As winter approaches, it may make sense to prepare for the cold weather by sealing cracks and holes around doors and windows no matter where you live. Proactive steps like these may help cut down on your heating bills.
If you’re bracing for a big chill, or worse, a blizzard — predicted to become more intense in the coming years, despite shorter winters — you’ll be glad you protected or checked the pipes, roof, chimney, heating system, and water heater. Your wallet and physical well-being may benefit from the following ways to winterize a house and how to finance the projects.
Ways to Winterize a House
There are numerous ways to winterize a house beyond sealing cracks in doors and windows. And while the steps to winterize a home may differ in Alaska than in Texas, it still helps to get ahead of any issues that may arise.
You should also know that the timing of the first frost can vary from state to state. It may help to check the National Weather Service’s data that forecasts the first frost for each state to assist in your winterization preparation timeline.
The following tips to winterize a house may help you reduce future repair costs and heating bills. And figuring out ways to lower your heating bills is something to pay attention to due to the potential rise of the price of natural gas, which is often used to heat homes.
Protect Pipes or Pay the Piper
When deciding how to winterize a house, you may first consider how to address plumbing leaks and other issues.
Burst pipes can cause $5,000 or more in damage, according to Consumer Reports , citing information from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety , which has a page of recommendations to help prevent frozen pipes.
Pipes in unheated places inside a home, including basements, attics, and garages, are among the most likely to sustain damage. But pipes running through exterior walls can also freeze in certain conditions, and so can those running through kitchen or bathroom cabinets.
Protecting the plumbing is clearly a situation where being proactive may save a homeowner money.
Pipe insulation can be as inexpensive as 50 cents per linear foot. Compare that to the $5,000 figure above, and the rewards of winterization can quickly become clear.
Adding insulation to attics, crawl spaces, and basements can help to keep those areas warmer, which can also help to keep pipes from freezing.
If sinks are located on exterior walls, it can help to keep the cabinet doors open during frigid temperatures (after removing any dangerous chemicals, including cleaners, if there are children or pets in the home).
Allowing cold water to drip can also help prevent pipes from freezing, making sense in frigid temperatures.
Address HVAC Maintenance and Repair
Nobody wants the heating system to perform poorly during the winter — much less have it break down.
It’s a good idea to schedule a professional maintenance appointment, including a filter change before freezing temperatures arrive. (Then it’s best to change the filter at least every 90 days.)
Additionally, maintenance and repairs to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and cleaning out vents can improve airflow in your home.
It may be time to consider a new HVAC system for some people. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program provides tips to homeowners to decide if replacing an HVAC system makes sense.
Signs that it might be time to replace the unit include:
• The heat pump is more than 10 years old.
• The furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.
• The system needs frequent repairs, and energy bills are increasing.
• Rooms in the home can be too hot or too cold.
• The HVAC system is noisy.
If people in a home are away during reasonably regular times of the day, it can make sense to ask the HVAC professional about a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Home Energy Yardstick can help a homeowner determine if replacing an HVAC system makes sense.
Check the Roof, Gutters, and Chimney
Before winter hits, clearing the roof and gutters of leaves and other debris will help prevent snow and ice from building up and damaging the gutters — or, worse, the roof.
If ice or snow gets beneath roof shingles, it can lead to leaks and interior water damage. You may want to ask yourself if you need to replace your gutters. Do any shingles need to be glued down or replaced? Do any small leaks need to be repaired before they become big ones?
Plus, a chimney inspection can make sense before winter arrives. A chimney could have an animal nest lodged within, and there can also be structural problems. If the home has a wood-burning fireplace, creosote buildup can create a fire hazard. With a gas fireplace, a blocked chimney could lead to carbon monoxide backup, which can be life-threatening.
Addressing all these issues before winter comes can help you prevent future damage, reduce future repair costs and energy bills, and avoid a potential accident.
Examine the Water Heater
You want to check your water heater before temperatures plunge to avoid a chilly shower during winter.
Are areas of the water heater rusting or corroding? If so, this can lead to a leak. A professional can examine it, bleed the system to remove trapped air and mineral deposits, clean the pipes, and recommend and do repairs.
Think About Outdoor Equipment and Plants
Preventive winterization isn’t just about your home. You want to winterize your outdoor equipment, like a lawn mower or other power tools, to protect them as well.
Draining the oil from the appropriate equipment and taking it to a local recycling or hazardous-waste site can be your first step.
You also want to take care of general maintenance on equipment, including replacing old parts. That way, when spring rolls around and you need to mow your lawn or trim your bushes, you should be ready to go.
Additionally, inspect gas caps to ensure O-rings are intact; if not, get replacements from the manufacturer. Also, replace filters and lubricate what needs lubricating.
You may need to bring in the plants you initially placed outside to enjoy the summer sun when temperatures drop. Before doing so, check the plants for mealybugs, aphids, and other insects. Remove them, so they don’t spread to other plants.
Some people prefer to prune plants before transitioning them back into the house. If so, prune no more than one-third of each, pruning an equal amount off the roots. When repotting, pick a container that’s two or more inches bigger than the current one.
Gradually transition your plants to the new environment, which has different light and humidity levels. For a few days, bring the plants inside at dusk and put them back outside in the morning.
Over a period of 14 days or so, increase the indoor time until the process is complete and they’ve become indoor plants again, finishing the transition before temperatures go down to 45 degrees.
What’s the Cost of Winterizing a Home?
Pipe insulation, as noted earlier, can be relatively cheap, perhaps 50 centers per linear foot.
If a homeowner decides to insulate further, perhaps an attic, costs can range between $1.50 and $7.00 per foot, or a total of $1,700 to $2,100.
On average, an attic insulation installer may charge $70 an hour. If electrical work needs to be done for safe insulation around cables or junction boxes, you may expect to pay $80 an hour.
To hire someone to clean gutters and downspouts, you may pay an average of $119 to $227. An HVAC inspection might cost $325 and up, while the cost to replace an HVAC system could run between $5,000 and $10,000, depending upon the size of the home, among other factors.
What each of these services costs will depend on the locale, what types of repairs or unusual circumstances exist, and so forth.
Additionally, there are websites that allow a homeowner to enter a ZIP code and get an estimate of what a winterizing activity may cost. It makes sense to get quotes from local professionals to get an exact price.
Financing Winterization Projects
Some people pay for their home winterization costs out of pocket, while others may decide to get a home improvement loan. If you’re leaning toward a loan, comparing a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and a personal loan can make sense.
Recommended: How Do Home Improvement Loans Work?
A HELOC uses your home as collateral; for this to be an option, there needs to be enough equity in the property to borrow against it. If there is, and the loan amount required is large, it could make sense to apply for a HELOC.
Interest rates may be lower than those for a personal loan. Also, you can typically take draws from a HELOC up to the loan’s limit.
So if winterizing is coupled with indoor projects done through the cold season, for example, this might be a practical solution. In some cases, interest payments could be tax-deductible.
Recommended: The Different Types Of Home Equity Loans
A personal loan can make sense for recent homebuyers who haven’t built enough equity or for people planning smaller projects. Home winterization often fits into this category.
Applying for and receiving money from an unsecured personal loan is typically much faster than with a HELOC, partly because no appraisal is required for the loan.
Having an excellent credit score and cash flow can help a borrower get approved or receive better loan terms.
Preparing your home for the harsh weather of winter can be one step you take to protect your house and potentially reduce your energy bills. However, many homeowners don’t take steps to winterize a house due to the upfront costs. Fortunately, there are ways to finance any home improvement projects.
If taking out a home improvement loan for home winterization projects makes sense, then here’s more about the fixed-rate unsecured personal loans offered by SoFi:
• Personal loans have no origination fees and no prepayment penalties.
• Qualifying borrowers may be eligible for loans up to $100,000.
• Applying online can be quick and easy.
• Customer service is available to help seven days a week throughout the process.
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