Your home is your castle, and during the long, cold winter months, it may start to feel just about as drafty as a medieval structure made of stone. And with cold spots by windows and doors, not to mention that one room in the house that just never seems to get warm, even when the heat is cranked up enough to make the rest of the house feel like an oven, your structure can be decidedly uncomfortable during the coldest part of the year. But there are ways to keep the frozen climes outdoors where they belong, cutting your energy bills and improving your interior environment in the process. Here are a few good ways to maintain your comfort at home when the winds of winter come huffing and puffing as if to blow your house down.
- Seal leaks. When it comes to both comfort and energy efficiency, leaks are the enemy. And even if you can feel drafty areas, you might have trouble pinpointing where your bought air is getting out and the cold air is coming in. So you may want to start with a home energy audit to determine where leaks and other instances of energy waste are occurring. From there you can add weather stripping around windows and doors, as well as caulk and sealant around pipes, vents, and ducts. Just keep in mind that increasing airtightness in your home can adversely affect the quality of your interior air if you don’t compensate with additional ventilation.
- Increase insulation. Your home energy audit should also produce information about the relative state of your insulation, letting you know which areas of your home could use an upgrade for increased comfort and efficiency. Adding more batting or fill to the attic or basement will be a cinch if they’re unfinished, with exposed beams. But the walls in your home are another story. You might have to crack them open to increase or replace insulation. On the upside, this gives you the opportunity to install a modern product like spray foam insulation that is durable, fills in cracks, and dramatically improves your interior climate.
- Install storm windows. Even if you have double-paned windows, you’ll probably find that properly installed storm windows only add to your insulation in this hard-to-manage area. And they’re a must if you only have single-pane windows. Plus, they add an extra layer of protection against the potential damages from winter storms.
- Check roofing. At the very least, you should be cleaning gutters and downspouts in the fall in preparation for winter, as well as inspecting your roof to look for peeling shingles, cracked tiles, or flashing and caulk that are worse for the wear. You also need to look for leaks (both inside and out) and make necessarily repairs before winter weather strikes.
- Use equipment wisely. Even if you follow tips for buying a new AC unit and furnace, upgrading to energy efficient models, your machinery is only as good as the systems in place to control it and direct air throughout your home. When you use your furnace in concert with a programmable thermostat and options like a zoning system or radiant floor heating, you’re bound to increase both comfort and efficiency.