Seasonal Tips For Your Home
Record breaking snowfalls in Delaware remind us that winter can be tough--on our homes and on our wallets. Here are some winter weather tips from Energize Delaware to help you stay warm and save energy.
The way the snow melts (or doesn’t) on your roof can tell you something about the energy efficiency of your home. The best case scenario is for the snow to stay where it landed and melt from the sun as a heat source (not your roof).
If you see uneven melting and ice building up around the eaves, you may have a problem to fix.
Thick bands of ice form along the eaves of houses are caused by heat escaping from attics that are poorly insulated and/or ventilated. Melted snow runs down the slope of the roof and refreezes around the edges. As the ice builds up at the bottom edge of the roof, it creates a dam that causes water to back up under the shingles and potentially leak into the house.
Damage caused by ice dams can be costly, including water-soaked insulation, stained or water-soaked ceilings and water accumulation in wall cavities, damaging walls and interior finishes.
Excess heat can find its way into your attic in many ways:
- Not enough insulation in your attic.
- A lack of insulation around fireplace chimneys that allows heat to escape into the attic.
- HVAC systems with un- insulated or leaky ductwork in the attic.
- Recessed lights on the top floor that leak or are un-insulated. Have an electrician replace them with insulated, air sealed cans.
- Insulation that is out of position, allowing heat to enter the attic.
- Poor attic ventilation
Did you know that your attic hatch is basically an outside door. It should be weather stripped to a tight seal and insulated above. This is one of the most common sources of energy loss in most homes.
The way to stop ice dams from forming is to keep the entire roof cold. In most homes this means stopping heat from escaping , blocking all air leaks leading to the attic from the living space below, and ensuring proper ventilation.
Properly weatherizing your attic can cut 10 to 30 percent off your heating and cooling bills.
While most residential roofs are designed to hold a reasonable amount of snow, the exceptional accumulation in our region this winter may be more weight than your roof can handle. Your risk increases with older homes, and homes with low or no slope to their roof.
If you are concerned about your roof, consult with a roofing contractor. They should be better able to assess the design load of your roof and have the skills and tools to clear it safely if needed. Getting up on a ladder or on the roof is unsafe and can damage the asphalt shingles used on most homes if done improperly. In addition, walking on a roof only adds weight and may hasten a collapse. If you see any signs of leaking, or bowing of roof structures, evacuate the home immediately and call for help. Lastly, remember that ice weights more than snow – so if you see evidence of ice damming your roof is already under greater stress.
- Keep thermostats at 68 degrees or a lower, comfortable setting to save energy. Each one-degree reduction lowers consumption and costs.
- When out for the day or evening, turn down the thermostat. When you’re away for a weekend or longer, lower it to 55 degrees to save on heating costs.
- Lower the temperature by 5 to 10 degrees at night, and turn it up again in the morning. This could save up to 10 percent on heating bills.
- Consider a programmable thermostat, which keeps the heat up when you need it and turns it down when you don’t. It can save up to $180 in energy costs each year.
- Turn the thermostat down when you have company over. Each guest is equivalent to a 175-watt heater, and will naturally provide warmth to the home.
- Close blinds and drapes at night to keep warm air inside. Open them during the day to let in warm sunshine.
- Weatherize and insulate. Seal the air leaks in your home with weatherstrip, caulk or insulation in attics and around windows, door sweeps, pipes, water heaters and vents. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that Delaware attics maintain an R-38 insulation level (about 12-15 inches of insulation). Four in ten Delawareans live in homes that were built more than 30 years ago, and only 20 percent of homes built before 1980 are well insulated.
- Clean your heating system’s air filters to maximize efficiency and improve airflow. Check your filter each month and be sure to replace any filter that is more than three months old.
- Check your Chimney. Make sure your damper is in good working order, and when you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the damper is closed.
- Turn on ceiling fans. Warm air from heating systems tends to rise and collect near ceilings, making the rest of the room feel cool. In winter, set your ceiling fan to run in a clockwise direction, which will disburse this air and circulate heat around the entire room.