It is now time to pull out those favourite sweaters from the back of the closet and dust off those wool blankets, because those cool, wintry days are upon us.
As the chill of winter fast approaches, it’s a good time to winter-proof your home.
As part of our Complete 2015 Home Maintenance Tasks Calendar, REW.ca spoke to Simi Heer, media relations for BC Hydro's Power Smart program, and Sean Moss, home inspector and regular REW.ca contributor, for advice to ensure your home is comfortable and ready for Old Man Winter.
“Most home repairs start small but, left unattended, can become costly, even urgent, problems,” says Simi Heer. “Taking early precautions can help prevent damage to your home and reduce the likelihood of an unexpected emergency.”
Here’s how to stay warm while avoiding costly heating bills and – even worse – expensive repair bills.
Fix your furnace:
Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system, such as heat recovery ventilator, filters should be checked every two months.
A smooth running furnace can save you a lot of headaches and money,” says Heer. In addition, a yearly furnace inspection and cleaning will keep your furnace in good working order.
Draft-proof your home:
In addition to being a waste of energy, drafts are expensive; costing, on average, 25 per cent more to heat your home.
Moss asks, “Did you know that energy is lost through vent ducts, plumbing penetrations, fireplaces, windows and doors? Air leaks cost you money, so it is best to take the time to seal them up.”
Wait for a windy day, then, with a lit incense stick placed close to windows, door frames, electrical outlets and recessed lighting, slowly move it across and see if there’s movement, says Heer.
“If it moves, that’s a clear indicator that there’s a draft or leak,” Heer says. “They can be easily fix it with caulking or weather-stripping … a super-easy fix and not expensive.”
Even better, Moss adds, “Ideally you want to install double-pane or storm windows.” Again, be sure they are properly caulked, sealed and weather-stripped.
Heat can also escape through your wood burning fireplace.
“A slab of Styrofoam covered with cloth and pushed into the rectangular front of your fireplace can correct heat loss,” adds Heer.
To keep cool air out, keep your chimney damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use.
“You can also purchase a protective cap with a screen for your chimney, keeping foreign object, like birds, out,” she says.
According to Heer, thermal insulation, when correctly installed, slows heat from escaping your home in winter and from entering your home in summer, making your home more comfortable and saving money on energy bills. Also, she adds, close vents in rooms that aren’t being used and don’t neglect leaks in the attic, basement and crawlspace.
Replace light bulbs:
You might not think of this as a way to winterize your home, but now that the sun shines less, it’s time to make certain your bulbs are energy efficient.
Moss says the best bulbs to use are CFL (Compact Fluorescent light bulbs) or better yet, LED (Light-Emitting Diodes) bulbs.
“They will last longer than incandescent bulbs, while saving you money long term,” he says. According to www.energy.gov, these light bulbs use between 25 and 80 per cent less energy and can last three to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent light bulbs.
“Also, consider installing a motion sensor around the perimeter of your home for security for those dark winter nights,” adds Heer.
Convert to a programmable thermostat:
A programmable digital thermostat is a great fuel bill cost-cutter.
“They aren’t difficult to install and are more precise than the standard thermostat,” Heer says. “They can be programmed to automatically lower the temperature while you sleep and during those times when no one is home.”
Moss agrees, “With programmable thermostats you can automatically adjust the temperature in your home, while saving over 30 per cent on heating costs. So do the conversion and save a small pile of cash.”
Recommended temperature settings for your thermostat (courtesy of BC Hydro):
- Sitting, reading or watching TV: 21° C (70° F)
- Working around the house: 20° C (68° F)
- Sleeping: 16° C (61° F)
- No one home: 16° C (61° F) – this setting ensures the plumbing won’t freeze and provides considerable savings.
Convert to Energy Star-rated appliances:
“The government provides incentive programs for those looking to upgrading older appliances,” says Moss. “You can contact your local utility provider, such as BC Hydro for information on any rebates and incentives. These programs are not always available, so it is best to check online or call ahead to see if you qualify.”
Rebates have been offered for efficient toilets, refrigerators, stoves, ovens,dishwashers, washing machines, furnaces, boilers and water heaters, adds Moss.
Prevent outside pipes from freezing:
Disconnect outdoor hoses and drain water from outdoor pipes. Insulate the pipes in your crawlspace and attic. If you take a winter vacation, have somebody check the heating system is working daily, or shut off the water supply.
After heavy rain or melting snow, walk around the perimeter of your house to see where gutters, downspouts and drainage systems may not be performing properly. Also inspect the street in front of your home and report any blocked storm drains to the municipality.
Wrap those pipes – a burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a costly nightmare.
In addition, before the first frost, unplug your garden hoses, drain them and shut off your turnoff valve inside your house.
BC Hydro says it’s also a good idea to insulate the pipes in your crawlspace and attic.
Keep an emergency preparedness kit handy with three days of supplies including flashlights, battery powered radios, extra blankets, water, non-perishable food and a first-aid kit. Winter storms can often cause power outages.
For more information, visit https://www.bchydro.com/powersmart/be-winterwise.html.