Winterizing Your Home

Image of model of a home with a scarf

If you live in a region that experiences cold winter months, it's important to ensure that your home is as energy-efficient as possible. Although you may need a professional for some of the jobs, there's also a lot you can do yourself to save money on energy bills.

Simple Steps to Winterizing Your Home

It's that time of year again. Winter means holidays, snowball fights, and winterizing your home to withstand the cold months ahead. There are many things we can do to winterize our homes before the snow comes that will help decrease our utility payments, and also protect our home from having issues from the low temperatures. Anything from water pipes to windows and doors can be winterized in your home and we're here to tell you how to make sure you're as prepared as you can be this winter. Here are some tips for how you can prepare your home for the coming months.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems are all included in the HVAC category and can have negative effects on your home and your finances if not properly winterized. Heat can escape through air ducts and vents and leave your house chilly and expensive during winter.

  • Have your HVAC serviced at least every 2 years. Be sure to check your filters every month or two in the winter and change/clean accordingly.
  • Make sure the heat can circulate properly in your house. See that all of your supply and return vents aren't being blocked by furniture or curtains.
  • Reduce the temperature. Turning down the thermostat by 10 degrees during the night or when you're not home can save you up to 20% in your total heating costs. A programmable thermostat makes this easy. Be aware of the needs of young children and the elderly, since they could be adversely affected by the lower temperatures.
  • Sealing ducts can save a consumer between 10-30% of their heated air from escaping. A properly sealed duct system can save an average of $140 dollars annually for a family.
  • Run ceiling fans in reverse. By doing this, the blades push the warm air that's near the ceiling back down to circulate through the room.

Hot Water

Nobody enjoys paying for too much hot water in the winter unless it's being used for hot showers after an afternoon of shoveling the sidewalk. In the winter, we can lose a lot of our heat (and money) if we're not careful. Repairing leaking hot water facets, replacing old water tanks, and insulating pipes are just a few of the things you can do to winterize your home.

  • In your washing machine, use cold water. If you have electric heat you could save $40 a year. With gas heat, you could save up to $30 a year.
  • Insulate hot water pipes to prevent heat loss.
  • Turning your water heater temperature down to 120 degrees can reduce hot water costs by 6-10%.

Windows and Doors

According to Energy Star, about 20% of the air you use to heat your house is lost through leaks and incomplete sealing on windows and doors. This type of loss can contribute to high costs and a home that is hard to keep warm!

  • Install insulated windows in place of old windows. Insulated windows prevent more heat from escaping than single pane windows.
  • Caulk windows and doors from the inside and out to prevent leaks.
  • Purchase door draft stoppers. You can also make these on your own to save money using various things throughout your home such as scrap material and dry rice or beans.
  • Install window insulation film to prevent heat from escaping.
  • Make sure your window and door jams are insulated. If not, use either fiberglass or spray-foam insulation (made for windows and doors)

Attic Insulation and Roofing

Poor insulation can be the cause of high heating costs in the wintertime. Good insulation can save energy costs in the winter and the summer and should be updated and added to as needed throughout the year. There are several types of insulation, each with its own benefits, so check with a professional to see which type would work best for winterizing your home.

  • Check attic insulation and add more if necessary. A good rule of thumb is: If your home has less than 7 inches of insulation in the attic, consider adding more.
  • Energy Star can help you calculate the recommended level of insulation for your home in order to save you the most money. (Click here to go to the Energy Star Insulation Calulator.)
  • Get your roof shingle inspected by a professional before the first snow. Loose, rotten or cracked shingles can cause water to leak into your home when the snow melts on your roof.

Other Winterizing Tips

Keep your fireplace flue/damper closed tightly when you're not using the fireplace. Please note that some gas fireplaces require that the damper is open, so be sure to check with your manufacturer or the person who installed it to be sure. A gas insert that is not properly ventilated can be extremely dangerous. Another solution is to install glass fireplace doors, which can drastically reduce heat loss. Chimneys with an open flue when not in use can actually suck heat from the home like a vacuum.

Note: Low-income homes may qualify for an average of $6,500, to be used for weatherization, through state government programs. Click here to learn more about available government incentives and programs.