home for winter
Winter is coming, so Julie Watson has put her
husband to work. For the past few weeks, as the air cools and daylight
time ends, he busies himself with removing old caulk around the
windows, cleaning out leaves and debris from the eaves troughs and
removing any obstacles that will cause drifts when the snow starts
"It's all about economizing and controlling costs,"
says Watson. "It's also about being comfortable in the winter."
Living in a 30-year-old bungalow in Charlottetown, P.E.I., the couple
makes sure their house is toasty warm for the winter.
Whether you're living in a bungalow or a town
house, there are many check-ups to do before winter sets in. We've
amassed a list of seven savvy tips to keep the fires burning and
the pipes humming, just as they should, all winter long. Not only
will these tips conserve energy, but they'll also save you money
in the process.
1. Seal the deal
The easiest way to keep the heat inside your home is to seal air
leaks. If you're in an older home, hire a professional to test your
home for leaks, which costs about $150. To do it yourself, ensure
the caulk around windows and weatherstripping around doors are in
good condition and replace where necessary. For unused or older
windows, seal them using a plastic window-sealer kit, available
from most hardware stores for about $20.
If you live in
an older home, installing storm windows will also give you another layer of protection
from the elements.
2. Get ready to heat
Furnaces should be checked every year, says Charlie Smolenaars,
building supply manager from Rafuse Home Hardware Building Centre
in Wolfville, N.S. "You should have your furnace serviced yearly
to change the filter and nozzle in the burner to make sure it's
working as efficiently as possible," he says. He adds that
for those using oil, the annual checks may be tied into your contract
with your oil provider.
Ottawa resident Judy Scott tops up her fuel early
in the season to keep her warm all winter. "We make sure our
oil furnace tank and the propane tanks for our propane fireplace
are topped up early, before the snow and ice come. When the guys
come with the propane tanks, we also have them check and turn on
the fireplace," she says.
Don't forget about your cooling systems
On the cooler side of things,
air conditioners need attention, too. Partially cover freestanding units, ensuring
they can still breathe. For window units, cover them tightly with a cover, and
caulk the gaps between the unit and the frame to prevent leaks. Depending on how
big your unit is, and how big the gaps are, you may be better off removing it
from the window all together until the nicer weather arrives.
you have an air exchanger -- a system that filters and cleans the air inside your
home, exchanging the old, inside air with outside air -- it also needs some winter
care. "Normally in the summer, a lot of people don't run those systems, so
the fall is the best time to change filters and clean it to run properly for the
winter," says Smolenaars, who adds that most filter changes require a service
4. Look up at your roof
also important to inspect your roof. If you don't have a ladder, use binoculars
to visually inspect the roof, making sure there are no sagging or missing shingles.
Alongside the house, ensure gutters and eaves troughs
are clean. You can have your eaves troughs cleaned professionally
(it costs about $80 for an average-sized home) or, for $40, you
can invest in the Gutter Blaster, an eight-foot extension for your
garden hose. The U-shaped end fits into the trough and blasts out
unwanted build-up using the regular pressure from your hose.
Look at pipes and holes
If you have pipes, drainage or otherwise, that
run outside, keep them warm to prevent freezing. Watson's husband puts a heat
cable around his drainage pipes, but you can also buy heat tape, foam rubber sleeves
or fiberglass insulation.
Inside, make sure you plug every
hole you can find. So, for every electrical outlet in the house, buy a liner that
acts as extra insulation and fits between the wall and the cover. And even if
you don't have kids, plug the outlets with plastic socket inserts.
Check your insulation
The largest amount of heat that escapes your house
leaves through the attic -- almost 45 percent in fact. So, to prevent your warm
air from taking off, ensure your house has adequate insulation. Experts agree
that an R-30 rated insulation is the minimum requirement. Newer homes usually
have this standard, but older homes may need some new insulation.
7. Pack an emergency kit
Don't be caught without supplies for you and your family -- pack
an emergency kit before the bad weather arrives. According to the
Canadian Red Cross, every kit should include: four litres of water
per person per day, enough canned food to last for a few days, a
first aid kit, blankets, sleeping bags and a crank-operated radio.
Homeowners are notorious for leaving this little detail
to the last minute, which means everyone scrambles to the hardware
store at the same time if there's a rough winter storm that knocks
out the power. Montreal residents were without electricity for days
during the 1998 ice storm, with no heat and no lights.
Melanie Chambers is a freelance writer
based in London, Ont.