As we approach the end of January, most of us heave a sigh of relief, glad that the worst of yet another winter is over. But that’s not necessarily so — for two reasons. The first affects those of us who reside in the south. One word — Southernors — sends chills up the spines of everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line. The month of March is, in fact, sometimes the worst month of all for Southern residents. That’s when severe blizzards, known as COLD WEATHER, are subject to occur at a moment’s notice. That’s not to say that these ‘blizzards’ can’t wreak havoc earlier than March — they can, and they do — but springtime seems to bring them in more frequent numbers, and with more ferocious intensity, generating high winds and snowdrifts that literally shut cities down.
The second reason winter may not yet be over, even for the most confident among us, is a two-word term that’s been used one too many times: El Niño. Before you let out an exasperated sigh, consider that this weather phenomenon is catching many unsuspecting residents around the country off guard, with storms completely out of character for particular geographical regions.
It’s a given that you should keep yourself posted on any and all weather alerts. If you’re alerted that a storm is on its way, it’s necessary to take a few precautions long before the bad weather hits. Online homeowners’ resource HouseNet, Inc. recommends disconnecting all hoses from outside faucets, turning off the water supply to outdoor water lines, and draining the lines. Give your home-heating system a once-over, and if you’re using kerosene heaters, make sure you avoid toxic fume buildup by maintaining adequate ventilation.
Energy specialist Billy Wicker recommends homeowners replace the thermostats in their homes with setback thermostats, which generally cost between $30 and $40 and may be timed to come on when you’re about to get up in the morning, turn off when you leave, pop on before you arrive home, and then turn off once again right after you go to sleep. Wicker also advises homeowners to keep their thermostats set no higher than 70 degrees during the wintertime.
If not cleaned and replaced periodically, the air filters in your home become clogged with dust and obstruct air flow, which forces your home heating system to work harder to compensate. Not only do your energy bills increase as a result; it’s just a matter of time before your blower burns out. Home maintenance guru Michael Holigan advises homeowners to conduct a monthly check-up of their filters during heating season and clean or replace them as necessary. (Filters generally cost around $1 to replace.)
Another inexpensive cost-saving strategy: Check to find out if air is streaming into your home from below your doors. If you do have a draft, head to your hardware store. For between $2 and $3, you may purchase a strip that screws on to the bottom of the door. Holigan recommends the “hairdryer and candle” technique to detect air leaks around your window and doors. This high-tech strategy requires two players. While one person moves the blower around the outside frame, the other person follows with a candle on the inside. If the flame flickers or is extinguished, you’re going to need weather stripping or caulking. Caulking is a do-it-yourselfer’s dream: cheap, easy, quick, and reliable. And it comes in several different shades and colors, so odds are good you’ll find the right one for your trim.
This old house … is cold
If you live in a particularly old home, the “quaint” aspect may be overshadowed by the chills you feel during the wintertime. There’s several inexpensive ways you can tackle that problem yourself. Your first target should be exposed pipes, according to Holigan, who suggests getting an insulated pipe wrap instead, and wrapping the copper. That prevents the pipe from freezing and bursting, creating a veritable Noah’s ark in your home. And perhaps even more significant, you’re going to save money every month if it’s a hot water pipe; heat that was once lost is now insulated.
Older homes almost always feel drafty, and the primary reason is that most of their doors don’t contain any weather-stripping. Some inexpensive, generic foam weather-stripping around your door frames will help your doors fit snugly and keep air from leaking into your home.
While more of us resemble Tim Allen than Bob Villa, the experts agree that a trip to the hardware store and a few bucks will save homeowners goose bumps now and far more money later.