It's Time to Winterize
- Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Now is the time to winterize not only your home and car, but also your gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers and chain saws.
Wallhangings. A quilt or decorative rug will insulate interior walls, keep your room cozier, and allow you to turn down the thermostat a few degrees in the winter without a noticeable difference.
Fireplace starter. To make a fireplace log starter, stuff the cups of a paper egg carton with lint from the dryer. Melt paraffin or an old candle, pour the wax over the lint and allow to harden. Cut into sections. To use, place one of these neat fire-starters under the logs. Light it and it will burn for about 20 minutes.
Chimney clean-out. If you use your wood-burning fireplace frequently, you must clean the chimney to prevent a build-up of creosote, the cause of chimney fires. Get a professional inspection and evaluation.
Firewood. A full cord of firewood is a stack that equals 128 cubic feet. Although usually defined as 4'x 4'x 8', it can be an equal dimension such as 2'x 4'x 16'. A face cord is a stack of firewood where the "face" is the traditional 4' x 8' but the depth may be any number of feet depending on the size of the logs. When you purchase firewood, make sure you get a full cord.
Cheap firewood. If you live near a national forest, you may be entitled to several cords of firewood for a small fee. Check with your regional office of the U.S. Forest Service. Warning: It is illegal to pick up firewood in a government-owned forest without a permit, so don't skip that part.
Newspaper logs. Make homemade fire logs for the fireplace: Stack some folded newspaper, alternating the folded sides, until the stack is about 1 inch high. Don't use colored stock. Roll the stack as tightly as you can. Hold it together with wire. Don't use string because it will burn off and the paper will fly all over the place. When rolled and secured, thoroughly soak the "logs" in water and set them outside to dry completely.
Money up the chimney. Don't let heat escape up the chimney. Check for leaks and keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use.
Heat pump. If your home has a heat pump, there are several things you can do to make sure it is functioning at its best and not costing more than it should:
1. Make sure the outside unit is not blocked by shrubs or weeds.
2. Never stack anything against the heat pump or drape anything over it.
3. Hose down the outside unit periodically to remove dust, dirt, lint, leaves and grass clippings.
4. Don't close off unused rooms. That reduces the efficiency of the heat pump and the cost of replacing it will be far more than the small amount you'll save by not heating the whole house.
5. Clean and change filters and vacuum registers and returns monthly.
6. Don't block registers or air returns with furniture or drapes.
Dryer diversion. If your home is very dry inside during the winter and you have an electric dryer (never do this with a gas dryer), you can detach the vent pipe from the outside vent, cover it with a piece of cheesecloth or nylon stocking to serve as a lint filter, and redirect that wasted heat back into your house. You can buy a heat diverter attachment for about $7 at your local home center and install it yourself.
Charcoal in a bag. Fill a net vegetable bag with charcoal and hang in the musty basement or damp garage to absorb odors.
Doors and windows
A well winterized home is one that is airtight. Weather stripping is the best way to plug up all those energy leaks.
Detect air leaks. Shut the doors and windows. Move a lighted candle around the perimeters of the doors or windows. If the flame flickers you have an air leak. Plug it with caulk and weather stripping, available at any home improvement center.
Door Frames. Weather stripping is installed on the door frame except for door sweeps and some thresholds. You can weather strip your doors even if you're not an experienced handyman. Many different types of weather stripping materials can be purchased each with its own level of effectiveness, durability and degree of installation difficulty. The installations are the same for the two sides and top of a door, with a different, more durable one for the threshold.
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