Monday, 30 September 2019

As the days grow shorter and colder, it's time to start thinking about getting your home ready for winter.

Regardless of where you live, prepping your home for the colder months can help protect it, make it more comfortable, and save you money. Also, when it comes time to sell your home, some of these upgrades can increase your home's value and attractiveness to buyers.

But, as you know, home improvements cost money — and some can be very expensive. With this in mind, here are some suggestions for winterizing your home, ranging from inexpensive do-it-yourself jobs to substantial repairs and upgrades. Even if you and your bank account aren't prepared for a major home overhaul, some of the smaller, less-expensive projects can make a big difference when it comes to your comfort and utility bill.

Do it yourself and least expensive

These small-budget, simple projects can impact your monthly energy usage.

  • Caulk around windows and seal cracks. Sealing spaces around windows and visible exterior cracks can help keep heat in and cold air out. Even the most novice do-it-yourselfer should be able to wield a caulk gun, which you can purchase at your local hardware or home improvement store for around $20. While you're at it, go ahead and add some weather stripping around doors and windows. A few bucks and a few hours of your time can translate into real savings.
  • Change the air filter in your HVAC system. When the air filter is dirty, your unit has to work harder, which costs more money. Changing the filter is easy, and you can pick up new filters for less than $30 at your local hardware, home improvement, and in some cases, even the grocery store.
  • Seal up your fireplace. Keeping warm air from escaping through your fireplace can be as easy as closing the damper, which doesn't cost a dime. If you're not sure how reliable your damper is, consider having your chimney serviced or adding glass doors to your fireplace.

Might need a professional and a bigger budget

You might need to call in the pros for these projects, but the savings could easily offset the cost.

  • Get your HVAC system serviced. Making sure your system is in top working order improves efficiency and can help you avoid future breakdowns and expensive repairs. Standard service can run between $70 and $100.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. These high-tech devices allow you to control the temperature down to the minute to maximize energy savings. They can range from $90 to $300, depending on the specific features. If you need a pro to take care of installation, that could cost an additional $170 or so.
  • Seal outdoor wood. Winterizing isn't all about energy. You also need to protect your home's exterior from what can be harsh winter conditions. For example, cleaning and staining your deck can help extend the life of what can be very expensive wood. Having this professionally done can cost around $3 a square foot.

Call a contractor and get out the checkbook

Repairing and updating some of your home's major systems can help you save on energy costs and also increase the value of your home when you're ready to put it on the market. These updates can be pricey, but in most cases, you'll reap the rewards of your investment while you're in the home and when you sell it.

  • Replace windows. Old, drafty windows can be a major source of heat loss. Depending on the number of windows, installing new ones could cost thousands of dollars but can make your home much more energy-efficient. If you can't afford to replace your windows, consider adding storm windows, which could reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent.
  • Repair/replace roof and add insulation. A leaky roof can result in costly damage to your home and make selling it very difficult. Replacing your roof could cost tens of thousands of dollars, but it's a good opportunity to add more insulation and also utilize materials that can dramatically improve your home's energy efficiency.
  • Replace heating and cooling system with a more efficient model. If you plan to stay in your home for a while, upgrading to a more energy-efficient HVAC system could save you 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. If you're selling, buyers will find a new system a very attractive feature. Replacing your system could cost thousands of dollars, but be well worth it in both the short and long term.

Just like spring is a good time for cleaning, fall is the ideal time to make improvements to your home that can make it more energy efficient — which is good for you and the next person who owns your home. If you're not sure how efficient your home is or what upgrades you need, you can learn more about professional energy audits at energy.gov

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