Our House: Show Winter Weather the Door with these Essential Winterization Tips
Brrr! If you haven’t felt the first cold front of winter yet, you’re either a major homebody or a migratory bird. Our guess is the former, and there’s nothing at all wrong with spending as many waking hours by the fire, cocoa in-hand, as possible. In fact, the real crime is old man winter dropping in unannounced to crash your cozy evenings indoors, as he’s wont to do. It’s time to show him the door for good. That’s why we’re bringing you the basics of winterizing your home, floor-to-ceiling, so you can get back to enjoying the season the way it was meant to be appreciated: through a well-insulated window.
A good rule of thumb to begin, when the nights get longer, head toward the light. No, not THAT light–turn your attention to any daylight you can see leaking through under or around your home’s exterior doors. If you’ve occupied your house for any length of time, you’re probably already well aware of the problem points. We recommend sealing the worst offending spots as soon as possible. The airflow from these gaps is only going to cost you more and more on heating costs as the season goes on and temperatures drop even further. Luckily, the fix is fairly simple. Some minor threshold adjustments and some well-placed weather stripping should be more than enough to keep your heated air in, stopping the cold’s creep dead in its track.
Once you’re sure your exterior doors are doing their job, there are even easier winterization solutions you can tick off in no time flat. First, it may sound obvious, but ensure you’re taking advantage of all the features your thermostat has to offer. Many homeowners, especially new ones, may be unfamiliar with the extent of their thermostat’s power. Most newer models are programmable, meaning you can set a target temperature for every hour of every day in your house. Adjusting the settings to keep the temperature lower during the day when no one’s at home can save you a bundle over the course of just one winter. Best of all, since you can pinpoint exactly when you’re ready to kick the furnace back into high gear, you can save all that money without ever having to come home to a freezing house ever again. For an added bonus, boost the work your HVAC system is already doing by setting your ceiling fans to the wintertime position. Most all models have a reverse switch visible somewhere on the motor casing, just above the blades. Reversing your fans’ flow facilitates the circulation of warmer air that’s risen to the ceiling, helping to distribute it throughout a room instead of collecting near the top. Finally, don’t discount the power of the sun! In the southeast, the temperature range of a typical winter day can fluctuate wildly. Any given sunny day, the early morning could see below freezing temperatures, while the height the day could approach the fifties. Harness some of that sunlight to keep your home comfortable by opening shutters and blinds during those precious daylight hours. Once the sun goes down, close them back to create one more barrier to seal in your heat for the night.
While there’s nothing particularly difficult or dangerous about setting your thermostat or opening and closing your blinds, we can’t stress enough that winterizing is a serious business, and safety should always come first. The area around every gas appliance in your home should be outfitted with a carbon monoxide detector to protect your and yours. When those out-of-the-way appliances, like your water heater and furnace, see more action because of the cold, it’s all the more likely that something could go amiss. When dealing with natural gas, a small buildup of CO can make for a big problem. To that point, if the unthinkable were to happen, it’s paramount to always be mindful of where your home’s fire extinguishers are kept. If your answer is “…on a store shelf somewhere,” it’s time to make the investment. The exact number of extinguishers to keep on hand will depend on the size of your house and how many levels it has. At least one per floor is advisable, with downstairs units near the kitchen and/or exterior exits. From gas appliances to wood-burning fireplaces to Christmas dinner, fire hazards abound this time of year. Preparing for them should be on any responsible homeowner’s winterization checklist. Further, an ounce of prevention also goes a long way in caring for your extant HVAC systems. It’s critical you schedule at least one annual inspection with a technician you can trust. Ideally, you should shoot to have this marked off the list by the early fall so that you’re not caught by an outage during our region’s most extreme temperatures. There’s nothing worse than getting up to make a midnight snack and realizing the heat’s gone out in the dead of a winter night.
Generally speaking, most homeowners’ prevailing winterization concern is their windows. After years of weathering the elements, they’re prime points for failure for an otherwise insulated home. Replacement is a virtually guaranteed fix for the problem, but for many that simply isn’t an option. For those with homes that carry historical or sentimental value, keeping the original windows for as long as possible is a priority. In such cases, tried and true caulking and weather stripping is still your best bet for a workable fix. Applying these sealants around the molding or frame of your existing windows will add time to their lifespan while still keeping you comfortable and saving you money in the long run. However, if your home is still outfitted with single-pane windows and preservation isn’t a concern, we’ve got three words for you: replace, replace, replace.
Window replacement is all well and good, but it can loom as a daunting expense in many budgets. What homeowners often don’t consider, though, is that you don’t have to replace every window in your home all at once in order for replacement to be an effective solution. Prioritize your problem areas as needed! It’s easy to triage your window issues through the lens of the sun and cardinal directions. For instance, we in the northern hemisphere will never receive direct sunlight on the north sides of our homes. That means that the north-facing parts of your structure will always tend to stay cooler than any other part of your home. Insights like that can make all the difference in budgeting for a less-than-total rollout of replacement windows. Follow the sun!
Once you’re ready to commit to window replacement, it’s important that you have a qualified, experienced professional partner in your corner to make the process go as smoothly as possible. When winterizing with window upgrades, look for professionals with BPI (Building Performance Institute) and RESNET (Residential Energy
Services Network) HERS® certifications. Accreditation’s like these ensure your service provider has a thorough understanding of building science and can conceptualize your home as a whole system. The Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders’ network is ready to step in and lend a hand with every aspect of your winterization preparations. Reach out today for ideal advice, quality craftsmanship, and professionalism you can trust.