Winter warm-ups - never too late for these measures
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Feb. 2, 2012
We've gotten through December and January, leaving only two more months of winter to struggle through. Is your home a safe haven from howling winds and bone-chilling temperatures? When you come inside, are you still trying to shake the cold?
Maybe you think you have done all you can to cozy up your home from winter's relentless assault. Perhaps last year taught you a lesson, and you finally stopped up the major drafts at the entryways. But if winter is still a bother when you are inside your home, review these winter warm-ups for things you might not have accomplished.
If you haven't already had a qualified firm perform an energy audit on your home, there's no time like the present to have that done. It only takes a couple of hours, and it will identify where your house is wasting energy. Among the tests they will perform is a blower door test, which checks to see how snug the thermal environment is in your home. They should also use an infrared camera, giving you a visual assessment of the areas that need attention. The auditor will also check your heating and cooling system to be sure you are getting heat in the areas of the home where you need it. You may choose as a part of the audit to have the qualified contractor make some improvements, such as caulking and using other means to seal the house against drafts and air leaks. In our area the energy audit program is supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund.
You can learn more about the Home Energy Solutions program available in this part of the state at the Connecticut Light and Power website: http://www.cl-p.com/home/saveenergy/rebates/homeenergysolutions.aspx. If you choose not to have an energy auditor come to your home, or to have him make the suggested alterations and improvements, get ready to tackle them yourself.
If your home has weathered a whole lot of winters - that is, it was built decades ago - you may need to add insulation in the attic and walls. Check the measurements of your attic's insulation; anything less than 7 inches is inadequate. You can blow in loose insulation right over you fiberglass batts and ceiling joists. This will not only add depth, it will also fill in gaps and crevices. Although it can be messy to work with, you can do it yourself. Many of the stores in which you buy the material also rent the equipment you need to blow it into place.
The area where your house meets the foundation is an inconspicuous culprit in the weatherization war. The sill plates that connect your wood frame to the concrete are not always sealed well enough, if at all. The rim joists that run along the perimeter of the floor joists and the sill plates may have the same problem. You can correct the heat leaks and drafts at these locations simply by applying a bead of silicone or acrylic latex caulk at these joints. The wood itself will transfer some heat as well. So there you can use rigid foam insulation applied directly to the wood and sealed around its perimeter with caulk.
If you don’t have the most modern window technology throughout your home, consider covering them with plastic film to cut down on the drafts. You can also attack this very common vulnerability by fitting the windows with quilted or insulated draperies.
If you are fortunate enough to have south-facing windows, unobstructed by trees, keep blinds and drapes opened on sunny days, and close them as soon as the sun goes down. This is the cheapest source of heat you will find.
Use a space heater (safely!) in the room(s) where you and your family spend time. Keep the doors to those rooms closed to keep the supplemental heat in. This can be a good alternative to keeping the thermostat high enough to be comfortable everywhere. Understand that you will only benefit financially from using the space heater option by turning the thermostats in your house down to lower that energy cost, and compensate for the cost of running space heaters. If you find that you have to keep your thermostat turned up even while using space heater(s), you almost certainly need to face up to taking some of the other steps suggested here.