The winter months have arrived, and that means it’s time to take steps to ensure your home can withstand the cold, snow, rain, and ice that come along with it. Here’s a look at nine simple but effective ways to ensure your home remains warm and cozy during the end-of-the-year months, while simultaneously saving you money on your energy bill.
1. Run your fans in reverse
Perhaps the simplest yet not widely known solution out there is to reverse the direction of your fan blades. This can be accomplished by flipping a switch on the fan itself. Setting the blades to rotate in a counterclockwise rotation produces a cool breeze, while setting them for clockwise actually makes the room warmer. Because warm air rises, setting the fan for a clockwise direction forces warmer air pooled near the ceiling down toward the floor.
2. Use weather strip
Weather strip will help prevent cold drafts from entering your home, as it helps insulate the small crevices around doors and windows. This option is cheap, and the product is readily available at any hardware store. As with weather stripping, doors and windows can also be weatherproofed using weather-resistant foam, caulking or masonry sealer. Clear debris from the foundation while making sure there are no cracks or openings where critters can crawl in to keep warm. Mice are known to slip through cracks as thin as a nickel.
3. Give your furnace some attention
If you haven’t given your furnace any face time this year, now is the time to do it. Ensure the furnace is clean and adjusted correctly. A furnace that is operating optimally will help reduce the strain placed on the unit while also helping save money on heating costs. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, there is help available. Energy Trust of Oregon offers home evaluations that can help you save on energy costs while boosting your system’s performance. Portland General Electric offers tax credits and other incentives for qualifying heat pumps. Find them at www.portlandgeneral.com.
4. Pay attention to your thermostat
Your thermostat will be a direct reflection of your energy bill. Set the thermostat at a number that you can live with comfortably, but remember to turn down the heat when you leave the house and go to bed at night. It’s also not a bad idea to buy a programmable thermostat that will allow you to set a temperature schedule for when you’re home and not. This is of particular importance to those who travel and leave their home vacant during the winter months.
5. Insulate your pipes
Take a trip to your local hardware store for some pipe foam. Wrap the foam around your water pipes and use duct tape to keep it in place. Keeping your pipes insulated helps prevent them from freezing and keeps hot water flowing more cheaply. Install outdoor faucet covers and crawl space vent covers. Remove the covers in spring so as not to trap moisture. Do not install vent covers if the home has intake or exhaust vents underneath it.
6. Repair or add a moisture barrier under the house
The moisture barrier under your home is responsible for keeping your home drier, which is very important in Oregon. Double check that your home has a moisture barrier and that it is in good shape, as this will prevent moisture from entering your home from the bottom, and simultaneously keeps that moisture in the ground where it belongs.
7. More insulation
It’s not the most practical solution, and might create a bit of work, but adding more insulation in your walls is a fantastic way to ensure you’re keeping warm air in and cold air out. Another upside? The federal government will reimburse you for 10 percent of the cost of the insulation, up to $500.
8. Inspect your fireplace
If you have a fireplace, ensure there is nothing obstructing the flue. Clean the chimney to ensure it is burning cleanly and operating as it should. Removing debris from the fireplace will give you a hotter and more productive fire without driving up your heating bill. If your fireplace has an exhaust vent, make sure it is clear of plants, debris and any other possible obstructions.
9. Clear gutters and downspouts
Gutters work to control the flow of rainwater and in the process, protect your roof, foundation, walls, and landscape from damage. However, gutters have a tendency to clog with sticks, leaves and other debris. A clogged gutter can cause your roof to leak, and is also known to provide a home and breeding ground to bugs, rodents, and mold.