While the weather may still feel like summer, the chill of winter is just a few short months away. It’s time to think about winterizing your home. Getting your home ready for winter will not only keep you warmer but also put money in your pocket. The routine maintenance that makes your home cozier in the cold pays off year-round by boosting your home’s energy efficiency.
Start at your furnace. When was the last time you had it inspected? Some state utilities offer free yearly furnace check-ups. A well-maintained furnace will run more efficiently, pump out cleaner air, and save you money on heating oil or electricity.
Change or clean your furnace filters regularly. Disposable furnace filters are less efficient, but much more affordable, than new permanent electrostatic filters. Your budget and your furnace’s life-cycle are your best guides here on what to use.
Clean the ductwork. With the furnace taken care of, turn to your ductwork and vents. Keeping this system sealed and insulated in a big money-saver. Check for cracks and leaks in every part of the system. Patch and fill any gaps, especially in the common places where leaks tend to form, like connections at vents and registers. This is a great time to reassess the insulation in attics, too.
Does your home have a fireplace? They’re so cozy on a snowy winter night! But they aren’t exactly efficient. A wood-burning fireplace is lovely, but an energy-efficient wood stove or a gas fireplace insert might make more sense. In any case, keep your chimney clean! A sooty chimney is a common cause of house fires and easily avoided with preventive maintenance. If your fireplace isn’t used often, install glass doors and keep the flue shut – don’t let all that expensive warm air whoosh right up your chimney!
Check the plumbing. Now that you’ve seen to the furnace, ventilation system, and fireplace, turn to the plumbing. It’s easy to winterize your pipes – make sure they’re well-insulated with foam wrap or heating tape. Flush water from lawn sprinkler systems with compressed air. Turn off your water at the main and turn on all your outside faucets, allowing any water that has pooled in your pipes to drain. This will prevent expensive damage from frozen pipes. This is also a great time to address those annoying drips and leaks. A roll of Teflon tape and a pipe wrench will save you hundreds of dollars down the line.
Doors & windows. Congratulations! Now you’ve done the hard stuff! On to the detail work. Check your doors and windows, replacing weather stripping and caulking leaks as needed. A good tight seal keeps warm air in and cold air out. Consider upgrading to storm doors and better-insulating windows. If you have a gap beneath a door too wide to close with weather-stripping, simply rolling up a thick towel and wedging it in the gap will help keep the warm air where you want it. Plastic sheeting and sealing tape can be a great and inexpensive way to cover larger leaks until a permanent solution can be put in place.
One more thing: Next, turn down your thermostat and your hot water heater. You’ll never notice the few degrees difference, but your utility bills will sure reflect your thriftiness.
Speaking of thriftiness, making your home more energy-efficient might also qualify you for a tax credit! Check if any state incentives are available to you. There also are federal tax incentives available for upgrading to a more efficient heating system:
Winter, as they say, is coming. So take some preventative steps to stay warm, pocket the savings, grab a hot beverage, and then… maybe put on a sweater.
If you are dreading winter heating bills, it might be a good time to think of ways to save money now before the cold weather kicks in. You can find out how your energy use compares through EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick,. Answer questions about your use for a simple assessment of your home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes. Your energy supplier may provide a similar assessment so you night check there too,
Experts recommend that annual maintenance can help keep your heating bills to a minimum:
- Change your air filter regularly
- Get an annual tune up on your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system
- Ensure that your heating & cooling ducts are sealed and insulated
- Fall and Winter Energy-Saving Tips
- 14 Sneaky-Smart Ways to Cut Your Home Heating Bills
Other money saving ideas might involve modernizing or upgrading your systems :
- Install a “smart” programmable thermostat – learn about Energy Star certified smart thermostats
- Earn federal tax credits for installing solar heating systems. Tax credits for Solar Energy Systems are available at 30% through December 31, 2019. The credit decreases to 26% for tax year 2020; drops to 22% for tax year 2021 then expires December 31, 2021. Existing homes and new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify. For more information, see Solar Energy Systems to learn about solar water heaters and solar panels.
- Find Product Rebates & Other Special Offers on Energy Star products from energy vendors in your area – enter your zip code
State energy programs and incentives for New England & New York
- CT – Energize CT
- FL – My Florida Home Energy
- MA – Energy efficiency for your home
- ME – Efficiency Maine
- NH – Home energy resources
- NY – Home energy efficiency programs
- RI – Energy programs & incentives
- VT – Energy efficiency