Trim any nearby trees. If you have any tree branches hanging near your roof, windows, or driveways, trim them back. Snow and ice will weigh them down and possibly cause them to break. A few years ago we had a pretty bad ice storm here in Tulsa. I remember driving by one house that had a parked car in the driveway. So much ice had accumulated on a large branch that it had snapped off and smashed the car’s roof. The owner could have easily prevented this misfortune if he had taken the time to trim his trees.
Reverse ceiling fans. Most people don’t know that you can use your fans during the winter to keep your house warm. On every ceiling fan there’s a switch that allows you to reverse the direction of the blades. Switch it so your ceiling fan rotates clockwise. That will push warm air down and force it to recirculate throughout the room. Don’t forget to make the switch again when it starts to warm up!
Block air leaks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. To find those leaks use the Black and Decker Thermal Leak Detector. You’re likely to find drafts underneath doors and near windows. If you find a leak underneath your door put a draft snake across the bottom of it. A simple rolled up bath towel will work. If you have leaks near your windows, get some weather-resistant caulk and caulk them from the outside. You can use weather stripping as well. Other places you might want to check for leaks are where pipes and wires exit your foundation.
Winterize the A/C. You’re probably not going to be using your air conditioner during the winter, so taking some steps to protect it during this time can extend the life of your machine. Winterizing your A/C is easy. Drain any pipes or hoses coming from your air conditioner. You don’t want them freezing during the winter months. Also make sure to vacuum out any pools of water you have in the A/C’s drain pan. Another step you can take is to cover your central air unit with a plastic air conditioner cover. The cover will keep water and snow out of the unit and prevent rusting.
Replace your furnace filter regularly. Regularly change your furnace’s filters throughout the winter. A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency, and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. You might consider replacing your disposable filters with reusable electrostatic or electronic ones. You just have to give them a monthly wash, and they’re good to go another round.
Install storm doors and windows. Storm doors and windows can increase energy efficiency in your home by 45%. You install storm doors and windows on the outside of your regular doors and windows. Federal tax credits are available to help offset the cost of purchasing them.
Check your insulation. Simply adding more fiberglass insulation in your attic can boost the energy efficiency in your home. You need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If your insulation falls short, just add another layer of the pink or yellow itchy stuff. If you’re adding new insulation to your current insulation, make sure the new insulation doesn’t have a paper-backing. The paper acts as a vapor barrier and can cause problems for you down the road.
Wrap your pipes. Insulating your pipes reduces heat loss and can raise hot water temperatures delivered through your pipes, which allows you to reduce the heat on your boiler. That will save you money on your gas bill. And by making your pipes energy efficient, you also don’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on the shower, which helps conserve water and time. Wrapping your pipes with insulation will also help prevent your pipes from freezing during those long cold nights. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at the hardware store. Simply cut the foam to the length you need, wrap it around the pipe, and fasten it in place with duct tape.
Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Winter sees an uptick in the number of home fires and cases of carbon monoxide poisoning because people are running their furnaces and boilers overtime in order to keep warm. To keep your family safe, check the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change them if needed.