Another typical Missouri winter seems to have set in. With temperatures below freezing one day, as old timers will say, wait another day and it will be hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
While that probably isn’t quite accurate, one thing that is true is that there are still many more cold days to face before the mild temperatures of spring set in.
Before that happens, there are several things homeowners can do to winterize their homes to save on heating bills.
“When it comes to keeping a home warm for the winter the best advice I can give is for people to just use some common sense,” said Steve Gann, CTC Building Trades Instructor at State Fair Community College. “A lot of the modern, more recently built homes are built pretty tight, with energy efficient windows and doors with house wraps that provide adequate insulation.
“It’s the older homes from 20 or more years ago where things get different and it’s a lot tougher to keep them warm,” Gann said. “There are still things that can be done to stop the cold air from getting in and cut down on the heating bills.”
Gann said many of the best ways to cut down on airflow were the “tried and true” methods from years ago.
“I know it’s not pretty, but one of the most effective ways to stop cold air from coming in at the windows is putting clear plastic on them,” Gann said. “There are several different kinds of plastic on the market designed for this use and it doesn’t take much time to do.”
If the house has window air conditioners in place it is best to remove them if possible, but if that is not an option Gann recommended covering the unit with a tarp or plastic covering.
Those options offer protection from ice and snow that may accumulate in or on the units, both of which could possibly damage the unit and its effectiveness for next summer’s use.
Areas such as soffits, exterior doors and crawl spaces can also be spaces to try to seal to prevent winter drafts.
“In older homes, another area I would check is the insulation in the home,” Gann said. “A lot of the older homes have blown insulation which can settle with time.
“Once that happens it loses its R-value,” he added. “There are a lot of options out there to choose from with adding insulation to a home, some of which are less than $1 per foot.”
Gann commented that adding insulation to a home can often pay for itself within the first year’s heating bills.
There is a possibility, Gann said, where a house can get too tight, which can possibly lead to health concerns.
“The air in a home typically should change three times a day for the best health benefits for the occupants,” Gann said. “If the house is wrapped too tight like it’s in plastic wrap, people may not be exposed to fresh air, which can make breathing difficult, especially for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.”
Gann cautioned homeowners to be careful with some heating sources.
“People really need to watch out if they use space heaters in their houses,” Gann said. “While they are effective they can be dangerous as well.
“People need to pay attention to the placement of the electrical cords and also watch to make sure that the heaters don’t get knocked over,” Gann said. “They also need to make sure that the cords aren’t frayed or damaged before plugging them in.”
Placing straw bales and bagged leaves along the foundation of a home is also a danger.
“It seems like it might be a great, inexpensive way to insulate a home, but it is a tremendous fire hazard,” Gann said. “The most important thing to remember is safety first in all situations.
“Homeowners can do several little things that are inexpensive and safe like outlet covers and calking cracks that really do help with keeping your home warm in the winter and cooler later on,” Gann said. “While it may seem like it’s nothing by itself, if you can do several little things it can all add up.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484