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Winter is Coming: 4 Ways to Prepare Your Home

Hey, Austin, believe it or not winter is coming. Here are four areas to look at to get your central Texas home winterized, efficient, and in good shape for the colder, darker months to come.

What Does Your House & The NSA Have in Common? Leaks.
We spend a lot of time and money getting the air in our homes or apartments to a comfortable temperature. Unfortunately, physics works against us all the time: warm air is constantly working its way to areas where the air is colder.

Getting the home ready for any season focuses primarily on the “thermal envelope.” It’s the outer shell of the home that includes everything from your siding and insulation, to your windows, to your roof and attic space. All of those places, where the home is making contact with cooler, outside air are points where warm air is trying to sneak out in the winter.

Caulk and weather stripping are your greatest tools in fighting leaks. You can really improve the comfort of your home by stopping those cold drafts, as well as helping your heater not have to work as hard. Be sure to check around your windows and doors for any visible leaks that are letting light through. If so, use caulk or weather stripping to help seal those gaps. If you don’t have a caulk gun or don’t know how to use one, ask a relative or neighbor for help, or talk to an employee at TreeHouse. We’d be happy to walk you through it. Weather stripping is cheap, easy to use, and can make a surprising difference in comfort for the home. Few things are as annoying as sitting on your couch, only to realize you can feel a draft coming through your window. If your windows are old and only have one pane of glass, replacing them with more energy efficient windows can make a difference by making it harder for heat to transfer through them, stopping UV light from sneaking into the home, blocking noise from the street, and by preventing condensation from gathering on the inside of the glass and pooling up on your window sills.

Your outlets can be another source of drafts. The leaks are easy to find if you wet your finger a little and hold it near the outlet cover. They make special outlet gaskets specifically for keeping drafts from sneaking in through the outlets. Other easy fixes for around the house include draft stoppers or “draft snakes” or just making sure your furnace filter is clean. We know it’s no fun to just set the thermostat to a lower temperature and freeze in your own home, and no one wants to dress like Randy from A Christmas Story, just to feel warm in your own house. Hopefully by working to seal up any leaks, you can make your home more comfortable so that the heater isn’t turning on as frequently, or you can make that lower temperature feel more comfortable.

Heat Water Smarter, not Harder
The water heater is another appliance that tends to work harder in the winter. We like longer, warmer showers, and whether it’s gas or electric, that water heater is working hard to keep all the water in the tank at the temperature it is set to. There is a constant cycle of heating the water, the water cooling down, and the heater having to reheat it. When your water heater was installed, the plumber likely set it to heat the water to 140°. If you’re like most people, this means you turn on the hot water tap and have to temper it with cold water as well. This is a good sign that it’s up too high. Turn the temperature on the water heater down to 120°, and see how you like it there. You’ll probably still have to run some cold water with it, but not as much. More importantly, however, your water heater won’t have to run nearly as much.

If you want to help your water heater even more, several companies make insulating blankets designed specifically for the water heater that can be purchased for between $15 and $30. These blankets help slow the heat transfer between the water in the tank and the air outside. The longer the water in the tank stays the temperature you want, the less energy is needed to reheat it, just like adding insulation to your attic or you wearing a sweater to help keep you warm.

If you really want the most efficient water heater on the market, you might consider updating with a new hybrid heat-pump water heater like the new GeoSpring from GE. The GeoSpring water heater combines energy-saving heat-pump technology with traditional electric elements using a fraction of the energy.

Switch Your Fan On, Flip It, and Reverse It
Did you know your ceiling fan can help you feel warmer in the winter? When ceiling fans run counterclockwise, they create a breeze that helps you feel cooler in the summer. If you switch the direction so they run clockwise, ceiling fans create an updraft that pulls the cool air up and away from you, displacing the warm air trapped against the ceiling and causing it to travel back down toward the floor. By running the fan on low speed, you won’t feel the breeze, but you will notice the room will stay a more consistent temperature, and you won’t need to get up to turn up the thermostat as high or as often.

Colder AND DarkerDon’t forget that it doesn’t just get colder in winter, but with fewer daylight hours, the lights in your house will get more use. Now is a great time to invest in LED lighting. Companies like Philips and Lighting Science make LED bulbs for any fixture in the home. For lighting with a little more flair, Philips’ Hue bulbs or the smart bulbs from Ilumi are app-enabled, full color smart light bulbs

Whether it’s finally installing a smart thermostat, deciding to cook at home a little more (that oven can really help a home feel cozy), fixing leaky doors and windows, investing in LED lighting, or having one of our Home Consultants do a free inspection of your house, there are dozens of ways you can get your home ready for the colder, darker months ahead. Most of the improvements aren’t costly and can easily pay for themselves in a single season. TreeHouse offers many of the products you need, and if you have an idea not mentioned here, come talk to us about it. We’d love to hear about your project and help you make your home as efficient and healthy as possible.