Improving your Home for Winter time.

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5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

By Vernon Trollinger, November 10, 2014, Energy Efficiency


5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

Not everyone lives in a certified energy efficient home. Even homes constructed one or two decades ago that follow energy efficient practices (at the time) aren’t perfect — especially in residential developments where affordability was the main feature. But whether your home was built in this century or the sometime during the previous one, there’s probably a few things you can fix up now before winter cold invades.

Understandably, not everyone has a lot of time or the skill to tackle their home’s energy efficiency problems. So, instead of taking on the big problems, let’s look at 5 of the smaller but equally important home improvement fixes you can do right now to get your home ready for winter. And the good news is, some of these might prevent bigger problems in the future.

5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

Get out the caulk gun.

5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

Detect the problems.

1) Seal your windows

Not everyone has new, high efficiency windows. My home has 13 old 1950′s sash windows I’m planning on replacing in Spring 2015 (see photo at the top). If you’ve got old sash windows, here’s a few quick ways of getting them to seal better to last through the winter.

  • Make sure they close properly. The bottom rail of the top sash should meet against the top rail of the bottom sash. Look for dirt or gobs of dried paint that prevent this. Also make sure the top sash closes fully against the top of the window frame.
  • Repair loose or cracked glazing. Glazing seals the glass to the frame. If it’s cracked or missing, cold air and moisture can get inside. A sure sign of this is black mold forming on the window.
  • Clean dust and debris from the sill. The stuff collects where the bottom sash closes and can prevent the window from closing properly. If you have storm windows, be sure to clean the bottom of the inside part of the frame clean and keep the weep holes clear.
5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

Caulked and foam-sealed connections. The brown metal flashing keeps mice out.

2) Seal any place where pipes or wires enter your home

Say a drafty air leak costs you only a quarter. Not so bad, right? The problem is you could be tossing a bucket of quarters out of your home every day without knowing it. The most common places for air leaks are AC connections and your electrical service connections. There are also many other places where warm air escapes your home. Sewer/soil stack, recessed light fixtures, crawlspace or attic doors, and rim joists should be sealed and insulated to reduce energy waste and save you money.

5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

Seal the doors properly.

3) Check weatherstripping on all entry doors, including those that enter a garage

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “Shut a door or window on a piece of paper. If you can pull it out without tearing, you’re losing energy.” Doors need to have a snug seal. Even newer doors will settle and loosen over time. Here’s a few typical places to check.

  • Adjustable door thresholds. Many newer doors include an adjustable threshold that reduces drafts along the bottom of the door. Oddly enough, few home owners know about this feature. The threshold is held against the door’s weather stripping by springs. The height is set by turning screws.
  • 5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

    Install fresh weather stripping.

    Weather stripping. Newer doors also come with a kind of gasket that goes all the way around the door frame. You can install a similar one to an older entry door easily with this kind of weatherstripping. It’s an inexpensive self-adhesive that does a great job sealing out the cold.

4) Actually DO all that basic maintenance stuff 

  • Put a water heater blanket (or jacket) on the water heater. You could save $20 – $45 annually.
  • Fix any dripping faucets. If you have a faucet that drips 3 times/minute, you’re wasting 1 liter/day. If it’s hot water, you’re also adding the cost of heating that leaking liter. Over the course of a year, that leak can add to over 100 gallons — twice the volume of an average hot water tank.
  • Replace the furnace air filter. In fact, buy two or three extras so you can have these handy. Air filters clogged with dust reduce air flow, make your furnace run longer, and increases your heating bills. So, change the air filter every three months (or more!) with the type recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Also check that the blower compartment on your furnace seals. Look for signs of dust getting in around corners and access panels. Seal these leaks with duct mastic, aluminum duct tape, or even silicon caulk.
5 Quick DIY Home Improvement Fixes to Get Your Home Through Winter

Expensive Neglect: For years, rain and melt water ran down the exterior siding, penetrating where the window had not been caulked and sealed.

5) Clear your rain gutters

Clogged rain gutters will back up freezing water. Over time, the added weight and expanding ice can tear the gutters from the house. Frozen water can also contribute to ice dam formation and damage your roof.

During spring freeze-thaw cycles, water can over flow from the gutters instead of draining away. This water could enter your basement or (worse) seep into siding, and then freeze —causing damage that after a few years can lead the exterior sheathing and wall framing to rot.

Calculating Time and Labor

Most of these fixes should cost less than $15, about the cost of a can of expandable foam and a couple of tubes of silicon caulk. Labor should take about 15 minutes or less depending on how much you need to do. Sealing an old sash window can take longer (I always take extra time to scrub and treat the frames for mold and then clean the glass). What do you get in return? Not only will your energy bills be lower, your home will be more comfortable, and the air quality will also improve. Plus, you’ll be preventing the big, expensive home headaches before they start

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