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Winterizing Your Home

Mother Nature and I are in cahoots. Just as I started thinking about writing a nice “winterizing” article, she sends a blast of reaaaaalllly cold weather our way. We’re looking at a hard freeze and maybe even a bit of SNOW this week in Middle Tennessee, so there’s no time like the present to prepare your home for the coming months. Your home and your wallet will thank you!

  • Cut energy costs by eliminating drafts around doors and windows. Your local home improvement store has plenty of options to help you find and eliminate drafts that might be wasting 30% of your monthly energy! Inspect and caulk areas of your home where two different building materials meet and around corners, chimneys and foundational cracks or gaps.
  • Especially if you own an older home, hire an insulation professional to do a thorough inspection and consider adding insulation to your home. Adding more insulation between your walls, in your attic, basement and crawl spaces can save you a great deal of money and, best of all… Uncle Sam will reimburse you up to 30% of the cost (up to $1,500 for high-efficiency insulation).
  • If you really want to be thorough, hire a professional technician to inspect your ductwork. Properly sealed ducts can save an average household more than $100 per year. In addition, you’ll have better protection against mold and dust.
  • Speaking of dust, furnace filters really need to be changed MONTHLY during the winter. Dirty filters restrict air flow and increase energy demand. Buy filters in bulk and change them when you pay your mortgage each month.
  • Lower your water heater from the factory-preset 140 degrees to a more reasonable 120 degrees. Most households don’t need the extra heat… it’s a waste of money and contributes to scalding burns. Best of all, this twenty degree reduction can cut your water heating costs by 6%.
  • Many ceiling fans come with a switch that allows the fan to run in two directions. Yes, during the summer you want the cooling effect of a counter-clockwise rotation, but in the winter, a clockwise rotation recirculates warm air and can cut your heating costs by up to 10%.
  • Drain hoses, water spigots and air conditioner pipes so that pooled water won’t freeze and burst the lines. Hoses should always be removed from spigots and stored in sheds or garages.
  • Install storm doors and windows. I know this can be an expensive initial endeavor, but storm doors and windows can increase your energy efficiency by 45%. That is a huge savings! Also, energy efficient doors, windows and skylights qualify for a federal tax credit covering 30% of the cost (up to $1,500). If you can’t afford storm windows, consider putting insulating plastic over your windows. Installed correctly, it is virtually invisible.
  • You wouldn’t consider running your car for hundreds of thousands of miles without a tune-up. Treat your furnace to the same tune-up treatment. Many utility companies offer free annual checkups, but call early… HVAC crews get backed up when the weather takes a turn!
  • Insulate your pipes! Not only will this decrease your chance of frozen and ruptured pipes, but insulated pipes produce more hot water for less money. Most hardware stores sell pre-slit foam that can be cut to size and secured with duct tape. Once again, you can submit this cost for a 30% reimbursement on your next tax return.
  • Programmable thermostats make it easy to save money and make sure you’re not heating an empty home. They generally cost about $50 , but can save you $180 annually.

Last, but not least… have your chimney cleaned, light a blazing fire, cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa and a soft blanket. Now that your greatest investment, your home, is secure and ready for the cold weather, you’ve earned a wee winter’s rest, too.

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