Winter is ComingNot everyone can afford to plunk down cash on weatherization this winter. While professionally installed insulation and weatherization can save you money on your home energy costs, there are some free or low cost ways to get your home ready for winter.

1. Seal the Leaks!

Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.Find out how to detect air leaks.  Learn more about air sealing new and existing homes.

Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

Find out how to select and apply the appropriate caulk.  Learn how to select and apply weatherstripping.

2. Don’t Get Hosed!

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet.  While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

3. Stop the Drafts!

If you’re turning up the heat in the house to compensate for drafty windows, consider quilted curtains, which can increase your comfort and let you keep the temp down.Quilted curtains not only block the drafts that have you shivering, they can save you just as much energy as replacing your windows with more efficient ones.  The curtains are available in various colors, patterns and sizes. Enter “quilted curtain” in a search engine to find retailers.

A curtain can be installed in less than 10 minutes on your existing curtain rod.

4. Get Your Mind in the Gutter!

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage; it may be time for a roofingreplacement.

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions found at stores like Home Depot; $10 to $20 each.

5. Look Up!

If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval (MXI will check out your roof for free).

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is. The cost of replacement is much less than the cost of repairing Spring water damage.

6. Do it Yourself!

If insulating your whole home isn’t in the cards this year, a few small purchases can really add up in energy savings.Insulate your attic stairs or attic door with a quick insulation solution like this one from Home Depot that will cost about $50

Insulate your water heater & pipes.

Here is a great DIY article on pipe insulation. 

Make a draft stopper.

Here are some really cool DIY project you can make with your kids!