Winterizing home can save time, money over long haul

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

When the snow flies, will your home be ready? It will if you made plans to winterize your home.

It's not too late.

Winterizing the home may involve some initial expense, but can save money and lives in the long run, as homeowners try to stay warm during the long winter months.

Rocky Smith, owner of Preferred Heating and Plumbing in Kenai, said one of the first things to do is have the furnace or boiler tuned up.

"You're checking for the amount of excess air that's going in there," he said. "If air is going in, too much heat is leaving the house through the stack or the vent."

Smith said heating specialists will seek to get the highest efficiency out of heating systems. The tune-up includes cleaning heating burners, adjusting gas pressure and changing gas nozzles that send the oil-on-oil heaters into the "fire box."

"You usually need to change your nozzle every year," he said.

Smith said the tune-up generally takes between an hour and 90 minutes, and he said his company does it for about $110.

Efficiently generating heat is good. Equally as important to cost-effective home heating is the ability to retain heat.

Jeff Warton, assistant manager at Spenard Builders Supply in Kenai, said the attic is where a lot of homes lose heat, and homeowners should look for insulation with the proper retention value (R-value), a measurement of how well a material prevents heat loss.

"Typically, R-38 is standard insulation for our climate," he said. "Just as a rule of thumb, you want at least 10 to 12 inches of insulation in the attic."

Warton suggested using either fiberglass batts or cellulose insulation in the attic, but not too much. Over insulating can cause problems on the roof, as trapped moisture builds up and freezes to form ice dams.

"Ice damming results when there's heat loss where the outside wall meets the roof due to lack of a wall gap," he said. "We suggest people use adequate ventilation."

Ice dams can cause significant damage to rooftops, Warton said. For that, he suggested gutter de-icing cables.

"It keeps the gutters running free," he said.

Warton also suggested that homeowners with metal roofs invest in snow brakes to keep melting snow and ice from sliding onto walkways or areas around the house where people could be walking and get hurt by falling ice and snow.

Homer Electric Association spokesperson Joe Gallagher suggested investing in weatherization materials such as weather stripping for windows, storm doors and windows, thermal pane glass and caulking material to seal up areas that may leak air that could otherwise be heating the home.

"Homer Electric members can obtain low-interest loans through the cooperative's line of credit program to purchase from a local vendor weatherization materials," Gallagher said.

He gave a few simple suggestions that could help keep the heating bills down during the winter.

"It's a good idea to make sure all the heat vents in a house are not blocked by furniture or rugs, and preventing maximum ventilation," Gallagher said.

"People with adjustable thermostats can lower the thermostat at night when they are sleeping. And if everyone in the house is gone all day, the same can be done during that time."

A booklet from Owens Corning and Honeywell, called "Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy and Money at Home" provides more ideas on how to reduce heating costs in the winter, as well as cooling costs during warmer months.

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