Old Man Winter
Northern Indiana winter. We all know it can be unpredictable. Will it snow? Will it ice? Will it all melt the next day? Yes, yes and yes.
One thing is certain though. It’s cold regardless. Old Man Winter can be nice and serene and other times he can be downright nasty. This month we’re going to hit on some important ways to prepare your home for the winter. As usual since I like lists, let’s take a look at my personal list as I prep our home each year:
- Close Up Crawl Space Vents
If you have a crawl space, this applies to you. If not, then you can skip this step. For us who have a crawl space, there are almost always vents in at least 2 places (front and back of the house usually). These are perfectly fine to close up for the winter. In fact, you should close them up. They’re really only useful for the summer months to help keep the crawl space aired out and dry. Just make sure you remember to open the vents back up come summer!
In the winter, closing them up helps prevent big drafts in old flooring if you have that. And more importantly, it can help keep the drafts from freezing up pipes. Depending on the style of vent, you could remove the vent frame and put a piece of foam in it and then put the frame back on. If you have an old house like mine, the vent is often just an old ceramic pipe with a screen on it. You may have seen old houses with some straw bails around parts of the foundation. This is why. Place a bail of straw where that hole is to help insulate and close it up. You can buy a bail of straw at a local farm store for $4 or $5.
- Clean the Gutters
I’ve covered this one before in a previous issue, but I’ll say it again. Before winter hits, be sure to clean the leaves and debris out of your gutters. If gutters get clogged during a rain, then the rain freezes, your gutters will start tearing away from the house and could cause some serious damage very quickly. If you don’t want to climb around on the roof to clean them out, hire someone. Make sure they’re insured though in case of an accident. Depending on the size of your gutter system, it should cost $200 at most. That’s a lot less money then it would cost if you don’t do it and the gutters cause damage.
- Insulate Water Pipes
This primarily applies to water pipes running on an exterior wall. Older houses will often have them on exterior walls. Newer homes are unlikely to have any water lines running on exterior walls. Just go to the hardware store and buy the black foam tubes, put those around the pipes and that will do wonders to prevent any pipes from freezing.
- Change the Furnace Filter
This should only need to be done twice per year if you buy a high-quality furnace filter. Once in the Spring and once in the Winter. If you buy cheap filters, it should be done monthly. I suggest paying the extra for a higher quality filter. When I say higher quality, you’re looking at $35-$40 two times per year. The cheap ones are around $10 and need changed each month. It’s cheaper over the course of a year to buy higher quality filters, plus it will keep your air quality better and is more energy efficient for your furnace. The most important thing when changing your furnace filter though is to make sure you put the new one in the correct way. If you’re not sure which way it goes, ask for help. Also, make sure you check the size filter you need before going to buy a new one. Here’s a link to a quick video showing how to change the filter:
- Wrap Your Windows
This step is more for older homes, but it can still have some potential benefit on homes that are just a few years old. Wrapping your windows on the inside will add a second barrier to prevent cold air from leaking in. First, before you hit the store, measure all the windows you need to wrap. Do the quick calculation on how many feet of wrap you’ll need. Then go to the store and buy the window wrap kits. It comes with the double-sided tape and the big film sheets. Most brands have a standard of 0.7 mil thickness. Heavier duty sheets come in 1.5 mil thickness. The thickness you’ll want depends on how old and how drafty your windows are.
To see how to install the wrapping properly, check out this video:
- Plug Up Drafty Doors
This doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to go buy the fancy draft guards for under the door. I’ve even used a rolled-up towel before in front of a door at the back of my home where it’s out of sight from visitors. There are also fairly inexpensive foam adhesive strips you can buy at the store and install around the edges and below your doors.
- Adjust the Heat
Don’t turn your furnace off completely. But adjust the temperature when you’re not going to be home for a while. If you’ll be gone at work or gone for several hours, turning the heat down to around 60 degrees can save energy and money. Turn it back up when you’re home obviously then. I would recommend not turning the heat down below 55 degrees though just to be on the safe side with the water pipes.
- Use Your Ceiling Fan
If you have any ceiling fans, use them. Heat rises. Put your ceiling fan on the lowest setting so it gently pushes that warm air back down and circulates the warm air around the room. A tip on this though – when the fan is going clockwise, it’s pushing air down; if the fan is turning counter-clockwise, you need to switch it because it’s pulling air up. If you didn’t realize it, like I hadn’t for years, there’s a small switch on the fan that controls the direction it spins.
- Use the Sun
I don’t mean get solar panels. What I mean is, open the curtains during the day. You’d be surprised at how much that sunlight shining in will heat your home. Close the curtains at night so they can act as another barrier to cold air leaking in through the windows.
- Bundle Up
This one’s really simple. The higher you keep the temperature in your home, the more energy you use and the more your heating bill will be. I keep my house at 67 degrees the majority of the time when we’re home. We just wear sweatshirts, heavier pants and socks. Or we put on a blanket when we’re relaxing. Unfortunately for my wife, my sons and I also like cold weather. To help make up for her suffering, every year for Christmas the boys and I just buy her some new insulated pants and those fuzzy socks that she loves. It helps. 😊
I hope you have a great holiday season and be sure to check out next months’ newsletter when I give some tips on playing the credit game and making credit work for you. And please like us on Facebook!