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Home needs special care for cold season

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2001

The long Alaska winter is at hand, and keeping home and hearth protected from harsh Northern elements requires some preparation.

The most important and most costly part of home winterizing is insulation. Bill Biggs, store manager at the Home Depot in Anchorage, said when purchasing insulation, it is important to know the size and width of the spaces where it will lay. This helps in purchasing the correct retention value (R-value), which is a measurement of how well a material prevents heat loss.

Jeff Warton, of Spenard Builders Supply in Soldotna, said to look for a specific R-value for the peninsula.

"Typically, R-38 is standard insulation for our climate," he said.

Both Biggs and Warton warned against over insulating, however.

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In addition to properly insulating your home, other tips for winterizing your home and conserving energy, include:

Inspect your windows and doors for proper weather seals. Minimizing air gaps keeps heat bills down.

Check chimney to make sure its clean. Nothing should be blocking it.

Make sure batteries in fire detectors are good. These should be changed twice a year.

Around the yard, get things into storage like peg boards, rakes, racks, wood, etc. People often wait until its too late. Do final landscaping before the ground gets hard. Make sure hoses are rolled up and drained so water doesnt freeze inside and break them.

Test the heating unit to make certain it works correctly and cleanly. Clean any related filters, if needed.

Make sure to use winter oil. Summer fuels can gel at lower temperatures.

Check heating ducts, floor and water pipes and hoses for leaks and seal with pipewrap, sealants, weatherstripping, etc.

Use compact flourescant light bulbs which use a lower wattage and dont heat up. This offers the same amount of light at a fraction of the electric cost.

"Most people think you can never have enough insulation, which is completely wrong," Biggs said. "Over insulating doesn't allow moisture to escape the room, which eventually leads to ice buildup on your roof, a recurring problem in Alaska."

Warton said over insulating causes ice damming, which means more trouble in the long run for homeowners.

"Ice damming results when there's heat loss where the outside wall meets the roof due to insufficient insulation or lack of a wall gap," Warton said. "We suggest people use adequate ventilation. If you plug up that vent that needs air flow, you could cause problems."

Ventilation keeps the roof cold, which keeps snow on the roof cold. If the snow on the roof melts, it runs down to the lower edges of the roof and freezes. This forms the ice dam, and any melted snow trapped behind it could back up under the shingles and freeze.

"Most extreme cases are water running down the inside of walls in the house," ," Warton said.

Biggs said a good gauge for insulating an attic is to stay within six to 12 inches throughout the room. Excess insulation can also create moisture. If fiberglass insulation gets wet, it can lose its effectiveness. A vapor barrier placed between the living space and the insulation can dramatically cut down the amount of moisture.

"It's a good idea to take care of insulation now," Warton said. "So you don't have to be up on the roof in the snow."

Other tips for winterizing the home and conserving energy:

1) Inspect your wind and doors for proper weather seals. Minimizing air gaps keeps heat bills down.

2) Check chimney to make sure its clean. Nothing should be blocking them.

3) Make sure batteries in fire detectors are good. These should be changed twice a year.

4) Around the yard, get things into storage like peg boards, rakes, racks, wood, etc. People often wait until it's too late. Do final landscaping before the ground gets hard. Make sure hoses are rolled up and drained so water doesn't freeze inside and break them.

5) Test the heating unit to make certain it works correctly and cleanly. Clean any related filters if needed.

6) Make sure to use winter oil. Summer fuels can gel at lower temperatures.

7) Check heating ducts, floor and water pipes and hoses for leaks and seal with pipewrap, sealants, weatherstripping, etc.

8) Use compact flourescant light bulbs which use a lower wattage and don't heat up. This offers the same amount of light at a fraction of the electric cost.



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