Getting Your House Ready for Winter
The summer sun may be shining, but now is a great time to prepare your house for the cold weather ahead. You’ll feel good about sealing out those drafts that bothered you this past winter, but you’ll also enjoy benefits this summer since good air sealing and insulation make a home more comfortable year round by keeping out both hot and cold air.
It’s important to air seal before you insulate so that insulation isn’t exposed to moisture. If you’re handy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has a great DIY guide that will walk you through the ins and outs of making your house more energy efficient. Or you can start with an energy audit by hiring a professional certified by the nonprofit Building Performance Institute. Those folks are trained to approach your house as a system as opposed to focusing on one problem like thin insulation or a weak furnace.
Understand that in most homes, the major air leaks are hidden in attics and basements. Finding these leaks is important because warm air rises and if you have poor attic insulation, it will rise up into that space, drawing cold air in from around windows, doors and gaps in the basement to replace the air headed toward your attic. This is what creates the drafts. Older, historic homes can be especially drafty and the nonprofit Enhabit has a good video on ways to make them more livable.
If you decide to tackle the project yourself, Energy Star recommends you start by sketching the floor plan of your house to serve as a guide once you’re in the attic searching for leaks. Include dropped ceiling areas such as soffits over cabinets in the kitchen and slanted ceilings over stairways since these can be a huge source of air leaks.
Numerous common air leaks include wiring holes, recessed lights as well as windows and doors. Tackle the biggest holes before dealing with smaller ones since this will save you the most money and energy.
In the basement, it’s important to seal cracks and gaps around the rim joists. Energy Star also recommends you seal any holes used for wires or water supply and drain pipes that extend from the basement ceiling to the floor above.
If the ducts of your heating and cooling system are accessible through crawlspaces, attics, unfinished basements and garages, seal those too.
Once you’ve adequately air sealed and insulated your house, it’s time to tackle the drafts coming through your windows and doors. One way to seal out drafts is to use inside storm windows that just press into the existing window frame. Since these are acrylic, you feel warmer standing next to them than a pane of glass and that makes you less apt to turn up the thermostat. A U.S. Department of Energy study found that inside storm windows reduced heating and cooling costs in a Seattle home by 20 percent.
Be sure to seal any gaps around doors with weatherstripping and a sweep. And then relax knowing that the improvements you made will save you money and keep you comfortable all year long.
Sam Pardue is CEO of the inside storm window manufacturer Indow.