There’s nothing like a cold snap to grab folks’ attention on making homes more weather resistant.
So, we thought we’d give you some tips for keeping you comfortable in your home this winter and keeping the heating bills as low as possible.
But first, let’s talk a bit about you, your house and snow and ice.
COLD, SNOW, ICE …OH MY!
Let’s start with the ice. As most of us know from experience, it just takes a little ice on a sidewalk, porch or stairs to cause a tumble – sometimes a significant one.
Older people in particular should be aware of avoid walking on slippery ice. It doesn’t take much of a fall to break a bone or become badly bruised. For anyone that’s a pain and a hassle, but for someone living alone or elderly, it can have more dire consequences.
So our first bit of advice in this cold spot is to stay aware. We don’t need to tell you that ice is most often clear and can be hard to see, particularly at night. So, with these recent low temperatures, assume surfaces are iced over until you know otherwise!
That said, if you can, shovel off icy stairs, decks, porches, walkways and the like. Sometimes a stiff broom can do the trick to get snow off so it doesn’t turn icy.
Using good ‘ole rock salt to get rid of and prevent ice is always an option. And if that’s what you have, use it. However, we recommend the chemical de-icer because rock salt use over time will damage concrete.
Ask for the de-icer at one of our local hardware stores or big box stores.
If you’re not able to take care of this yourself, ask a neighbor, relative or friend to clear you a safe path out of your house.
(And, neighbor, relative or friend: Remember in a snow or ice event, be thinking who might need a hand and be sure to offer it – with gloves on, of course.)
REMINDERS ABOUT COLD PIPES AND KEEPING WARM
Take a look at this list to see if you’re doing all you can to keep yourself – and your house – warm and cozy.
Frost-free hose bibs or not, if you haven’t done so yet, unhook your garden hoses and wrap your outside faucets. Even an old T-shirt, towel or newspapers wrapped in plastic and secured with rubber bands will do the trick.
In extended cold spells one way to prevent a bursting pipe is leave both hot and cold water dripping, preferably at the sink farthest from the hot water tank. (That way, the whole water system will keep circulating.)
Close your foundation vents during any extended cold spell. It will make your house more comfortable and save on your heating bill. (Just remember to open them up for needed ventilation when the cold season is over.)
If you can, close off a room, rooms or even a floor of your house both to keep the cold out and the heat in the areas that you are living in.
Layer your clothing so that not only will the added bulk keep you warm, the trapped layers of air between layers will also insulate you.
Check for drafts by windows, doors and fireplaces. If you are not using your fireplace, shut the draft! (You may want to leave a note to remind yourself to open it later.) Even a rolled up towel against the bottom of an outside door can keep the cold from seeping in.
LONG TERM WEATHERIZATION
One of the biggest ways to stay warm during the winter months it to make sure your house is properly “weatherized.”
Consider making some changes to your home so that it is more energy efficient and comfortable.
Weatherizing, generally, means to properly weather strip, insulate and air seal for the purpose of keeping your house at the comfort level you desire with the least amount of influence from the outside temperature.
Properly installed weatherization measures can stop both cold air from getting into the home and heated air from escaping.
Insulation comes in various forms – batt, rigid, and blow-in, and is the material that’s used to weatherize the attic, walls and floor.
Insulation is measured by R-value, which refers to its resistance to heat transfer and is usually done so in increments of “per inch” of material. For example, a standard R-19 fiberglass batt will be 5½- inches thick, the proper depth for a 2” x 6” wall cavity.
Up to a point, increasing the R-value of your insulation can help keep your home warmer in the wintertime and cooler in the summer.
If your insulation is up to snuff, but you’re feeling colder than you think you should, it could simply be drafts from windows and doors.
Replacing inefficient, drafty single-pane windows will make a big difference to your comfort, so will filling any gaps and holes with caulking or foam and weather-stripping your doors.
A weatherized home not only lowers your heating costs by up to 30 percent it also
The nice people at PUD have great tips and information sheets to help you decide what to do to get warm using less energy.
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Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at Aberdeen-NHS, now NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. (NeighborWorks® is a registered service mark of Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.)