Home maintenance tasks that can lower your energy bill
This article originally published on Thumbtack and is syndicated by Cheapism.
If you’re dealing with mysteriously high energy bills, catching a chill from a drafty house in winter or struggling with sweltering summer heat, you may want to consider weatherproofing your home.
Weatherproofing can help you make your home more energy-efficient and comfortable. There are a variety of strategies you can use, from small fixes (cleaning your gutters) to bigger projects (insulating your attic). Here are the best ways you can weatherize and weatherproof your home this fall.
Whether you’re dealing with hot summer temperatures or chilly winter weather, air leaks can make it more difficult to maintain your home’s internal temperature. Identifying air leaks can help you pinpoint where your home is losing air and take steps to fix the problem. These commonly occur in places like windows, doors, baseboards, crown molding and any other gaps between your home’s materials.
To identify air leaks, start with a visual inspection of your home’s exterior. Check to see if there are any gaps or cracks, particularly in areas where two different building materials meet. You should also check inside your home for cracks or gaps near windows, doors, outlets, baseboards and attics.
If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures, storm windows can help ensure that your home’s heat stays inside — where it belongs. Storm windows are an affordable way to improve your home’s efficiency and reduce heat loss. Typically made of either glass or plastic, these windows add another layer of protection between your home and the elements, and work to prevent drafts and air leaks.
Storm windows are an especially good bargain when compared with replacing windows wholesale. If you have old, drafty, single-pane windows but don’t want to upgrade your home’s windows to a more energy-efficient type, storm windows are a more affordable, effective alternative.
Weatherstripping provides an extra layer of protection for your home by sealing up small cracks and gaps, like those around doorways or windows. Weatherstripping is typically installed on any window or door that faces outward in order to prevent air leaks. Made of materials like felt, open or closed-cell foam, plastic or metal, weatherstripping is a simple and efficient way to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Weatherstripping is a great way to block drafts, but you can’t install weatherstripping on the bottom of doors, since it would become damaged by foot traffic. Instead, you can install door sweeps, which serve a similar purpose and are made of more durable materials.
Install door sweeps on any door that leads outside. Keep in mind that not all doors are the same size, so make sure you measure your door and purchase a door sweep with the correct proportions.
Related: Get cost estimates from local weatherstripping professionals.
Caulking is another way you can weatherproof your home and lower your heating costs this fall and winter. Caulking is typically applied to any gaps or drafty areas in your home, particularly those coming from baseboards, crown molding or other areas where your home joins together. Unlike weatherstripping, which is used for areas where there will be frequent motion (like windows), caulking is used for areas that will remain motionless, like your ceiling. You can also use caulk on the non-moving parts of windows and doors.
Additional insulation is another strategy homeowners can use to improve their home’s energy efficiency. In particular, homeowners should consider insulating areas that may not already be insulated, like unfinished basements, attics, exterior walls, ducts, ceiling, flooring (especially floors that are located above an unheated garage), basements and crawl spaces. Installing insulation in these areas can be expensive, but it’s one of the best ways to reduce heat loss in your home.
You should also inspect any existing insulation in unfinished areas to make sure it’s up to snuff. For example, insulation should be evenly distributed, without any gaps or holes.
Related: How much does insulation cost?
When’s the last time you checked your gutters? While not typically a task that most homeowners look forward to, regularly checking and maintaining your gutters can help you prevent roof damage and leaks — which could ultimately affect your insulation and increase your energy bills.
Check your gutters for debris, ice dams and other buildup every few months. Material like leaves, twigs, pollen and other debris can quickly build up inside a gutter and damage your roofing. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, you should aim to have your gutters cleaned about every six months.
Related: How much does gutter cleaning cost in your area?
Bare glass windows may make a stylish statement in some homes, but they’re not the most energy-efficient. In fact, “about 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows,” according to the Department of Energy (DOE). It’s a good idea to install shades or drapes to help regulate your home’s temperature. Specifically, the DOE suggests looking into the following:
Insulated cellular shades
Roman or roller shades
Silver or mirror-like window films
Drapes (medium-colored with white-plastic backings)
Even if you keep shades or blinds open during certain times of day to let in natural light, drawing them during particularly cold or warm weather can help you retain heat or cool down your home, depending on the temperature. Keep your shades and blinds closed at night during the fall and winter, and open them during the day to let the sun in. On the other hand, drawing shades on hot summer afternoons can help you keep your home cool and comfortable.
Cozy fires are a great way to stay warm during chilly nights. But when your fireplace is not in use, it’s important to make sure your flue is closed and working properly. Remember: hot air rises, so if you leave your flue open when there’s no fire in your fireplace, the hot air being used to heat your home will escape through the chimney.
It’s also equally important to make sure your flue opens properly when you light a fire. Using your fireplace with a closed flue means that smoke and fumes won’t have anywhere to escape and will fill up your home.
Your roof is the first line of defense between your home and the elements. That’s why it’s especially important to make sure that your roof is in tip-top shape. Regularly inspect your roof to make sure that there are no signs of damage. Check your roof’s exterior, looking for missing shingles, cracks and gaps — all of which could cause energy loss.
You should also inspect your roof from the outside and inside in your attic or top floor. Look for any signs of water damage, leaks or openings. If you spot any roof damage, it’s best to fix it right away. While roof repairs can be pricey, they only get worse over time.
You may not think much about your water heater (unless it stops working), but it can lose a lot of heat during the winter if it’s not properly insulated. The DOE estimates that insulation could lower your standby heat losses by 25%-45%, which translates to 7%-16% in water heating savings.
Covering your hot water heater with a blanket is an easy way to increase your home’s energy efficiency. You can’t just use any blanket, though, because this could pose a fire hazard. Instead, you should choose a specialized hot water heater blanket that’s designed for this purpose. Lastly, make sure your water heater isn’t leaking before you cover it.
In some cases, extreme weather patterns require homeowners to take more serious steps to protect their home. If you live in an area with high rates of natural disasters like floods, forest fires and hurricanes, you may need additional protection that requires more work.
Whether your home has already been damaged by severe weather, or you’re just planning ahead, it’s a good idea to get in touch with an expert for advice. For example, you may want to raise your home to protect it from flood water or install shingles that are more resistant to strong winds. A contractor or architect can suggest other solutions to help make your home safer. You may also want to conduct an energy audit on your home to see if there’s anything else you want to add to your home during a remodel.