Chicago winters blast area residents with icy winds, brutal temperatures, and impressive snowdrifts. Whether you’re a Midwest newbie or a cold-weather veteran, you’ll want to keep your home warm and energy-efficient during the winter months. These tips and strategies will help.
1. Remember the Laws of Science
There are two scientific principles to remember when thinking about how to efficiently keep your house warm during the winter and cool in the summer. The first is that hot air rises. The second is that heat flows from hot to cold.
When you heat your home in the winter, the hot air rises into the upper levels of your house and escapes outside through gaps in the attic. As heated air leaves the house, it pulls the cooler outdoor air in—through an open window, for example, or through gaps around doors or spaces around pipes that go into the house.
When you cool your home in the summer, the air conditioning goes on and the windows stay shut. If you open a window, the heat from outside enters the home and keeps flowing in until it’s just as hot inside as it is outdoors. That’s because heat moves to cold until it reaches equilibrium.
OK, the science lesson is now over! Read on to learn about what you can do to winterize your home and save on energy costs.
2. Add Insulation to the Attic
A well-insulated attic will help keep the heat in your home. Check the insulation levels in your attic and add more if necessary. How do you know if you have enough insulation? Learn how with these insulation guidelines from Energy Star®. You can hire a professional to install attic insulation or you can do it yourself. For DIYers, we found a comprehensive installation guide on This Old House.com that includes tips on how to install insulation and protect yourself during the job.
3. Protect Water Pipes
Make sure your water pipes are insulated with foam plumbing insulation. This is an inexpensive way to protect against the expensive problem of burst pipes. Installing foam pipe insulation is an easy task you can do yourself.
4. Weatherstrip Doors and Windows
Add weatherstripping to doors and windows to help seal air leaks. Sealing air leaks keeps the hot air in and prevents cold air from blowing in. Choose a cool day and check each window and exterior door to feel any drafts. Lowe’s offers a step-by-step guide for weatherstripping windows. They also have a five-step guide for weatherstripping a door.
5. Replace Your Furnace Filter
A dirty furnace filter hinders the flow of air through the heating system, which means the furnace has to run longer to spread warm air through the house. Installing a new filter will help minimize airflow obstruction. Energy Star® recommends changing a furnace filter at least every three months.
6. Install a Programmable Thermostat
If your home doesn’t already have a programmable thermostat, put this item on your to-do list. A programmable thermostat allows you to customize heating and cooling for optimal performance and energy savings. Pre-programmed settings can save you about $180 a year in energy costs.
7. Set Ceiling Fans on Clockwise
Turn on your ceiling fan and look up at the blades. Are they turning in a clockwise direction? A fan set to run clockwise and at a low speed pushes the warm air near the ceiling down walls and around the room, improving the distribution of heat in the room. Remember, hot air rises. For more on how to save energy with ceiling fans, check out this article from bobvila.com.
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