By Becky Quinten
Now is the time to prepare for bad weather and to protect your home from the elements. Weatherizing your home can increase your cold-weather comfort and reduce expenses.
Use the following tips to make your winter days at home more comfortable and cozy.
- Carefully inspect your windows for cracks and gaps. Caulking will prevent warm air loss and decrease your heating bills. There are many varieties of caulk at a wide range of prices. Don’t worry about laying the perfect caulk line. If your results are not perfect, it is easy to clean up misplaced caulk from glass with a razor or a damp cloth if the caulk is still wet. Install weather stripping if needed. Storm windows are available for both the interior and exterior now. Some exterior storm windows can be left up year round and have screens so windows can be opened in warmer months. Check with the local electric company to see what rebates are available for installing storm windows.
- Clean your gutters so the roof can properly drain. Repair or replace loose or damaged gutters. Proper roof drainage will prevent water from seeping into the shingles and extend the life of your roof.
- Check your shingles; they are your house’s umbrella. Replace damaged or curled shingles and re-nail loose shingles to prevent damage to the roof’s underlayment.
- Cover your exterior faucets to prevent the pipes from freezing. Be sure to disconnect the garden hose from the faucet.
- If you have a wood stove or fireplace, be sure it is cleaned so the cresol residue from the wood does not catch fire. Be sure to check your fireplace screens and invest in a fireplace rug that will protect the flooring or carpet from sparks. Have your fire extinguisher serviced and place it where you can reach it quickly.
- Insulate the water heater and any exposed pipes to prevent freezing and to save money. Energy Saver at energy.gov says insulating the water heater can reduce standby heat loss by 25 to 45 percent and decrease water heating costs up to 9 percent.
- Check and upgrade your attic insulation if needed. Proper venting of the attic is essential and can reduce your heating and cooling costs throughout the year. The local electric company can advise you on how to weatherize and the Tennessee Valley Authority offers a rebate for insulating. You can enroll in the program at www.tva.gov. Currently, TVA recommends an insulation value of R38. Additionally, there is a tax break for weatherizing your home. Save all your receipts so you can take advantage of the savings.
- Inspect your exterior doors and thresholds for gaps. Caulk or weatherize as needed. Refer to no. 1 for tips on caulking any cracks you find.
- Check the batteries and test your smoke alarms. If you don’t have smoke alarms or they no longer work, this is an ideal time to invest in new ones.
- Carbon monoxide detectors can alert you to the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Some detectors can be plugged into an outlet, eliminating the need for batteries.
Need help weatherizing your home? Hire a contractor.
- Get referrals from friends and neighbors. TVA will provide you with a list of approved contractors once you have enrolled in the home weatherization program called E-score. You can enroll at www.tva.gov.
- Ask to see the contractor’s license and proof of insurance.
- Ask what warranty they will provide for their work and get it in writing, preferably on the written quote.
- The quote should outline what they are going to do. It should itemize the costs for each item, when the work will be done and the payment schedules.
- Since contractors are private businesses, prices may vary widely. Get multiple quotes and carefully compare what services each will provide. If you prefer the contractor with the higher price, ask what extra value you are getting for your money.