Prepping for winter and energy savings

Dear Sustainability Sam,

What are a few things I need to do to prepare my home for a cold winter and perhaps even save me money on my energy bill?  

-Ivy

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Thanks for the great question, Ivy!  We are all preparing for the cold days that are ahead and there are a lot of things you can do to ensure your house stays cozy and warm and in good condition.  Here are just a few that will not only prepare your home, but will potentially increase its efficiency and save you money on your energy bill:

Start by installing your storm doors and windows. They give an added layer of protection from the elements while helping heat stay inside your home.

Another option is to caulk any gaps in siding, windows and doors.  For drafty windows and doors, use weather stripping tape and draft guards to prevent heat loss.  It may not be the most attractive option, but it will do a lot to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.

Moving inside the home, flush the water heater.  Particles and sediment can build up in the heater and prevent it from functioning at its most efficient. 

Get your chimney cleaned and inspected if this hasn’t been done recently.  This makes sure your fireplace damper isn’t letting warm air escape.

Have your heating system cleaned and serviced once a year.  Replace your HVAC filters regularly (once per month). If you have radiators, bleed them and make sure they are clear of debris. Clean out the vent on the furnace that leads to the chimney.  These things can significantly improve the efficiency and longevity of your heating/ac system.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate!  Pack high quality insulation around your basement doors and windows and make sure your attic floor is appropriately insulated.  

Xcel Energy’s website has some great tips on simple things you can do to save on energy costs through the winter months.  Here are just a few:  

  • Turn off the lights when you are not in the room
  • Insulate your water heater
  • Open curtains and blinds during the day – let the sunlight in to warm your rooms naturally
  • Install a programmable thermostat and adjust the temperature when you are away from home, at home or asleep

Although not necessarily related to energy efficiency, here are a few things to winterize your home and yard to help avoid accidents that can cost your money:

Test your smoke detectors and replace batteries as needed. 

Make sure you clean your gutters before the weather gets bad.  Ensuring water can freely flow through your gutters will help to prevent icicles and ice dams from forming later.

Remove all attached garden hoses, drain and store them for the season.  To avoid a potential pipe bursting, shut off the valves inside, open the spigots outside to release the pressure and then drain the pipes at the valves inside. 

Keep your trees trimmed and remove dead branches and debris from the yard.  Ice and snow can weaken trees and cause branches to fall and potentially damage your home.  

Before I go, I want to take this opportunity to remind you that Tangletown is offering a fantastic Energy Improvement Rebate Program.  If you have a contractor install wall or attic insulation in your Tangletown home, you can qualify for a Centerpoint Energy Rebate of up to $500.  Tangletown will then provide you with an additional rebate of up to $500–so on a complete insulation project you could get a rebate of up to $1500 in total!  It’s a great deal and will do wonders for the energy efficiency and comfort of your home.  Check out the details at Tangletown Energy Improvement Rebate Program.

Stay warm,

Sustainability Sam

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