As the first day of fall is upon us, we can’t help but feel the weather changing. Football, cooler temperatures and changing colors all give us the indication that winter is on the way. Here in the Midwest, the season changes are so defined. This is a critical time for maintaining your home and continuing or starting some good habits. Preparing your home for winter is key to keeping up the durability of your home and the comfort of the occupants.
Here are some simple tips on preparing your home for the upcoming winter:
1. Rake the leaves regularly or at least after the last have fallen. This is much easier to do right after they fall verses in the spring once they have sat under snow for mouths.
2. Clean out the gutters/downspouts during or after all the leaves have fallen. You want to make sure water can drain off the roof in a controlled fashion throughout the fall and during the winter thaws. This is also crucial to avoiding problems during the spring rainy season. Water is the single most destructive force on a home. Not properly managing it can cause major damage.
3. Replace the furnace filter prior to using the furnace. This should be changed on a regular basis, but especially important at this stage. If you have central air and used it throughout the summer, chances are the filter is dirty. Having a nice new filter will help the air quality and the performance of the furnace.
4. Consider having your furnace tuned up by a HVAC professional. Furnaces need continued maintenance, so if its been awhile since it was tuned up, it might be a good call. If your furnace is natural drafting, it might be a good idea to have a combustion safety check on it and the water heater.
5. Make sure you have your programmable thermostat set to winter settings prior to running the furnace. If you already did this the previous winter, just make sure its set to your current schedule. If you leave for work, make sure its not set too low. I recommend lowering it to 65-68 Degrees F during the day when everyone is gone. Try setting it to the same temp range during sleeping hours as well. Try to not set it higher than 72 when occupants are home. I recommend between 68-72. This isn’t going to give considerable savings, but every little bit helps.
6. Wear warmer cloths around the house. Don’t wear shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of the winter. Where long pants and a sweat shirt at home. This allows you to keep the temperature lower and thus lower energy bills.
7. Make sure all furniture and obstructions are moved away from heat and return air registers. Also make sure all dampers are open allowing maximum air flow. Also make sure all registers are open.
8. Once you are sure you are done using the AC, buy a AC cover to go over the unit for the winter. This will help protect the unit from snow and other elements.
9. During the winter months, utilize the solar heat gain from the morning and afternoon sun by opening those blinds in those areas of the house. This will not be the case for every home and is a give and take situation. For homes with older windows, you can take advantage of this, but in the summer you are worse off since the heat gain will make your AC work harder. For home with new low-E coated windows, well, you are cutting down on the heat gain in the winter and summer, but taking advantage of a better sealed window (that is if its installed correctly).
10. Winter will generally bring dryer conditions inside the home. Make sure you monitor the relative humidity level in the home during all times of year but, especially during the winter. The ideal relative humidity is between 30-50%. In colder climates during the winter you might need it to be between 30-40% to prevent condensation on windows. If the relative humidity is too low, this can lead to sore throats, nose bleeds and comfort problems. There are solutions to this problem. The most obvious one is getting a humidifier or using the one that is attached to the furnace. Unfortunately this is only a band-aid and only treats the symptoms. The only real solution is to eliminate the air infiltration. When the cold outdoor air mixes with the indoor air it lowers the relative humidity inside the home and thus makes the home dryer. Seal up the air leaks.
11. If you don’t use your fireplace, make sure it is sealed up tight. If you use the fireplace in the winter, make sure you seal it up tight after each use. I also recommend making sure the flue is clean.
I realize a lot of these tips seem obvious, but many homeowners fail to consider these actions. Our home is typically the biggest financial investment in our lives and we need to protect that. Nothing hits the value of your home harder than deterioration. Making sure utility bills are low, occupants are comfortable and safe is also a reason to continue to maintain your home.
If you have any concerns with your home, its a good idea to get a professional in there and get a Home Energy Audit.