With the coldest part of winter coming up, it’s time to take on winterizing projects that weren’t tackled in the fall. Elba I. Cox, principal broker and owner of EcoPro Realty Group in Lake Oswego, shares some tips for keeping the house safe and comfortable – while also saving money and decreasing your carbon footprint.
The two home-improvement projects that will make the biggest impact in the winter months are getting a programmable thermostat and replacing windows with triple- or quadruple-paned glass. Thermostats are quite affordable and available at home-improvement stores. If new windows aren’t in your budget, Cox suggests investing in magnetic storm windows or caulking around window frames.
Windows are one of the main spots where heat leaves and cold enters a home, but they aren’t the only ones. To spot other leaks, order a home-energy audit or a blower door test. Or perform a “poor man’s” version suggested by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “Use incense,” Cox says. “Light a stick in each room, then turn off the lights and HVAC system. With a flashlight, look to see which way the smoke is blowing.” That will give some indication of where leaks are originating. Seal openings with caulk or block them with door snakes or rolled-up towels.
Make sure the water heater is wrapped to prevent it from freezing in cold weather. The DOE has simple instructions on their website for doing this. While you’re at it, turn the temperature to 120 degrees. A large portion of home-energy usage comes from warming water. Making this change will reduce utility bills and carbon emissions.
Here’s a winterizing hack you’re sure to be a “fan” of: If you have a ceiling fan, reverse directions so it runs clockwise. That will pull up warm air and redistribute it rather than pushing down cool air.
With the holidays right around the corner, many ecoconscious consumers are switching to energy-efficient LED Christmas lights. That’s a great idea, Cox says, but she cautions: “Buy lights with the UL label, which means they’ve been tested and meet safety requirements.”
Get more winterizing tips at energy.gov and rmi.org.
Header Illustration by Juliette Borda | julietteborda.com