It's the same every year. While Summer seems to stick around a lot longer than we'd all like, Autumn likes to eat and run, leaving an all-too-soon visit from Old Man Winter. The colder months are quickly approaching, and, if you're not prepared, your utility bill will reflect it.
We don't seem to get the respite from high utility bills anymore. With today's wacky weather, where it's 84 degrees on Monday and 38 degrees on Tuesday, it's important to take control. Stick with the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared," and you can shrink those utility bills into manageable amounts. Performing a do-it-yourself energy audit on your home should be incorporated into your yearly checklist, right after cleaning the leaves out of your gutters.
An energy audit is important because your home could be losing heat in hundreds of small places without your realizing it. Added up, this would significantly increase the time your furnace runs. With an energy audit, you can quickly and efficiently identify the areas that need to be addressed before a single flake of the white stuff falls from the sky.
Step 1—Windows and Doors
Look for drafts in the areas that are most susceptible, such as windows and doors that lead to the outside. A burning incense stick is a great draft locater. The smoke will toss and turn under the slightest breeze, making it ideal for hard-to-find drafts. The incense will also fill your home with a pleasant aroma. Bonus!
If the caulk around your windows is beginning to show signs of wear, it's time to clean them up and apply a fresh bead. Use a putty knife or razor blade to clean the old caulk away first. If your windows are in bad shape and you don't have the finances to have them replaced before the cold air sets in, inexpensive plastic window covers will greatly help your situation.
For doors, check the status of the weatherstripping. Is it cracked or torn in places? Maybe it's just worn down from constant opening and closing. Either way, most hardware stores have a huge selection of inexpensive weatherstripping that can help keep the cold out. Many styles are easy to install—just peel and stick! Make sure the door closes snuggly and use the incense stick to re-check.
Step 2—Outlets and Switches
Check for drafts around electrical outlets and switch plates. With a few dozen outlets and switches scattered throughout your home, there can be some significant heat loss if the walls aren't insulated properly. Picking up some waterproof gaskets used for outside outlets and installing them behind the covers can reduce airflow.
Step 3—Attic Hatch
If you have a home with attic access, you will want to make sure that the hatch is insulated. Since heat rises, it will quickly exit through an un-insulated attic hatch.
Check for drafts around baseboards. In most cases, there's a small gap between the bottom of the drywall and the floor. A bead of caulk along the baseboards can really help prevent heat loss, and, as a bonus, filling in the gaps can make the baseboards look nicer.
Step 5—Check Exterior Vents
Check fireplace dampers and dryer exhaust louvers (on the outside of your house) to make sure they function properly. Many people are surprised at how much heat can escape their house by not having a louvered dryer vent. When the dryer is not on, the louvers remain closed and help to keep the warm air inside the home.
Step 6—Air Conditioner
Another place to check for air leaks is around your window or wall air conditioner. If it's possible, your best bet is to remove the window unit for the winter. If that's not possible, seal the leaks with caulk.
Step 7—Water Pipes and Spigots
On the outside of your home, inspect all of the water spigots and any outlets or pipes you have entering your house. Caulk any holes or gaps you may find. While you're outside, check the siding and exterior of the windows. Again, apply caulk where needed.
With so many potential areas for heat loss, getting a hand up on Old Man Winter can be time consuming, but you can rest easy when it's done. Your bills will be lower and your home will feel much more comfortable.