Do a visual inspection of your roof. Do you have loose shingles? Is your flashing loose? Make those repairs before it is snowy and icy or before the wind takes loose shingles and sends them flying!
In the winter, water is not your friend as temperatures drop. Make sure you disconnect garden hoses and drain all external water sources. If you use an automatic sprinkler system, you should have your service provider out to blow the water out. If water is to freeze, you could have a broken pipe on your hand, which will be costly to repair. Does your air conditioner have a water shut-off valve? If so, it’s time to turn it off. Once again, if you’re leaving the house for a vacation, make sure you keep your heat set to at least 60-degrees to save your pipes.
Take a stroll around your home. Are tree branches hanging near your home or exterior wires? Time to call a local landscaper or tree service to make sure you remove low hanging branches. If these branches get heavy with ice, they could cause a lot of damage. A strong wind storm can end up doing a lot of damage
Do you have the equipment you need? Does your snow blower need a tune up? Do you need new show shovels? How’s your supply of ice melter? It’s easier to stock up now than when an impending storm is approaching. Summer is over, but don’t neglect those garden tools. Now is a time to make sure everything is clean and put away safely. While you’re at it, this is a good time to put away your deck furniture to protect it from elements and to protect your home should heavy winds turn outdoor décor into projectiles