Finally, fall is here.
And like that our 70 degree weather is leaving us. But now we get to dust off those jackets. Right?
But first let’s get your biggest investment ready for the cooler weather.
1. Install weather stripping
Check your home’s exterior doors for cold air leaks. Do this from inside the house. The high-tech approach is to use a laser infrared thermal gun to detect cold drafts. The low-tech way is to move a lit candle around the door frame; the flame will blow toward you when there is a draft.
Seal a drafty door by installing foam or felt weatherstripping inside the door frame. Ask at your hardware store for the correct products and installation instructions.
2. Install a door sweep
Use a door sweep to stop drafts from entering your home under an exterior door. A sweep is a flexible piece of rubber or plastic that’s held to the door’s lower edge by a strip of aluminum.
3. Seal attic air leaks
Find and seal gaps that could be allowing as much as 30% of your heated or cooled air to leak outdoors.
Pull back attic insulation to find and seal cutouts in drywall for electrical fixtures, pipes, fans and outlets. Also, check wiring, chimneys, flues, vent stacks and ducts, and seal them on the inside. Use caulk to fill smaller gaps and pressurized expanding foam for bigger openings.
4. Close the damper
Heated or cooled air flies up the chimney when you leave the fireplace damper open. Make it a habit to shut the flue after the fireplace has cooled.
5. Add attic insulation
Insulation keeps warm air inside in the winter and expensively cooled air inside in the summer.
“Typically, houses in warm-weather states should have an R-38 insulation in the attic, whereas houses in cold climates should have R-49,” says This Old House, explaining how to install batting-type insulation.
Insulating an attic, basement or crawl space is moderately difficult, and beginners should hire a professional. If you do, ask if you can perform parts of the job to reduce the cost.
Admittedly, insulating is not a cheap job. But the payback can be huge, and you may find rebates and financial incentives. See Energy.gov’s guide to sources and a calculator that can help you estimate the return on an insulation investment.
6. Install a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat can save up to $180 a year on fuel costs, according to EnergyStar.The thermostat can save fuel by automatically lowering (or raising) your home’s temperature while you’re away. It also keeps temperatures consistent, saving fuel. Simple programmable thermostats — Lowe’s offers a few — start at about $50.
7. Set the temperature manually — and leave it
You can enjoy fuel savings for free simply by setting your thermostat to one temperature in the morning, another at night and otherwise leaving the thermostat alone. If you’re chilly, put on a sweater and warm socks instead of raising the heat.
EnergyStar.gov offers more tips on ways to save using a manual thermostat.
8. Insulate the hot water heater
Save on fuel by wrapping older water heaters in a blanket of insulation, an easy DIY project that even a beginner can do. Your utility company has instructions. When insulating a gas or propane water heater, do not cover the burner access.
Do not insulate:
- Pre-insulated water heaters. These are newer units with factory-installed insulation of R-16 or better (check the manufacturer’s label) under the metal shell.
- Water heaters located where the added heat is welcome.
- Water heaters whose manual or paperwork warns against insulating.
- Tankless (on-demand) water heaters.
9. Lower the hot water temperature
Hot water heaters typically are set at 140 degrees. Lower the temperature on yours to 120 degrees for fuel savings. You’ll reduce the chance of accidental burns, and the water still will be plenty hot for bathing, washing clothes and doing dishes.
10. Plug household leaks
Grab a tube of caulk, a can of spray foam gap-sealer, a pencil and notepad. Tour your home, inside and out, including the basement, to find and fill cracks and gaps in siding, windows and foundation. Note locations of problems you can’t fix right away.
Use caulk for small cracks and the foam sealer for bigger gaps. Inside the home, use a candle flame or digital thermometer to find where cold air is entering. Pay attention to windows, skylights, chimneys, vents and door frames (in areas around the frame not remedied by tip No. 1’s weatherstripping).
Also, check openings around appliance vents, electrical and plumbing fixtures and furnace ducts and check the top of basement walls where the foundation meets wood.
11. Insulate hot water pipes
Insulate the hot water pipes in your basement or crawl space by snapping foam sleeves on them. You’ll find pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible foam pipe insulation at hardware stores. Make a note of your pipes’ diameters and lengths, and bring the measurements when you shop.
Exposed pipes waste heat by cooling the water as it runs through them. Be sure to include pipes between the hot water tank and wall. Also, insulate cold water pipes for the first 3 feet after they enter the house.