Braving the Cold: 8 Homeowner Tips to Prepare for Winter


The Summer has come and gone, and Autumn here in Fairfield County is beginning to feel much more like Winter. Save some heat and a little cash this season with these helpful homeowner tips.

Clean your gutters now!

All the leaves are down, but there is no snow in sight- Yet. Now is the perfect time to get your gutters cleaned out and prevent thousands of dollars of potential damage. A thorough cleaning usually only costs a few hundred dollars, and can help prevent ice damming and other serious problems once the snow and ice hit.

Seal anything that brings the outside in

Properly sealing windows and doors during the Winter months can save up to 20% on heating bills. Simply re-caulking or applying new weatherstripping to the seals around windows and doors can make all the difference, especially if there is visible cracking or peeling of the existing sealer.

Avoid extreme, unbalanced temperatures

Many of us are familiar with the annoyance of taking off and putting on layers of clothing when moving from room to room. More often than not, these extreme, unbalanced temperatures are due to air duct problems. Check all visible air ducts for cracks and leaks and seal any noticeable problem areas. If problems persist, call your local HVAC technician for a free consultation and estimate. Think you’re not affected? The Department of Energy released information stating that “the typical duct system loses 25% to 40% of the energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump or air conditioner”. Even if you can’t feel it, there may still be a problem worth investigating.

Ask your HVAC contractor to perform an Infiltrometer “blower door” test

The blower door is a computerized instrument that pinpoints where your home’s worst air leaks are, and measures a home’s overall “leakiness”. A basic blower-door system includes three components: a calibrated fan, a door-panel system, and a pressure measurement device. This test usually involves temporary sealing a blower-door fan into en exterior entry with the door-panel system. All interior doors are to be opened and all exterior doors, hatches and flues are to be closed. Air is blown into the home and the pressure differential between the inside and outside is measured. This technology can also be used to test your duct-work for leaks.

Consider replacing your old furnace

Just like any other machine, heating equipment doesn’t last forever; experts say to seriously consider replacement when your furnace reaches ten years of age. Even if you have a newer system, plan to replace it when it has required several repairs or has not been professionally maintained in the past. A new system is safer, more dependable, and can pay for itself by being up to twice as energy efficient.

No furnace problems? It is never too early to have a plan. If you’re planning for a visit from your HVAC contractor, ask him for a free “home comfort consultation”, which should include a furnace replacement estimate for at least three new levels of furnaces. Ask him what would be the optimal month and year to proceed with a new furnace, and about financing options when you are ready to do so.

Have your heating system cleaned and tuned by a qualified contractor.

A thorough cleaning and tune-up is always a good investment when heading into Winter months. It reduces the chances of your systems malfunctioning when you depend on them the most, and more than pays for itself through more energy efficient operation. Make sure you choose a professional who will back their work with a written 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Evaluate your attic

Take the time to inspect your attic and survey the insulation. Some go to inspect their attic and find there is no insulation at all! If you are insulating or re-insulating your attic, there are many insulation options to choose from. Fiberglass bats are the most widely used and economical choice, while other options such as spray-foam (needs to be professionally installed), wool, and denim insulation can be explored. Ask your local professional for a free analysis of your attic’s insulation level and discuss your options.

Turn it down, or turn it off?

Believe it or not, turning off your heat completely when you leave the house may be hurting you more than helping. By turning off your heat, your furnace must play catch up when you get home. You also risk pipes freezing any other serious issues if you are away for longer than expected (Never turn your heat completely off under any circumstances if you will be away for long periods of time). If you will be out of the house for under 4 hours, the best plan of action is to leave your thermostat as is. If you are out of the house for more than 4 hours, lowering the temperature by a maximum of 20 degrees is recommended. If you are out of the house for predictable hours on a regular basis, investing in a programmable thermostat is an option worth exploring, and an easy way to avoid coming home to a colder-than-comfortable house.

Helpful Tip: If you are doing any work that requires a tall ladder (hanging Christmas lights, getting roof work done, etc.), multi-task and check off the following while the ladder is on hand: Change any hard-to-reach bulbs in chandeliers or ceiling fixtures, replace smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries, and dust ceiling fan blades and any high air vents. You’ll thank yourself later!

© 2018 Denise Walsh, Realtor licensed in the state of Connecticut · Last modified: 20 December 2013 · Log in · IDX · real estate web: darrylo