(ARA) - Preparing your home for cold weather is important for your comfort this winter as well as your utility bills. When you're making your winterization to-do list, be sure to include these simple updates that will help prevent costly damage to your home and provide you with the peace of mind that you're saving energy, water and money.
Give your furnace a tune-up: Schedule an appointment to have your furnace inspected and serviced. Annual maintenance by a professional will help ensure your furnace is in prime condition for the long winter and operating as efficiently as possible. Plan ahead and get a preseason check-up before HVAC crews get backed up during the busy winter months. In addition to a professional inspection, don't forget to inspect the furnace filters on a monthly basis. A dirty filter obstructs air flow in the home and reduces efficiency.
Check your insulation: Snuggling under a heavy blanket or layering on extra socks and sweaters may feel like a cozy way to watch your favorite holiday movie, but it could also be a sign that it's too cold in your house. You may need more insulation to keep that warm, conditioned air your furnace is cranking out in all the right spots.
A good place to start is the attic. All it takes is a quick peek at the floor of your attic to know if you need more insulation. If your attic floor is insulated, but the floor joists are still visible, then you probably don't have enough. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that the recommended level of insulation for most attics is approximately 10 to 14 inches or an R-value of R-38, depending on insulation type. Check out the Energy Star website to find a chart indicating the recommended level of insulation per region.
Install energy-efficient windows: A significant amount of heat can escape through older, less efficient windows. Installing Energy Star qualified windows can reduce heat loss and increase comfort during extreme weather. According to the DOE, some Energy Star-qualified windows feature more than three panes for increased efficiency and sound insulation. Take the time to research which type of window is the best fit for your climate before making a purchase, as different models are available to fit the needs of different performance zones.
Install a water-efficient showerhead: A warm shower during the winter doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense Program water-saving specifications for showerheads require a flow rate of no more than 2 gallons per minute (gpm).
As the 2011 WaterSense Manufacturer Partner of the Year, Delta Faucet Company strives to help people use water in smarter and more environmentally responsible ways. A 1.5 gpm Delta showerhead featuring H2Okinetic Technology uses up to 36 percent less water than the industry standard of 2.5 gpm.
"We understand how much people value their shower routine, so we worked hard to develop a technology that can make the showerhead water-efficient without sacrificing the user's experience," says Paul Patton, senior product development manager at Delta Faucet Company.
Patton says the H2OKinetic Technology employs fluid dynamics to produce larger droplets that retain heat longer and create a denser spray pattern. Together, these effects create a feeling of a drenching, luxurious shower while using less water. Using less hot water not only conserves Earth's most precious resource, but also helps manage utility costs by using less energy from the hot water heater.
Prevent plumbing freezes: Insulate the water lines that run along any of the exterior walls in your home so the water will be less likely to freeze and cause the pipes to burst. It's also a good idea to make sure your entire family knows where the main shut off valve is located and how to turn it off in the event that a pipe develops a leak or bursts.
Winter forecasts look grim with many meteorologists predicting harsher weather conditions compared to what we experienced in many regions across the U.S. last year. A few updates to the interior and exterior of your home can safeguard it from potential damage and keep you and your family comfortable throughout the season.