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Winterizing Your Home


Technology Snapshot & Benefits:

Homes perform differently in the different seasons, so it is important to make sure yours is ready for the strains of its next few months.   In winter, this means sealing leaks, turning down temperatures, and cleaning chimneys, furnaces, and gutters to keep your home working properly.  Simple small maintenance tasks can help save energy throughout the cold season, especially when it comes to heating your home. 


The following are a variety of the different measures you can take to winterize your home:

  • Clean your gutters.  This will help rain and snow drain properly and prevent water damage to your roof and walls.

  • Block air leaks.  Drafts can account for 5-30% of your home's energy use.  Block spaces around windows and in your basement and attic using caulking or weather stripping.  For bigger gaps under doors, consider purchasing or making a draft snake.  These are long thin tubes covered with fabric to help block air from entering and exiting the home under exterior doors and windows.  Consider having a home energy audit done on your home using a blower door test to help detect leaks.  For more information, visit our topic page on Sealing the Existing Home.

  • Insulate your home.  Insulation is one of the best ways to prevent heat loss and keep your energy bills down.  Make sure your insulation is in good condition by contacting a local contractor.  Insulate your walls and attic with high quality insulation to keep warm air from leaking out hidden places.  To find out how much insulation you need, consult Johns Manville's Insulation Calculator.

  • Check to make sure your furnace is in good, working condition.  Replace the filter and clean the furnace to make sure it can function properly. Have a professional check to see that the burner is working properly and that there are no leaks in the exhaust system.

  • Check duct work for leaks.  Properly sealed ductwork can help prevent air leakage that causes heat loss.  If you find a leak, seal it properly before winter sets in.  For more information, including a do-it-yourself guide, visit Energy Star's page on Duct Sealing.

  • Winterize your windows.  Consider installing storm windows and screens or replacing old ones with new energy-efficient windows.  For a more inexpensive option, purchase a window insulating kit from your local home improvement store.  These include layers of plastic film or sheeting that are attached to windows using double-sided tape and shrunk using a blow-dryer to seal the window. Click here for a video demonstrating how to install a window insulation kit.

  • Clean your chimney.  Clear out old ash and wood pieces yourself using a shovel, small broom, and bucket.  Consider hiring a chimney sweep to make sure your chimney is in good working condition for wintertime fires.

  • Reverse the direction of your fans.  In the summer, fan blades should rotate downward (counterclockwise if looking up at it) to help create a breeze throughout the room.   In the winter, reversing the fan's direction will help force the warm air from the top of a room down into the living space. 

  • Insulate your pipes and water heater. Wrapping your pipes and heater with an insulating blanket will help keep your water hot and avoid reheating.  You can purchase heater blankets at your local home improvement store and in most cases, are easily installed yourself.

  • Turn your hot water heater down to 120 degrees.  Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees by default.  By turning the temperature down by 20 degrees, you can save a significant amount of money and energy on your monthly heating bills.   

  • Turn your thermostat down by 4 degrees or so and put on a sweater.  Keeping your home's temperature at or around 68 degrees will help avoid excess heating costs.  Turn the temperature down a few more degrees while sleeping or out of the house can help minimize costs as well.  Instead of turning the heat up, consider putting on a sweater and socks to warm your body without using energy.  Consider installing a programmable thermostat to automatically regulate your home's temperature based on your schedule.

  • Shut the doors to rooms you don't use.  If you have extra guest rooms or storage rooms that you do not actively use, close their doors to avoid heating empty spaces.  Open them a little while before you plan on using them to warm them up again. 

  • Close your curtains and blinds.  This can help keep the warm air in and the cold air out, especially on the frostier days.  Open them if it warms up and the sun is shining to help heat your home using the passive solar, but keep them closed when temperature drops for maximum energy efficiency.

  • Make sure you have alternative heating fuels and plenty of wood on hand.  This is especially true in cold climates where winter storms could potentially cut off regular heat sources.  Kerosene heaters work as a great alternative in emergencies, but they can be dangerous.  Follow all directions and warnings when using to minimize hazards. Make sure your fireplace or wood burning stove is accessible in case you need it.

Estimated Cost Savings:

Prepping your home for the cold seasons can help lower your heating bills and keep your home comfortable, even as temperatures drop.  Many winterization steps have small upfront costs, but these are typically minimal ($10-$20) and if done properly, they can provide a return on investment within the winter months.


Federal tax credits are available from the IRS for certain winterization measures.  Click here for more information and to find out how to claim your credits.


Regional Issues:

While it is a good idea to winterize your home regardless of where you live, it is especially important in regions with colder climates.  These areas typically have harsher winds, lower temperatures, and more adverse weather conditions that can cause more issues than in milder regions. 


Installation (Getting It Done):

It is best to begin winterizing your home in early fall (around Labor Day).  Most steps can be done yourself with little or no cost, but a few require the help of certified professionals.  Ask the experts at your local home improvement store for tips and advice on do-it-yourself projects as needed.


Videos on This Topic:


How to Winterize Your Home for Comfort and Energy Efficiency  (3:19) - Contractor Lou Manfredini walks us through several steps to winterization.  Listen as he explains how to clean your furnace, replace your windows with energy-efficient models, adding insulation, and getting a home energy audit to find leaks within your home.


Winterizing Your House (2:56) - CBS - Home expert Danny Lipford gives advice on how to winterize your home, including cleaning gutters, sealing gaps and leaks, and preparing your outdoor plants early for better springtime growth.


Winterizing Tips for Your Home (4:22) - DIY Network - In this video from the Home Maintenance series hosted by Tim Hockenberry, find out how to seal your windows to help prepare your home for the winter season.


More Information on This Topic:


MSN Real Estate - Winterizing Your Home


The Daily Green - Winterizing Home Tips


CBS News - Winterizing Your Home


Planet Green - 35 Tips for Winterizing Your Home


IRS - Expanded Recovery Act Tax Credits Help Homeowners Winterize their Homes, Save Energy


Jefferson County Emergency Preparedness Guide



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