Protecting Your Home
Winter brings cleansing rains, billowing snow, crystal clear star-filled evening skies and energy bills that can choke a horse. So, as beautiful as the season might be, it’s a good idea to spend the rest of the summer and fall getting ready for the inevitable cold that will be upon us before anyone can say “oh what a cute little snowman.”
Changing your furnace filter isn’t difficult or expensive and it makes good sense. However, there are furnace service (and maintenance) issues that, left unchecked, can prove to be far more costly than a dirty filter. Yes, change the filter, but be aware of the fact that the biggest single energy culprit in a central heating system can be as simple as a duct leak. Leaky ducting can spew hundreds of dollars worth of heat (or air conditioning) into your attic or crawl space. Is your basement overheating? It could be a leaking duct. You can hire a heating contractor to test your system, but you would be wise to search out leaks yourself first. If ducting is insulated (and it should be) pull back insulation at locations that appear to be junctions or where ducting is bent or dented. Once you have done all that you can to insure that you have no leaks have a heating contractor come in and perform a pressure test.
INSULATING HEAT DUCTS
Duct insulation is actually a pretty recent code requirement. You may well have ducting that is well sealed, but if it isn’t properly insulated you can be assured that you will pay more for your heating than your neighbor who has taken the time to insulate. One inch thick duct insulation is sold in one-foot wide rolls and is easy-breezy to install. All you need to do is simply wrap and overlap. While wrapping the insulation around your ducting all you have to do is to make sure that it overlaps an inch or two. When you get to the end, lace a nail through the last overlap to hold the insulation in place. Any medium size nail will work. The task of insulating duct work in itself is pretty easy. What can make the chore difficult is lack of working space – a crowded attic or crawl space. Don’t avoid this task because of the struggle. It will be far less difficult than struggling to pay your utility bill.
A deciduous tree is the most energy efficient type. In the winter it loses its leaves allowing the sun’s warmth to help heat your home. During the summer it spreads its leaves to shade and cool your home. All you have to do to insure years of protection is keep your trees fed, watered and pruned. Feeding and watering is pretty easy, but pruning can be a back breaker and if improperly performed can damage or even kill a tree. Pruning in the winter is a “no-no”. Pruning creates “open wounds”. Don’t expose your tree to frost damage by cutting and hacking when chilly weather is expected. Also, pruning cuts should be made at 90 degree angle to the branch. Cutting at other than 90 degrees exposes more of the “wound” than necessary. No it doesn’t make any difference which tool you use to prune as long as cuts are clean and square. Yes, a ladder is needed, but a safety rope is even more important.
LEAKS OF ALL KINDS
Home maintenance websites abound with tips on sealing and caulking, the use of expandable foam and how to check and replace weather stripping at doors and windows. Unfortunately, the list of items is so long that most of us don’t take the time to get half of it done. Also, many have the misgiving that caulking and sealing lasts for years (“Hey, the caulking is guaranteed for 50 years!”). Not! The caulking may be guaranteed, but your home isn’t. Homes move as the ground expands and contracts from change in moisture content from season to season. So, here’s the entire list – one more time – just for you, and just for this season:
- Caulk all exterior doors and windows where the exterior siding meets the trim and where the trim meets the window frame.
- Caulk all joints and gaps in exterior siding and trim and where the siding meets the foundation.
- Weather strip all windows and doors. For windows, be sure to remove the moving section first, so that the weather stripping is fully accessible. For doors be sure to check the bottom. Hold a flashlight at the bottom of the door at night. If you can see the light from the inside the weather stripping needs adjustment or replacement.
- Seal plug and switch covers at all walls both exterior and interior. For 25 cents a piece you can radically reduce air infiltration.
- If you have an older home remove interior door and window trim and fill the gap between the window/door frame and the house frame with expanding foam sealant. Caulking alone on the outside will not do the trick.
- Use expanding foam sealant to fill penetrations in:
- Exterior Siding
- The Crawl Space
- The Basement
- The Attic
- Inside Kitchen and Bath Cabinets
Sealing the outside of your home will not only reduce energy costs it will protect the siding and trim from water damage.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474.