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Ice Dam Dangers

Icicles – Winter can create some beautiful scenes…Biciclesright white snow, glistening frost on the trees.  Even the frozen pond perfect for hockey.  But icicles forming on the edges of your home should send up a warning flag.

Icicles hanging from the edges of your home are often the result of an ice dam formed when melting snow or ice flows down the roof and re-freezes.  That recent beautiful snowfall can become a homeowner nightmare.

There are many approaches to resolving this issue, some more effective than others.  Here are a few tips to get you through.

  • Attic Ventilation – Be sure you have adequate ventilation at the eaves and ridge.
  • Attic Insulation – Inspect and fix any missing or damaged insulation.
  • Use Ice & Water Shield when re-roofing.

The best long term way to avoid ice dam formation and roof ice dam leaks: good ventilation and good insulation!

Looking for more immediate measures or solutions?

  • Heat Tapes or Heat Cables – Tools like these will help melt channels in the existing ice.  It’s not a great permanent fix, but its usually a good step if you’re having an issue that may result in leaking into the structure.
  • Fix Air & Heat Leaks – Attics are cooler in the winter and a great time to look for missing or gaps in insulation.  Look for dark marks that may be caused by air flow.  Attending to these leaks can help prevent or resolve the exterior Ice Dams.
  • Lower The Temperature – We know what you’re thinking…”Turn down the heat? You must be joking.”  We’re not kidding.  Making the house too warm while having improper insulation sends more heat into the attic which means more melting snow until it hits the colder roof edge and freezes.
  • Remove the Ice – sounds simple right?  There are all sorts of ideas out there to remove the ice that may have already built up on the edge of your roof.  Which ever you choose, ALWAYS keep safety your first priority.

#icedam #HomeInspection

4 Simple Checks for Winter Savings

During the cold winter months, homeowners in most of the country find it necessary to turn on the heaters to keep warm. You can save energy when heating your home by taking the time to winterize for maximum energy savings.

Create a Winter Plan

Due to increasing energy costs, winter heating will consume an increasingly larger portion of a household’s energy budget. That’s why it’s important to check your home to insure that your heating dollars aren’t being wasted.

The end of summer and the beginning of fall is a perfect time to get your home ready for the ensuing cold-weather months. Use the steps listed below to help formulate a plan to winterize.

Check for Leaks

Weather stripping and caulking are the least expensive, simplest, most effective way to reduce energy waste in the winter. Improperly sealed homes can waste 10% to 15% of a home’s heating dollars.

  1. Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather-stripping or caulk any holes that allow heat to escape. Make sure doors seal properly.
  2. If your windows leak badly, consider replacing them with newer, more efficient ones. Remember that replacing windows can be expensive – it could take you quite a while to recover your costs from the energy savings alone.
  3. Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the walls, ceiling, or floor has the potential to waste energy. Plumbing vents can be especially bad, since they begin below the floor and go all the way through the roof. Seal them all with caulking or weather-stripping.
  4. Electric wall plugs and switches allow cold air in. Pre-cut, foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate can effectively prevent leaks.
  5. Don’t forget to close the damper on your fireplace if there is no fire burning. This acts as an open window.
  6. Examine your house’s heating ducts for leaks. Since you don’t see them every day, ducts can leak for years without you knowing it. They can become torn or crushed and flattened. Have damaged ducts repaired or replaced. Duct tape can work for a short time, but after a while, it dries up and becomes useless.

Check Your Insulation

Insulation reduces the heat flowing out of your home during the winter months. Ensuring that your home is properly insulated will help your save energy when the temperatures drop.

  1. Insulate your attic. In older homes, thin can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs. Prior to energy efficiency standards, homes were often built with little or no insulation. As a result, a large amount of heat is lost through walls, floors, and ceilings.  The amount of insulation that you should install depends upon where you live. Insulation is measured in R-values, or the resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the less resistant the product is to heat flow. Ask the salesperson at your local hardware store about the recommended R-values for your location.
  2. Weather-strip and insulate your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out of the top of your house. Since warm air rises, this type of heat escape is common.
  3. Seal holes in the attic that lead down into the house, such as open wall tops and duct, plumbing, or electrical runs. Any hole that leads from a basement or crawlspace to an attic is a big energy waster. Cover and seal them with spray foam and rigid foam board if necessary.

 Review  your Heating System

Autumn is the perfect time to perform routine maintenance on your home’s heating system to ensure that it is running efficiently and effectively during the winter.

  1. Replace your heater’s air filter monthly. Since your heater will have to work less hard, it will run more efficiently. Cleaning and removing dust from vents or along baseboard heaters will have the same effect.
  2. If your heating system is old, you might consider updating it. A pre-1977 gas furnace is probably 50 percent to 60 percent efficient today. Modern gas furnaces, on the other hand, achieve efficiency ratings as high as 97 percent. Replacing an old heating system can cut your natural gas use nearly in half!
  3. Use your set-back thermostat if you have one. If you don’t have one, get one. A set-back thermostat allows you to automatically turn down the heat when you’re away at work or when you’re sleeping. you can then boost the temperature to a comfortable level when you need it. It takes less energy to warm a cool home than to maintain a warm temperature all day. Using a set-back thermostat can cut heating costs from 20% to 75%.Reverse the switch on your ceiling fans so they blow upward. This is especially valuable in high ceiling rooms, where heat that naturally rises is forced back down into the room.
  4. Make sure all hearing vents are opened and unblocked by furniture or other items. This will ensure that the air is evenly distributed through the home.

 

You Don’t Have to Spend to Save

Here we are, noticing our summer tans fading, dark roots growing out from our scalps, and waiting for the first winter snow fall amidst the freezing rain and blowing wind. Winter is rearing its ugly head and so are heating costs. The television and web are full of great ideas on how to save money on energy costs, but more often than not it takes money to save money. For many, spending money on major home improvement projects to make a home more energy efficient just isn’t in the cards this year.

I am here to tell you that you still have options. You do not have to spend a bunch of money to cut your heating costs. Below you will find nine tips on how to save money on energy bills without breaking the bank. Each tip should cost from nothing to very little. Follow these ideas that all of us should have thought of a decade ago, and say good-bye to shocking heating bills.

  1. Bundle up! Running around with shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter just doesn’t make much sense. Winter is winter because it is cold, so act like it even if you’re just sitting around the house. Put on a sweater or sweatshirt, wear socks and fuzzy slippers. Place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch to cuddle up in while watching TV, reading or chatting with friends. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice cold surfaces. It doesn’t cost anything to wear warmer clothes inside and by doing so you can keep the temperature inside the house a few degrees cooler and save big.
  2. Not all doors are used in the winter, nor are the windows, so plastic up the windows and doors that are going to go unused. There are window kits for sale for about $5 per window. These can help to eliminate drafts to keep in the heat! Can’t afford the kits or plastic sheeting? Hang blankets to help insulate! If you are creative enough, you can hang it to look shabby chic!
  3. Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. This doesn’t mean turn the heat to 40 degrees, but turning it down to 60 overnight or while you’re away can make a big difference. Think about it; why keep it 70 degrees when you’re either sleeping or out of the house for more than 12 hours a day? You can adjust the thermostat manually for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks a programmable thermostat is a great investment.
  4. After baking cookies or making dinner in the oven, leave the door open a crack. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms meaning the furnace has to run a little bit less.
  5. Use a space heater only in the current room you are hanging out in. This will take the nip out of the air to make you feel more comfortable without heating all of the other rooms in the house and wasting energy.
  6. Use silicone to fill any cracks in doors, windows, etc, including the basement floor and walls. You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of caulk or silicone will only run you a few dollars and it’s an easy weekend project.
  7. Close any vents going to rooms that are not used regularly. That guest room that sits empty when you don’t have any guests? Close the door and the vents. Doing so can easily cut 100-200 square feet off of your energy footprint.
  8. Put weather stripping around windows and doors. Weather stripping helps quite a bit, especially in older homes. You’d be surprised how the seals around your doors and windows can deteriorate over time.
  9. Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.

All of these tips are good, old fashioned, common sense thoughts that don’t take but a few minutes and maybe a few dollars to implement. True these thoughts won’t save you thousands like all new windows would, but they will help you to save as much as possible with what you have.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Different regions have different kinds of falls. In some places, it’s cool and rainy, and in others, it’s sunny and dry. Often, fall is a time for gathering in the harvest and preparing for festive holidays indoors. No matter what kind of fall you have, these steps can help during the transition from summer to winter.

Inside the home

Fall is a good time to complete indoor projects.

  • Repair vinyl and wood floors
  • Examine and repair indoor staircases
  • Test the furnace to make sure it works properly
  • Maintain locks, lubricating as necessary
  • Repair and replace caulking in floors and baseboards and around windows and doors
  • Remove and replace crumbling caulk around the bathtub, sink, or toilet, and also make sure there is no moisture under the bathtub or shower stall
  • Test for radon gas
  • Lubricate squeaking doors
  • Evaluate insulation
  • Have ventilation ducts cleaned, inspected, and repaired
  • Check for mice and rats—put out traps in areas pests might sneak into the home
  • Patch and paint holes and cracks in walls and ceilings, watch for indications of water damage
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries if needed
  • Repair indoor woodwork
  • Check the stove exhaust fan and remove dust and grease build-up  
  • Install plastic sheets on windows that require extra wind protection
  • Add weather stripping around doors

Outside the Home

With shorter days and the approach of winter, take some time to check the exterior of your home.

  • Check the roof for summer wear and tear
  • Clean gutters and downspouts
  • Drain the evaporative cooler
  • Inspect and service the heating unit
  • Repair cracks in siding and shingles
  • Repair any damaged masonry
  • Insulate water pipes that are exposed to extreme cold
  • Cover outdoor water faucets
  • Remove screens, clean them, and store away for the winter
  • Seal any concrete walkways
  • Check exterior ventilation flaps, making sure they are intact and functional

In the Garage

During the fall, take time to prepare your garage for the upcoming winter.

  • Protect and cover lawn equipment and garden tools
  • Drain lawnmower of gasoline and oil
  • Check for leaks in the doors and repair
  • Examine and repair the weatherstripping at the bottom of the garage door

In the Yard

The freezing and thawing of the impending winter can cause damage to outdoor furniture and your swimming pool.

  • Cover and protect your patio furniture
  • Drain the pool
  • Trim tree limbs that could break under the weight of snow and ice

In the Garden

With the arrival of fall, you can begin your early garden work and check any grading issues.  Keeping landscaping in check can help prevent leaking and foundation damage. 

  • Trim trees, bushes and other ground cover that may be near the foundation
  • Add a protective layer of mulch to your perennials, shrubs, and trees
  • Clean flower beds of spent summer blossoms and plants
  • Turn the compost
  • Remove the garden hose and place inside for the winter
 

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