Cost Saving Tips to Keep Your House Warm and Your Car Running This Winter
Snow! Sleet! Sub-Zero Temps! Oh My! Yep, that time of year is upon us which means you’ll need to get your house and car ready for the inevitable elements. Find out which jobs you can DIY and which jobs you'll likely need the pros to handle, when you winterize your house and car.
House Tips: DIY
First tip? Start outside. Since it’s not completely absurd for snow to fall as early as October, tackling the outdoors first is a good way to keep you from scrambling to beat the weather.
Air conditioner: your central air unit will need a cover like this Duck Covers Air Conditioner Cover from Amazon ($22) to keep snow and ice from sticking to it, which can cause it to rust. This goes for window units as well. An extra step to help guarantee a well-running air conditioner come next summer is to drain any pipes or hoses coming from your AC. This also reduces the chance of freezing.
Clean gutters: Clogged gutters can block any melting snow from draining and this can cause a backflow underneath your roof shingles and also cause ice dams to form.
Weather stripping: To keep the air from blowing in, and heat from seeping out, gaps from the outside must be closed up. If you’re not confident about your caulking work, try Great Stuff Foam Sealant on cracks that are one inch or smaller. Once it’s sprayed it expands to fill the crack. The best part? It can be used outdoors and indoors. It can be found at most big hardware stores and is right now selling for about $3 at Walmart. And if you’re not sure if you have any gaps, check out this handy dandy Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector from Amazon for $25.99.
Garden hoses: Be sure to unhook any outdoor hoses from their spigots and turn off the water. Even a small amount of water could freeze and stay lodged in the pipe.
Now when it's time to move inside, the number one thing to address is air flow and how to stop those chilly breezes from sneaking in.
Draft guards: If you want something a little more presentable than a towel, think about getting a draft snake or guard that sits directly in front of the bottom crack of your door. Since it's mobile, you can move it from door to door, depending on where the wind happens to be blowing.
Window film: This can be placed on individual windows, stopping the cold air from coming through. Usually for $20 or less you can get a multiple pack of window film, like this 3M Indoor Window Insulator Five Pack from Target for $12.99.
Change your furnace filter: Costing only about $10 — or sometimes less when you buy them in bulk — changing your filter is a fast, easy, and cheap way to increase the efficiency of your heating system.
Ceiling fans: don’t let your fans rest during the winter just because it’s not blazing hot outside. Put them to use by having them spin clockwise. This pushes the heat down, which should help avoid turning up that thermostat.
Insulation: check your attic to make sure it has the proper amount of insulation. It’s typically recommended to have around 12 inches. If your attic falls short, simply add an extra layer (but be sure to wear gloves). This too can be found at most hardware stores starting at about $20, depending on the size of the roll.
Programmable thermostat: Investing in a programmable thermostat like this Nest from Target ($169) can significantly bring down the cost of your heating bill since it allows you to turn down the heat when you’re not there, but also allows you to program it so that it starts heating up your house before you return. This is better than either letting it run high all day or coming home to a freezing cold house, tempting you to turn it up to an unnecessary 78 degrees.
Extra layers: Cover up with a blanket or put on a sweater — it works wonders! Sure, keeping your house efficient is important, but if you're the warm-blooded type who still needs more, add that extra hoodie or Snuggie.
House Tips: Call the Professionals
Tree trimming: If you have any trees that have branches hanging over roofs, cars, etc., it would be a good idea to trim them back. If ice builds up on the branches, it could weigh them down, causing them to break and land exactly where you don’t want them to. Depending on your experience and equipment, you may be able to do this yourself, but when in doubt, call the pros.
Chimney cleaning: call a certified chimney sweeper to clean and inspect your chimney out before you set your first fire of the year. They can look for any obstructions that could cause damage. Not sure where to start? Try the Chimney Safety Institute of America website to find one in your area.
Furnace tune-ups: Call your local HVAC pro to inspect your furnace and give it a tune-up if necessary. During their inspection, they’re likely to also check the air filters, carbon monoxide detector, and piping. HVAC professionals can also inspect heating ducts for any air leaks.
Don’t forget about your car! Nothing worse than running late to work or school and discovering your locks are frozen shut or your battery has gone kaput.
Car Tips: DIY
Fluids: coolant, wiper fluid, and oil changes are all important. The right coolant will help prevent fluid from freezing in your radiator. Your oil should be changed to a thinner version and your wiper fluid should be changed to a freeze-resistant version.
Glycerin: When the lock freezes, just apply a drop or two of glycerine, which will work as a de-icer. This can be found at most auto parts stores.
Emergency kit: Be sure your car is always carrying a mini survival kit, complete with blankets, water, food, and outerwear.
Car Tips: Call the Professionals
Tire inspection: low air pressure or worn down tires can be dangerous on slick roads, so both will need to be checked before the winter weather really gets started. You can check the air pressure yourself if you have a tire gauge, which can be bought at most auto parts stores. But if you’re not sure if the level is right, or if you also need them checked for wear and tear, it’s best to take your car in to your favorite mechanic.
Battery inspection: did you know that cold weather can reduce your battery’s capacity? Get it checked along with its cables for any cracks or breaks.