Weather in winter can change from one day to the next in California, and can also be vastly different from city to city. If you’re in an area that gets snow, ice, bitter cold, or any combination of the three, there are easy steps that you can take to winterize your home. Even if you live in sunny southern California, where January and February afternoons regularly see 60s and 70s, nights can get chilly. These tips can help you stay more comfortable and save you money.
Check Your Roof
A strong snow storm, wind storm, or hail storm can compromise your roof. Checking for areas that need to be shored up now can help save you from having a leak or a cave-in.
Turn Off Sprinklers
If you have your sprinklers set to go off on certain days, it’s important to remember to shut them off in when weather drops below 32 degrees. You probably don’t want an ice rink in your front yard, and water that flows into the street and then freezes could create a hazard.
Have Your Heater Serviced
Heating eats up nearly half of the average household’s energy bill, according to Time: Money. “If you use natural gas, the average cost of heating your home in winter is $649,” they said. “With electric heating, it goes up to to $938.
Since heating “is the largest expense in the average American home,” making sure the heating unit is in good working order is key. Experts recommend a yearly servicing, which can help extend its life and help ensure that it doesn’t conk out on the coldest night of the year.
Check for Leaks
A great heater can’t make up for leaks that let the hot air out and the cold air in. A one-eighth-inch “gap under a 36-inch-wide door…will let in as much cold air as a 2.4-inch-diameter hole punched in the wall,” said Time: Money. Weather stripping, draft guards, and caulk to plug holes around drafty windows and doors inside your home are easy, DIY-friendly items that can take care of the leaks.
For the exterior, grab a nickel and do some measuring. “If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk,” said Kiplinger. “Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements.”
Change Your Filters
Making sure you are changing your filters on a regular basis is another way to help your HVAC system run efficiently, which can lower your heating bills and help it last longer. Some experts recommend changing them monthly in winter; when they get dirty, airflow is restricted and energy demand increases.
Upgrade Your Windows
Feel a draft every time you walk past a window? Heat loss through windows can be costly. Upgrade older windows to more energy-efficient options that include low-E coatings and you’ll typically lower your energy bills up to 15 percent per year. According to a recent study by Energy Star, energy-efficient windows can save you as much as $465 a year, not to mention the energy saved.
Flip the Switch on Your Fans
Your ceiling fans turn in a counterclockwise direction in the summer, but flip the switch on the fan, and the blades change direction. This forces the warmed air down from the ceiling, making the room more comfortable and giving your heater a breather. You could see a dip in your heating bill of up to 10% just with the flick of a finger.
Protect Your Home From Frozen Pipes
If you live in an area that sees its fair share of hard freezes, you probably already have a good idea of how to protect your pipes. But with unpredictable weather all over the country, it’s important to know what to do in case of freezing weather no matter where you live. “Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes,” said the American Red Cross. “This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.”
They recommend: opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors in freezing weather, which allows the warmer air to swirl around the plumbing; and letting the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. “Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing,” they said.