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winter tips

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3 Budget-Wise Tips for Winterizing Your Home

Home owners don’t have to live in the kind of February landscape that features blizzards and snowdrifts to want to winterize their home before the onslaught of the chilliest temperatures. In even the mellowest of climates, winterization is a way to shrink energy bills. And even if the recent shocking downward spirals in world oil prices have sent your home heating costs to the bottom of your budget-tightening “to do” list, remember that if and when you eventually put your home on the market, low utility expenses can be a strong selling point. Regardless of how you set your internal thermostat, the Big Three of energy cost reduction always include the following:

Raise the Air Temp; Lower the Water Temp

Two tips that could seem counterproductive will cut energy costs in many a home. You’d think you should just switch ceiling fans off until spring, but not so. For cooling, the blades are set to spin counterclockwise so that cool air won’t be wasted down near the floor. The tip is to reverse the fan’s rotation to clockwise. That will act to push warmer air down from the ceiling. Wait until the blades come to a stop, then slide the small direction switch (it’s usually next to the pull cord). The second tip is actually one you can do any time of the year since hot water heaters are usually set to heat to 140 degrees. In truth, most of us don’t need it that hot. Try resetting the temperature to 120 degrees, and see if it’s sufficient. If so, in the course of a year you’ll save more than a few dollars!

Block Air Creep

For a few dollars, a tube of caulk can be a final defense against the creep of cold outside air. Use caulk to seal cracks in the walls and gaps around your windows and doors. In extremes, there are inexpensive extra measures, such as see-through plastic sheets to cover windows with a second seal (doing both would keep the most remote Siberian cabin as buttoned-up as a baby kangaroo). If a drafty door will have to wait until spring for full renewal, an interim trick is to roll up a bath towel and place it against the threshold. This temporary fix keeps out the worst drafts and doesn’t cost a dime.

Take Care of Your Air Conditioner

If you have water-served central air, during the colder months when it’s out of service, good maintenance requires draining the water hoses. Split air conditioners don’t have that issue, but some of them need an exterior cover for preventing drafts (if you haven’t felt any on chilly evenings, it’s not necessary). If you haven’t already removed any window units, better go to the hardware store to buy exterior covers: a lot of chilly air can make its way in through uncovered vents.

The Big Three tips alone comprise a home winterization program that costs less than a burger and fries—yet can result in measurable energy savings. If you have found any other simple energy savers, I hope you’ll share: drop me an email, or give me a call at the office!

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House Plumbing Could Fall Victim in This Year’s Early Chill

It’s easy to be caught off guard when the mercury drops before winter has even begun. And this year a visit from unusually early icy blasts of cold from up north has been the rule almost everywhere in the country. This Holiday Season, even local house owners who don’t have to worry about their own Bainbridge Island house safety may be visiting relatives unprepared for the sudden December tundra; so it’s a good time to go over the Red Cross cold weather Preventive Action guidelines:

  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing (but: move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children). And keep garage doors closed!
  • In very cold weather, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • If you will be going away, leave the heat on in the house, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
frozen drip.jpg

Following those tried-and-true guidelines should mean you’re home free. But if you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Trace the culprit: likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters the house through the foundation. To thaw frozen pipes:

  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device—no matter how tempting.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice inside the pipe.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if it’s not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe,  you’ll have to call a licensed plumber. If you need a reference, call me anytime for this or any other local house questions.

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