As winter approaches, homeowners will be asking numerous questions about how to best manage the cold, snow, and ice. Protecting your property and avoiding unnecessary expenses can often be achieved through knowledge and implementation of a few simple tips. Every homeowner will have a somewhat different set of questions and concerns, but we offer below answers to 5 of the more important questions homeowners will be asking this winter:
1) How Can I Lower My Energy Bill?
Winter's chill and the extra demand it puts on power suppliers often means a price hike of 10% or more on your electric bill. and that’s before the additional incursions from your personal electric usage, which will also jump throughout the season.
Part of the answer is to arrange a more favorable contract with your electric supplier before winter arrives. You may also need to upgrade to a more energy-efficient heating system to accrue maximum savings. Otherwise, make sure the thermostat is set below 70º F (21.1º C) whenever the house is empty, and lower your water heater to 120º F (48.8º C) since 25% of a home's energy is typically consumed by the water heater.
2) How Can I Eliminate Drafts?
Drafts are another source of an over-high electric bill, but they are not always easy to locate. Some ways you can address the problem include:
- Improve insulation and ventilation in your attic since that is where most of a home's heat escapes.
- Re-insulate your entire home, paying special attention to areas around windows, doors, and vents.
- Upgrade to double-paned windows that contain insulating gases between the panes.
- Always double-check that windows are shut and locked completely, which sometimes is not the case when they are closed hastily.
3) How Can I Stop Ice Dams From Forming?
Ice dams are thick layers of ice that accumulate along the eaves and on the roof of your house, leading to a backup of water behind them. This can cause damaging interior leakage as the backed-up water freezes and thaws until it opens up a crevice. It can also damage shingles, block off gutters, and cause huge icicles to dangle from your roof's edge.
Prevention measures include better insulating your attic, turning down the heat, cleaning out your gutters before winter, and treating your eaves with salt or salt brine. A roof rake can also help by knocking snow off of the eaves before it can freeze, and in extreme cases, you may need to call a professional to steam-melt the ice dam.
4) How Can I Minimize Fireplace Heat-Loss?
Homeowners with fireplaces generally realize they are not very energy efficient and choose to use them for their aesthetic and "nostalgic" value. There are ways, however, to minimize heat loss through the chimney during winter.
First, be extra sure that the damper is fully closed when not in use. Second, insulate your chimney to prevent creosote from building up and diminishing energy efficiency yet further. Also make sure the chimney is cleaned by professionals every year. Finally, consider using a "chimney pillow," which inflates just over the damper to block heat loss.5) How Do I Clear Snow Off My Solar Panel?
Solar panels are more common than ever before and their popularity is growing year by year. When a roof must be cleared of snow, however, they can be tricky to handle. They are very slippery and fragile, so use a foam rake to clear them, never use salt or other melting agents on them, and consider calling in a contractor to do the job.
As owning and caring for your home becomes more challenging during the winter season, knowing how to prevent winter's worst damage and minimize extra expenses becomes crucial.