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Preventative Home Maintenance to Keep the Cold Out

Lower Energy Bills with Caulk, Insulation, Double-Paned Windows, and Energy Star Doors

© 2013 by Kelly R. Smith; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

Barbed wire with a snowflake; photo courtesy Michael David

Barbed wire with a snowflake; photo courtesy Michael David

This article was last revised on 11/29/20.

Are you starting to feel that winter chill creep through your house? Does your analog or digital thermostat say it is 65 degrees no matter how high you turn the heat? You likely need to calibrate your thermostat or perform some home maintenance that will keep the cold out and the heat in.

The longer a house goes without proper maintenance, the draftier it will become. Older homes are more susceptible because they were no built with as tight an envelope as newer ones, as a general rule. This winter, keep the chills away and lower your heating bill by taking care of a few basic preventative measures before they become problems.

Caulking to Seal Air Leaks

You may be surprised at the many nooks and crannies from which chilly air can to enter your home or warm air can beat a hasty retreat. Caulk around doorway trim, window trim, and even old floor moulding where air can sneak by unnoticed. Even electrical outlet and switch plates on exterior walls can be a source of trouble. Install specially-made electrical outlet insulation behind the plates. It's a cheap fix.

Even check around pipes and waterways to be sure no air is escaping. Not only will you keep the cold air out, but you will deter insects and spiders who creep in through the same passages. One easy way to check is to hold up a burning candle. A flickering flame can be your canary in a mine shaft.

Energy Efficient Windows and Window Treatments

Even after you’ve caulked around the edges of your windows, single window pane contractor-grade models have no real insulation value and can be the cause of a majority of the heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer in your home.

Purchasing double-paned windows is a great investment that will pay for itself over time as your heating bill decreases. If you’re not ready for something so drastic, you can purchase window blinds at any home improvement store that will decrease draftiness and prevent warm air from escaping your living room.

You can save an incredible amount of energy with these blinds. The best ones consist of two overlaying layers of baffles that create an insulating space and they look great.

Insulation and Radiant Barrier Foil

Because heat rises, you’ll want to make sure your attic and chimney have plenty of insulation to keep the heat from rising out the roof. Make sure your chimney is closed, and, if possible, purchase fireplace draft stoppers for the long winter ahead.

Just be sure to remove insulation before starting a fire in your fireplace! Make sure your attic is lined with a good insulator so that the hot air will stay on the main levels of your house.

With respect to your ceiling, the absolute best way to keep the heat in (and the cool in in the summer) is to install the recommended amount of fiberglass insulation and then lay radiant barrier foil on top of it. This will keep up to 98% heat from escaping in that direction.

Get Your Furnace Ready for Winter

When you’re prepping for cold winter days, remember to take advantage of the resources you already have. Make sure your heat vents are uncovered so that air can flow freely through your home.

Because hot air rises, you’ll want to have a few ceiling fans installed, which will push the air flow back down to your room. During the winter remember that the blades should push the air up and in summer down. It seems counter-intuitive to blow up but it works. Most fans have a switch on the motor body.

If you have a swamp cooler or window unit that allows air to seep through the cracks, make sure it is turned off and prepped for the winter.

Clean or replace furnace filters often, and check for air duct leaks in your heater. Call a professional to ensure that your heater is ready to go for the long winter ahead. Investing in a fully-functional heater will keep you warm this winter, and can even save you money on your heating bill.

Entry Doors can be Energy Vampires

Many flat-surface contractor-grade doors are hollow if they are metal or wood and some stile-and-panel wood doors have thin panels. Save money on your utility bills by replacing them with Energy Star doors. They are also more secure because cheap doors are better suited for interior use; even a utility knife can defeat them.

Another way to keep the cold air out is to make sure no air is coming through your doors. Check the weather stripping around the door and replace it if you feel air pressure from outside. If your entry doors are wood, they may have cracks.

You can also purchase door sweeps, which attach to your door and close the gap between your door and the floor below it, which, up north, can become very chilly.

Do you have any tips or suggestions to add to preventative home maintenance to keep the cold out? Why not share them with our readers in the comment section below?

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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