Angie's List: More ways to winterize your home
With colder days coming, right now is an excellent time to take stock of your home and prepare for the winter months. A few simple steps taken right now can lower energy bills and increase home safety and comfort this year.
1. Check that chimney and furnace
Before firing up your furnace this season, ask an HVAC technician to perform a tune-up to make sure it's working safely. A yearly inspection on both for furnace and air conditioner will prolong the life of your HVAC system and lower energy bills over the long run. Likewise, don't light the first fire until your chimney sweep gives the all-clear after cleaning any buildup and inspecting the flue for any problems.
2. Clear rain gutters
Autumn leaves likely cluttered your rain gutters, but get out your ladder or ask a handyman to clear debris before the first snowfall. Melting snow that refreezes in clogged gutters can cause an ice dam that may damage your roof. Make sure downspouts direct water at least 5 feet away from the house to avoid flooding and water damage.
3. Seal leaky windows and doors
If new efficient windows aren't in your budget this year, cover up this costly source of air leaks to keep cold winds out and warm air inside. A handyman can install weather stripping and caulk around the doors and windows, or seal them with plastic film.
4. Protect your pipes
Prevent a winter water blowout by removing and draining hoses on outside spigots. Use spray foam insulation to fill any openings around the hose bib to prevent cold air from infiltrating the wall and freezing the pipes inside. Insulate pipes in exterior walls, crawl spaces or attics, and leave indoor faucets trickling to keep water flowing during a freeze. If your outdoor faucets have a separate shut-off valve, close the valve, open the spigots to drain remaining water and leave them open until spring.
5. Ensure your insulation measures up
Take a ruler to your attic and see how many inches of insulation separate you from the outside air. Most homes should have at least 12 inches in the attic depending on the type of insulation, and the farther north you live the thicker it should be. If you're not covered, call an insulation company to add more.
6. Audit your energy usage
An energy efficiency auditor can pinpoint the exact sources of wasted energy in your home, helping to assess which windows leak and what wall lacks insulation. You can hire an auditor for a detailed assessment for a fee, or check with your utilities as some gas or electric companies offer basic audits for customers.
7. Trim your trees
Cut back overgrown branches near the house and near any electrical wires. Ice and snow buildup can cause branches to break, potentially snapping a line (or damaging your home) on their way down.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.