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6 Steps to Weatherize Your Home

It may be a New Year, but winter is still in full swing in most areas of the country. There is still much to be gained, or saved, from taking the necessary steps to weatherize the home against unwanted air flow, heat loss, and winter’s general barrage of cold weather. Weatherizing the home can save up to 30% on energy bills, often to the tune of $300-$400, each year.

1. Home energy audit

There may be some rather obvious problem areas, usually revolving around windows and doors. Having a home energy audit performed—or conducting your own—will identify specific areas where weatherization is lacking and provide you with a substantial list of places to start.

2. Windows, doors, and other openings

Windows and doors are almost certainly weak spots in the home’s overall weather seal. For starters, installing weatherstripping around all doors and windows is essential. On the exterior, caulk any and all gaps between windows and trim and between the trim and siding. Also caulk around any other openings, including water spigots, vents, meter boxes, gas pipes, etc.

Secondly, look into upgrading old, inefficient windows with new, Energy Star-rated models, especially those with low-e glazing. Apply glazing to glass panes (be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions) or install plastic window film over all windows, including basement windows and especially those facing north.

3. Electrical outlets

Outlets along exterior walls are common draft locations as well. You can weatherize these by removing the cover plate and pressing a foam gasket around the sockets. Then replace the cover and put childproof safety caps on unused outlets.

4. The attic

An unheated attic is a bane to energy efficiency, regardless of the season. Many older attics have only three or so inches of insulation—if any at all. Adding at least 12 inches of insulation will make a big difference in regard to heat loss, or heat gain in the summertime.

The attic access door is another often overlooked problem, even if the attic itself is sufficiently insulated. First of all, add a section of insulation over the attic door or, for hatch-style accesses, insert foam weatherstripping at the top edges of the opening.

5. The fireplace

Fireplaces, even while we think they are warming the home, are actually sucking precious warm air out for fuel, intensifying air leaks that exist elsewhere. Use or install some tight-fitting glass doors to help prevent heat loss. Also make sure that the damper and the glass doors are closed when the fireplace is not being used.

6. Use the sun to your advantage

On sunny days pull back the drapes or curtains to allow solar radiation to passively heat the home. Contrarily, shut them on cold, overcast, or windy days and at night to help hold back cold air.

Skylights are another good source of passive solar heat, but they are also notorious for allowing heat to escape at night. Do not forget skylights when weatherizing windows. Special blinds for skylights are made if you’d like to take some extra steps.

Tip for low-income homeowners

For the past 30 years, the Department of Energy has had a weatherization program in place for low-income homeowners. The DOE recognizes that it is significantly more cost effective to help homeowners save on annual energy costs, reducing dependency and saving taxpayer money for other incentives and public programs.

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