Prepare Your Home for Winter
This winter, ensure your home is cozy and energy efficient with a few simple tips
By Courtney Cobb
When preparing a home for winter, Central Electric Cooperative Energy Services Manager Thomas Elzinga starts by looking at low-cost methods.
His first stop is checking around doors and windows for any gaps.
“A little caulking around your windows will help keep that warm air inside,” Thomas says. “Making sure the weatherstripping around the door is in good repair—and when shut is in contact with the door—will pay dividends in comfort.”
Using drapes and curtains can also help with efficiency. Keep the drapes open when windows are exposed to daylight sun.When the sun no longer hits that part of the house, close the drapes to help keep in the heat.
Some upgrades can cost a little money, including the addition of insulation.
“If you have little or no insulation in your crawlspace, attic or walls, you should consider adding some,” Thomas says. “The most cost-effective comfort upgrade you can make to your home is insulation.”
A more expensive measure is to upgrade your home’s heating system.
There are various options. Thomas says members should consider them all, including a heat pump system.
He says members often question if the units work in the Central Oregon climate, and the answer is yes. They work in low temperatures and cost little to operate, whether heating or cooling your home.
Not sure where to start? Members can contact an energy specialist and ask about having a home energy audit.
“CEC offers incentives and home energy audits to help you identify the best upgrades for your home,” Thomas says. “We also partner with NeighborImpact to provide income-qualified, no-cost weatherization, and heating and cooling system upgrades.”
What About the Exterior?
Once you have taken all the steps to prepare for winter inside your home, what about the outside?
Thomas says to inspect the caulking around your windows.
“If you see caulking that is falling apart or has holes, it should be repaired,” he says. “Make sure to remove the old caulk and then apply new.”
Another low-cost tip applies to crawlspaces. Keep foundation vents closed in the winter to keep out some of the cold air.
Consider creating greater efficiencies with your HVAC duct system.
“A more expensive but extremely effective option is to seal and insulate your heating system ducting if you have any,” Thomas says. “CEC has a programapproved contractor list of those who perform work that meets our rebate requirements.”
Have a heat pump or ductless heat pump? There are steps you can take to protect these units throughout winter.
First, don’t let snow accumulate on the system. Routinely brush off snow.
Second, do not be tempted to build a roof over the unit, Thomas says.
“This will actually decrease the heat pump’s performance,” he says.
What the Tech?
Consider investing in technology, such as a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats provide an affordable and easy way to control the use of your heating and cooling system and help lower your electric bills.
“If you have a ducted electric furnace or heat pump system, a smart thermostat could be right for you,” Thomas says. “Smart thermostats help program themselves rather than the homeowner trying to create a complicated schedule.”
Interested? Check the smart thermostat manufacturers’ websites to see if your system will work. Central Electric also offers a free thermostat or a $140 incentive for qualifying smart thermostats.
If you are wary of smart technology, setting a reasonable temperature is an inexpensive way to be energy efficient. While there is the temptation to turn the dial above 70 degrees if you are cold, it’s much less expensive to layer clothing and keep your thermostat at 68 degrees.
If you have a baseboard, wall or electric furnace, turn down the thermostat to 55 degrees while you are away from home for more than a few hours.
“This will help your home not use as much power while you don’t need it,” Thomas says.
If you have a heat pump system, set the temperature and leave it alone.
“Your heat pump will work more efficiently on your thermostat,” Thomas says.
There’s an App for That
A helpful tool in a member’s arsenal is using CEC’s SmartHub online account system. Members can also download the SmartHub app on their phones for access on the go.
SmartHub allows members to monitor their daily use.
“The account shows how much it costs to heat the home for a day, and it matches usage to local weather data to show that as things start to cool, the usage goes up,” Thomas says. “Understanding your usage over the years and knowing what to expect approximately from year to year helps, but also seeing that low temperatures impact usage as well.”
Members can access SmartHub from CEC’s website or download the app from their phone’s app store.
With a few simple tweaks, members can make their homes efficient, warm and cozy for the winter ahead. n
For more information, go to www.cec.coop and click on the Energy Efficiency button.