Time to Winterize
Weatherization is weatherproofing the inside of your home from the elements to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency. It is an inexpensive way to save money!
Start with Sealing Cracks — It's Inexpensive and Saves You Money!
• Flue Damper: When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape to until you close it, warm air escapes 24 hours a day!
• Attic stair covers: Attic stair covers are essentially well-insulated lids or boxes designed to keep cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer relegated to the attic and can be either purchased or constructed yourself, if you’re so inclined.
Prices for store-bought attic stair covers vary. Prices could go from $42 to $200 depending on the quality.
• Caulk: Caulk, a versatile sealant, is often used in silicone form around bathtubs, pipes, and plumbing fixtures. However, it’s also great for combating drafts around leaky windows and doors and, like paint, it’s available in safe, nontoxic varieties. The OSI Green Series of sealants and AFM Safecoat Caulking Compound are popular, commercially available eco-friendly alternatives.
• Draft stoppers: Draft stoppers, also called draft dodgers and door snakes, are tube-shaped objects of various lengths made with fabric (often excess/scrap fabric) and filled with some kind of insulating stuffing. You’ll most often find them placed against the bottom of closed doors or on window ledges to block winter drafts from entering a room. Additionally, they come in handy when sealing off garages, basements, attics and unoccupied rooms.
• Foam outlet gaskets: With so much ado about proper home insulation, it's easy to forget that an electrical outlet is basically a giant hole punched in the wall and needs some kind of insulation, particularly on outside walls. Sealers made from fire-retardant foam — you can find them at home improvement stores — fit like a cozy undershirt in between a wall and an outlet or light switch cover and are effective at preventing unwanted drafts.
The installation of a foam outlet gasket is simple and only requires a screwdriver: turn the power off, unscrew the outlet cover/switch plate, apply sealer as directed, replace the cover/switch plate, and you’re done. If you’ve installed gaskets around unused outlets and still notice a chill, use plastic child safety plugs as an alternative.
• Chimney balloons: The Chimney Balloon, a reusable and durable draft-stopper — a “pillow” of sorts — is meant to be inserted and then fully inflated inside of a chimney. The Chimney Balloon comes in various sizes (be sure to do some measuring before investing) and fits snugly above or beneath the fireplace’s damper or louvre, the metal flapper device that you open and close each time you start and finish a fire. Dampers are designed to prevent heat loss but with age their ability to stop a fireplace’s “open window effect” is weakened.
• Window shrink-wrap: Window shrink-wrap is an easy, affordable way to keep the heat in and the cold out of your home during the winter. And while it’s not always the most aesthetically pleasing way to weatherize, placing plastic shrink-wrap around windows is perhaps the most temporary, making it a viable bill-reducing option for renters. (Drafty windows can increase heating bills by up to 30 percent.)
Window shrink-wrap kits, often called window insulation kits, are available at home improvement stores and usually come with sheets of plastic film and super-strength doubled-sided tape. 3M is a good brand to look for. You'll need a box cutter and a hair dryer to heat the film and to increase transparency by making any wrinkles disappear.
• Water heater blankets: With water heating claiming as much as 25 percent of home energy bills, every little bit of insulating assistance helps. According to Energy Savers, dressing a poorly insulated water heater in a blanket can reduce standby losses by 25 to 45 percent; this translates to 4 to 9 percent savings on heating bills.
Water heater blankets are generally inexpensive, in the $20 range, but can get more costly if they offer more significant insulation. Energy Savers offers a handy dandy installation guide for electric water heaters, but be sure to follow the instructions provided with the one you purchase.