Don’t wait until it’s too late

Local home inspector gives simple winterizing steps that can save parish homeowners money


November 20, 2008 at 11:32 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

While the first day of winter is not until Dec. 21, many homeowners could be caught off guard by dropping temperatures if they don’t take the necessary steps to prepare their homes for the cold.

In fact, not winterizing a home can lead to increased energy costs, frozen or broken pipes and other unexpected repairs.

“In southeast Louisiana, you want to start preparing your home for winter with the onset of fall and as the weather starts getting a little cooler,” Jerry Schonekas, from The Home Team Inspection Service, said. “There are several steps that can be taken to properly prepare your home for winter to help reduce costs and the likelihood of problems that often occur due to cold weather.”

Schonekas says that the first area of the home that should receive attention is the exterior. Now is a good time to clean the gutters and make sure that they drain properly. This simple step, which can easily be accomplished using a garden hose, will prevent water from backing up and damaging adjacent woodwork. The downspouts should also carry the water well away from the foundation where it can drain away from the home.

“You also want to seal any penetrations and cracks in the siding with an exterior latex type caulking to prevent moisture and pest intrusion,” Schonekas said. “Those garden hoses should also be drained and disconnected, and any exposed water lines should be protected using pre-molded foam sleeves, which are available at any hardware store.”

The attic is also an important, but often overlooked area.

“Two things you want to check for in the attic is the amount of insulation you have and look at the HVAC ductwork,” Schonekas said. “If the insulation has settled or you see areas of missing insulation, now may be a good time to contact a qualified contractor who specializes in insulating homes to provide options and costs for additional insulation.”

While this may be a costly step, it helps improve the overall efficiency of the home and lowers the heating and cooling costs.

While checking the insulation, the ductwork should be inspected to see if there are any loose or detached ducts, and to make sure that it is well insulated. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home may lose up to 60 percent of its heated air if the ductwork is not well connected and insulated.

“While in the attic, it is also a good time to take a look around for any signs of moisture leaks and to make sure the vents are operating properly and not blocked,” Schonekas said.

Homeowners may also overlook the windows and doors when winterizing a home, though by doing so they may miss a simple and inexpensive way to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.

“Exterior doors should have weather-stripping around the frame and a door sweep at the bottom to ensure they seal properly when closed,” Schonekas said. “Also, check the caulking around the exterior windows and re-caulk them if necessary.

“Any broken or cracked window panes should also be replaced.”

Furnaces should also be operated prior to the arrival of cold weather just to make sure they are working.

“A strong smell is normal when turning on the furnace for the first time and opening windows and doors should help dissipate the odor,” Schonekas said. “Most HVAC companies run a fall special around this time of year to check and clean the furnaces and to make sure the unit is operating safely and efficiently.

“Now may be a good time to take advantage of this if the furnace has not been cleaned in a while.”

Other simple steps that can be taken inside the home include reversing the ceiling fans and having them run in a clockwise direction to push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate. If the home has a fireplace, the damper needs to be checked to make sure it is operational. The damper should be kept closed to keep out the cold air when the fireplace is not in use, but opened before a fire is started in the fireplace.

“Depending on the steps you take to winterize your home, it is usually an inexpensive process that can save you a lot of money in the long run,” Schonekas said. “Most of these items can be taken care of in a couple of days by the homeowner.”




View other articles written By Jonathan Menard

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