It's been a mild winter throughout most of the country so far. That means we still have time to run through a foul-weather checklist. Here are 10 "must do's" to have a warm, cozy and safe winter.
1. Check attic insulation. A foot of blown-in or batt insulation (R-38) in the attic reduces heat transfer from heated interior space to the great outdoors. This is a do-it-yourself job. If your attic is not insulated, blow in or roll out 12 inches of loose or batt insulation. If the amount of insulation is less than 12 inches, simply roll out unfaced fiberglass batts over the existing insulation to create a heavier thermal blanket. This is a case where more is better. Make sure to leave soffit vents unobstructed.
2. Install or replace weatherstripping, if necessary. Check the rubber threshold gasket at the bottom of exterior doors and replace if worn or torn. Next, make sure the top and sides of the door are weatherstripped and fit tightly. If there are gaps, replace the weatherstripping.
3. Check exterior doors and windows for gaps. Modern windows are probably OK, but older windows may need some help. To reduce air leakage, casement windows might need some weatherstripping at the joint where fixed and movable panes meet. Old double-hung wood windows are notorious air leakers. Place pieces of narrow self-adhesive rubber weatherstripping on the bottom sides and at the joint where the top and bottom panes meet.
4. Check the outside of doors and windows for voids, and caulk any gaps you see.
5. Change the filter in the heater. In older furnaces, filters should be changed monthly. Change or service newer, more efficient filters according to the manufacturer's instructions.
6. Replace your old thermostat with a new programmable model. This allows you to regulate the heater to warm the house when you're there and to reduce the temperature when you are at work or asleep.
7. Have your heater inspected by a licensed heating and air conditioning contractor. An inspection ensures that the heater is operating safely and efficiently. In many cases an inspection can alert you as to whether the unit is at the end of its life. It's nice to have the option to replace an old heater before it quits and becomes an emergency on a cold January day.
8. Check the carbon monoxide (CO) detector. If you don't have one, get one. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that kills. An operating CO detector can prevent a tragedy. While you're at it, check the smoke detectors to ensure they're operable.
9. Clean gutters and downspouts so fallen leaves won't clog them. Make sure that downspouts discharge away from the foundation and that soil is graded away from the foundation and at least 6 inches below the siding.
10. Clean the fireplace of ashes; visually check the chimney for loose or missing mortar. Also consider having the chimney professionally inspected and swept by a licensed and bonded chimney sweep.
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