5 Steps to Cozy: Winterizing Your Home
Thankfully, we don't get much snow here in the Southeast, but things can still get pretty chilly. Here are a few simple things you can do to stay cozy in the coming cold weather, and to save on heating bills, too!
1. Use Window Coverings to Warm Up & Stay Warm!
Controlling heat loss and heat gain are key to managing temperatures inside your house. Keep the blinds and curtains CLOSED when it is cold, and especially when the wind is blowing! Open the blinds or curtains on the sunny side of the house, and you will be amazed at how much heat comes in. Keep the heat inside by closing the window coverings after the sun has moved across the sky or when it is setting. This simple trick of opening and shutting curtains lets you warm a sunny room for free. A double layer of blinds AND curtains adds insulation to the windows, and stops heat loss at night, or when the weather is cold and windy.
The opposite strategy can be used in the summer -- close the blinds when the sun is shining in, and keep the heat of July and August outside, where it belongs. It is surprisingly effective.
2. Stop Drafts Through Doors, Windows and Chimneys
Have you ever felt cold, yet your heat was set pretty high? You may have been sitting in a draft. This is a major cause of high utility bills, and it's so easy to fix!
Keep your storm doors closed.
All outside doors should fit snugly and you should not be able to see daylight around them at any point.
Weatherstrip doors and windows. Apply a sweep to the bottom of each exterior door, if you can feel cold air coming in.
Close the damper on your fireplace when it is not in use.
If you have glass doors across your fireplace, close them, too.
Open the outside doors only as needed, and close them each time you go out. Stage your groceries outside the door from the garage to the house, for example, and bring the bags inside all at once.
Teach your kids not to leave the doors open or to run in and out.
Keep your windows and storm windows closed. I honestly had a tenant complain about his heating bills, and he was leaving his bedroom window cracked open... Open. All. The. Time. Sigh.
3. Open the Oven
If you use your oven during the winter, leave that door open after you finish preparing the meal. You've already paid for the gas or electricity to warm up your stove. Let the appliance heat the rest of the kitchen area by leaving the door ajar.
4. Cover Your Outside Pipes and Seal All the Holes
I supply each of my rental houses with insulated covers for the outside faucets. Be sure you keep these on during the winter! Frozen pipes are no fun, and believe me, that's a repair you would pay for.
Check around the pipes under your sink in the kitchen and bathrooms. Do you feel cold air? An inexpensive can of insulating foam will seal the holes around the pipes and prevent the cold air from getting inside. When weather is forecast to go below 29F, it's a good idea to leave the doors of the sink cabinets open and drip the faucets to keep the lines from freezing. NEVER turn off your heat and leave the house unattended during the winter! As a tenant, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for damages caused by frozen pipes.
Sometimes cold air comes in around wires, if the house is not well insulated. Check out the outlet covers sold at Lowe's or Home Depot in the insulation department. These are foam rectangles cut to fit behind the cover plates of wall switches and electric outlets.They are inexpensive and they work! Unscrew the screws holding the cover to the outlet. Insert the foam rectangle over the outlet (pop out the part covering the plug or switch,) and replace the cover. It's that simple.
5. Warm Only the Rooms You Use
I don't mean that you should block off vents or turn off the heat. Instead, save on utility bills and stay cozy at the same time by keeping house temperatures fairly cool. You will be healthier and sleep better if the rooms are kept at under 68F, and even lower at night. If your family includes babies or elderly folks, this may not be possible, but for the rest of us, it makes sense. Keep cozy by stopping cold air infiltration with the ideas above, and by adding warmth to the rooms you do use.
Cover up. Put on a sweater and slippers. I keep a small lap blanket by my side of the sofa and it comes in handy if I get chilled while watching TV.
Use a space heater to warm a room quickly and temporarily. I turn my thermostat to 60 degrees at night, but it's nice to get dressed in a warm bathroom. The ceramic space heaters on the market can warm a small area in minutes, and they are very efficient. Be sure to look for one with a thermostat and safety features such as Auto-Off if the unit tips over. Always unplug the heater when you leave. SAFETY WARNING: NEVER prop an electric heater on the counter by your sink. Electricity and water are not friends!
I bought an electric heater that looks like a wood stove for my downstairs. For less than $150, it does a good job of heating a big room that stays cold, without turning up the thermostat on the whole house. It's made to look like an old fashioned cast iron stove, but it is lightweight and doesn't get hot on the top and sides. The thing even has a remote control. I like it!
If you have trouble keeping your rental home warm, or if your heating bills are high, please call me. I will take a look and try to help you identify what the heat loss culprit may be.
You CAN be comfortable without spending a fortune on heating by following these common sense suggestions. Now, let's break out the hot chocolate and enjoy the coming holiday season!