Extreme winter weather can be as hard on your home as it is on your body! Icy winds, temperature fluctuations, build up of ice and snow; all of these take a toll on your home. The result is a downgrade in energy performance, leading to higher energy costs and an expensive home repair bill in the spring. Here are some steps you can take to optimize your home for winter, making it warm and comfortable while keeping those energy costs in check.
- Proper Insulation
Proper insulation is key to maintaining a comfortable indoor home environment. One area where you should pay particular attention to is the attic. Regardless of where you live, a rule of thumb is that you need a minimum of 12 inches attic insulation.
- Energy Efficient Furnace
As a homeowner, nearly half of your energy bill goes towards your HVAC costs. You can save significantly by investing in an energy efficient furnace. Look for one that has at least a 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) value. The AFUE is the percentage of fuel that is turned into heat – the higher the percentage, the more energy efficient the furnace. ENERGY STAR labeled furnaces require a minimum 95% AFUE.
Siding functions as your home’s barrier against the outside elements, which is why it’s important to choose the right type. If you live in a harsher climate, there are four options that would probably work best for you:
- Brick: low maintenance, never needs painting, impervious to rot and insects, fireproof, very energy efficient, good barrier to noise.
- Metal: dent resistant, can have similar appearance to wood, low maintenance.
- Engineered wood: very weather resistant, insect resistant, easy to install.
- Fiber cement: low maintenance, weather resistant, insect resistant, rarely needs repainting.
Ice dams are common and damaging problems that effect many homes in colder climates. Caused by melting snow that refreezes in gutters and roof edges, ice dams can break gutters; peel paint from your home’s exterior and damage shingles. You can prevent ice dams from forming by cleaning out your gutters. Clearing out debris will help make sure that winter run-off doesn’t get clogged and refreeze when the temperature drops.
- Air Sealing
Cold air leaking into your home is a major source of both discomfort and high energy costs. The way to address this problem is to air seal your home. According to ENERGY STAR, proper air sealing can save you up to 20% annually on your home heating and cooling costs. Hidden air leaks are often found in attics and crawlspaces, while windows and doors are common culprits in most homes. Installing storm windows will provide an extra barrier against the elements, and come in a variety of styles to suit each taste. Also to watch out for is ductwork; as much as 20% of the air moving through a home’s ducts can be lost due to duct leaks.