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Autumn means colder weather is coming, but it doesn't have to mean breaking the bank on your energy bills! | Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/floridastock
Cold weather is just around the corner, and even if it is still nothing but sunlight and warm days in your neighborhood, preparing for fall and winter now can save you money and a headache when the cold air descends.
In part one, we talked about five ways to prepare your home for winter: cleaning gutters, air-sealing, checking furnaces, sealing ducts, and outdoor lighting. If you missed it, take a look here, but there is still more to learn before cold weather is here!
1. Windows, Windows, Windows
Your windows do more than provide a view of trees with yellow leaves or snow-covered yards. They also provide a barrier to the cold. Windows with low-e coating reduce heat loss and even reflect back part of the room's heat. Installing storm windows can also reduce heat loss through windows by approximately 10%-20%.
Using drapes and blinds helps reduce heat loss through windows. However, windows with direct sunlight may benefit from having the blinds up during the daylight hours, as sunlight can help heat the space.
2. Spruce Up the Fireplace
Some of my fondest winter memories happen in front of a fire: afternoons with hot coffee and a good book or evenings curled under a blanket watching a movie. But before you bundle up in front your fireplace, give it some love.
First consider replacing your inefficient wood-burning fireplace with a more efficient wood stove or gas insert. It can turn your fireplace from a pretty--but high–maintenance--feature into a viable way to heat your home. Converting your fireplace will not only save you on monthly heating costs, it could even put money back in your pocket. Some states offer rebates or tax credits for upgrading your inefficient fireplace.
If you aren't interested in updating your fireplace, try adding glass doors with a heat-air exchange system, and make sure your fireplace is cleaned and your flue damper properly sealed. You should also try to keep the fireplace damper closed unless you have a fire burning.
3. Reverse Your Fan
In the summertime a fan is a wonderful way to keep cool, but your fan can also help circulate warm air in the winter. When you reverse the direction of your fan, the fan will push warm air downward and recirculate it through the room. To ensure your fan is spinning in the correct direction, set it so the blades are spinning clockwise when you look up.
4. Prep Your Lawn for Hibernation
Landscaping can save you energy if properly cared for and planned. Windbreaks can help block the cold winter wind and keep your home warmer. A wall or fence, evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the north, west, and east sides of your home can be most effective in creating a windbreak and reducing heating costs.
To ensure heavy snowfall doesn't snap branches that could provide wonderful cooling shade in the summer months, shake snow-laden tree branches with a mop or broom to relieve some of the weight.
5. It's Great to Insulate
Insulation is another important way to prepare your home for fall and winter. In winter, heat in your home will try to flow directly from all heated living spaces to adjacent unheated attics, garages, basements, and even to the outdoors. Heat flow can also move indirectly through interior ceilings, walls, and floors -- wherever there is a difference in temperature.
This means that your heating system has to work harder if your home isn't properly insulated, costing you money and wasting energy. Properly insulating your home will decrease heat flow by providing an effective resistance to the flow of heat.
While it may seem like the summer days are endless, fall and winter are just around the corner and prepping your home now means more relaxing when the temperature drops.