3 W's of Winterizing Your Home: Water, Wind and Wasted Energy

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.

 


Wasted Energy

Furnace

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.

 

Water Heater

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%. 


Thermostat

Be smart about energy usage during the winter season and save some cash.

Be smart about energy usage during the winter season and save some cash.

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

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. 

 

Safety Measures

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.

Start the season off right with a clean fireplace and a well-working flue.

Start the season off right with a clean fireplace and a well-working flue.

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer cooling!

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer cooling!



Water

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!

 

Outside Water

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.


Wind

Landscaping 

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

 

 Equipment

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

It’s easier to protect your home all winter long if you have the right tools. Invest in them now!

It’s easier to protect your home all winter long if you have the right tools. Invest in them now!

Trim branches before strong winds or ice do damage to surrounding structures.

Trim branches before strong winds or ice do damage to surrounding structures.

Need more tips on protecting your home? Follow us on Facebook @TheEnglishContractor.

Home Renovation Partnership
 

A major home renovation project is often the result of an amazing partnership, a combination of craftsmanship and art, a shared vision, and a well-honed relationship between contractor, architect and designer. Although there are many types of projects of different scope and scale that The English Contractor can act as your full-service provider, there are certain projects that depend on this beautiful partnership. But how do you know what professionals to call in for your home renovation project? First, it is important to understand which role that each professional will play in the process. It’s so much more than a business transaction—it’s an ongoing partnership!

 
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Architect

For large scale home renovations, additions or completely new builds, we recommend that you start with an architect. They’ll listen to you for an understanding of what you hope to accomplish for your new space, as well as your budget, so they can help put together a plan to make it all happen. Additionally, you can hire an architect to manage your project from start to finish, making sure that your initial vision remains in the forefront throughout the process.

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Designer

A designer can take your architectural plans to the next level by adding beauty and style to form and function. A designer can help you finalize and customize your floor plan with the addition of details like built-ins or cupboards. What’s more, a designer can often help with color and material ideas—including furnishing the finished product.

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Contractor

The job of the contractor is to bring all of these plans to life. Once they have the architectural and designer plans in hand, they can help you nail down the final cost of the project, including labor and materials. They will manage the nuts and bolts of the project, bringing in the right people at the right time, like carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. A contractor will oversee the project from beginning to end, at times working with the architect and designer to tweak final designs. Your contractor is on the front lines of the project, bringing it to completion and tackling hurdles along the way. That’s why we think it’s important for a contractor to have an eye for detail and a bit of creativity, in addition to skilled craftsmanship.


Of course, there are plenty of home projects that don’t require a complete team. Are you wondering what types of projects are best for the architect/designer/contractor triumvirate and which ones a builder like The English Contractor can handle on our own? If you’re ready to start planning your Cincinnati-area home renovation or new build, give us a call!

A Star is Born!
 

Hollywood’s got nothing on Cincinnati! And while building a new home or undertaking a huge renovation is not all fun and games, we sure had a great time working with the team at HGTV on this year’s Urban Oasis.

In many ways, the HGTV Urban Oasis home began like any other project: with a phone call. And that’s how it usually begins for us. With a phone call, an email or a message on Facebook. Because as we all know, there is a huge vetting process with hiring a contractor. You want to know if they have handled similar projects before. You want to know what problems they have encountered and how they’ve addressed them. Do they stick to their budget? Do they reasonably mange timelines? But of course, in this case, our mysterious client wanted to know if we could manage all of the above, while completing the project in complete secrecy.

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The HGTV Urban Oasis home is a show stopper and its Cincinnati red curb appeal makes it a traffic stopper too.

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Working in secrecy has its challenges.

When we manage a large project, the project is given a name—usually the client’s name—to help us manage our queue. We need the last name to help with our deliveries—things like building materials, or, ahem, an outdoor loo. As a nod to our English heritage, this project was nicknamed Windsor. Could be a common last name, could be royalty? Who knew? Although we know that some of our vendors, suppliers and neighbors were suspicious, we tried to explain everything away. You saw a camera? We’re filming a commercial. An HGTV celebrity sighting? Surely it must be a Cincinnati doppelganger. You must be seeing things! Although we typically take before and after photos, our crew was under strict orders not to breathe a word of it or take one picture. We stuck to the letter of the law. We know it can be difficult to keep a big secret under wraps, especially in a small city like Cincinnati. But if the secret got out early, we can guarantee, it wasn’t from one of our crew.

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Of course, now the word is out. The show has aired! We’ve given televised tours of the home. And the home is frequently in the background of many an Instagram selfie. Have you been following the star of Cincinnati’s latest reality show? The HGTV Urban Oasis home is a show stopper and its Cincinnati red curb appeal makes it a traffic stopper too.  Post your picture and tag us on Instagram @theenglishcontractor.