In extreme temperatures, you want to keep the outside air ‘outside’ and the inside air ‘inside.’ This applies to not only winter, but summer as well.
As most of us transition into winter gradually this fall, temperatures are still moderate and that can lead to keeping the windows open more often. While it is certainly nice to air the house out, you want to make sure that you know when to keep the windows closed as well.
Pay Attention to the Weather
For the next few months, you’re likely to still have a few days that warrant air conditioning, and some nights that get cold enough to spring for the heat. With careful planning you can avoid the need to turn on the AC or the heat just to briefly alter the temperature. Pay attention to the weather forecast. If it is forecast to get quite cold overnight, don’t leave so many windows open that it will require a quick blast of heat in the morning to keep your extremities from freezing. And if the forecast is calling for a hot day, make sure you close up the windows before heading off to work so that when you get home in the evening it isn’t 80 degrees in the house. A little extra attention to the weather can keep you from using the AC or heat for occasional temperature fluctuations that are bound to occur this fall.
Check for Leaks
It takes more than a quick visual inspection to see if there are any air leaks in your home. The first places you should check are around your doors and windows. Even if there is no visual evidence of a gap, you’ll want to actually feel for any air movement. It is best to check for this when the air outside is significantly cooler than that of the air inside. To assist with this check, turn on your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. This will create a draft that can make it easier to detect incoming air around window and door seals.
If you do find incoming air, you’ll want to address it sooner rather than later. It may seem like a tiny air leak wouldn’t have much of an effect, but remember that in very cold or hot weather, this air is streaming in 24/7. This can significantly impact the need for heating or cooling to regulate the temperature in the house. Most leaks can be closed by adding caulk to seams or changing the door seams or weatherstripping. In many cases, this fix will be under $10, and fixing one leak could easily save much more than that over the course of a year.
Fireplace and Wood Stove Dampers
If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure the damper is closed. The chimneys on these can be huge energy wasters. When the damper is open and there is no fire, the pressure differences and winds outside can create suction that literally sucks the warm air out of your house. You may not even realize this is happening, but the warm air inside is being sucked outside and cold outside air is finding its way in through tiny cracks everywhere in your home.
Attic and Basement Insulation
If you think back to an elementary science class, you may remember that hot air rises. That means in your home, the hot air is going to rise to the ceiling, and if you have multiple stories, to the upper levels. Just because your air appears to be bound by the solid ceilings in your home doesn’t mean it is contained. If you lack sufficient insulation in your attic, the hot air simply transfers through the ceiling and into the attic, and eventually outside. If you have easy access to your attic, check to be sure it is properly insulated, and if not, consider adding some.
The same holds true for basements. If you have an unfinished basement, you’ll want to ensure that you have a layer of insulation just beneath the main level’s floor. This helps keep the cold air from making your floor cold, which in turn cools down the air in the room. If you have a finished basement that does get heat in the winter, make sure that your basement walls and windows are properly insulated. If you have old single-pane basement windows, one of the best things you can do is upgrade them to double-pane or glass blocks.
Replace Those Furnace Filters
Finally, one of the cheapest and easiest things to do if you have a forced-air furnace is to keep your filters fresh. They are often neglected and left in service far too long, but this does no good. Over time, filters begin to collect dust and debris, which in turn reduces the amount of air that can flow through them. With reduced airflow, your furnace has to stay on longer and work harder to process the same amount of air, which means higher energy costs for you.
In addition, filters that aren’t properly replaced have an allergy and illness cost associated with them as well. Very cheap or clogged filters simply collect the dust and pollutants that can make you sneeze or even sick. By upgrading to a good filter and changing it out when you’re supposed to, you can keep your air in the house clean and healthy.
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