Winterizing the home helps keep expenses in lineWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Homeowners may find themselves in a tight financial position this winter as rising prices continue to adversely affect their budgets for maintenance and upkeep of their households.
Yet following a few tips from professionals in the housing industry can reduce costs and prevent damage that could otherwise set them back hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Two such experts, Dave Belknap, construction manager for Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity, and construction assistant manager Tim Sterns, shared their insights with Toledo Free Press to help prepare for the upcoming winter. The two hold an annual meeting with their clients to explain the ins and outs of winterizing their homes through inexpensive and simple methods.
Maumee Valley Habitat specifically addresses the needs of newer homeowners, and Belknap and Sterns have discovered techniques within the past eight years they’ve incorporated into new home construction.
“They’re not costly techniques, but they’re techniques that we look at as we build the house from the ground up each step of the way as we do it: where we caulk and where we put adhesive and where we put sealant to make sure that they are tighter,” Sterns said.
Often, however, many of the same winterization procedures can be applied to older houses as well with money-saving results, such as clearing gutters and sealing outside faucets.
“Part of that procedure is checking their furnace filters, making sure that they’re clean regularly,” Sterns said, emphasizing it is especially important for recent models. “New furnaces have a circuit that senses a drop in pressure and will actually shut off on a dirty filter.”
“We talk about their gas and how the air circulates in the house,” Belknap said. “If you have a crawl space, you need to make sure that the vents are closed. A lot of cool air gets in there and you can have moisture issues.”
In well-sealed homes, especially, where moisture buildup is most likely, Sterns and Belknap recommend installing a Broan LoSone fan in the bathrooms, which is designed to run continuously and quietly. At the first telltale sign of moisture in the air – typically sweat forming on the inside of windows and a musty odor – Sterns said he has clients use the fans as a “huge preventative” measure.
“If there is a moisture buildup inside the house, it’s going to be when it’s shut up and heated,” he said. “They can turn those bath fans on and pull air out of the house, which lets other air infiltrate into the house that’s drier and will actually pull that moisture out.”
Don’t forget the garage
Winterizing the garage generally takes less time and effort, but it should not be ignored completely, according to Lee Huss, CEO of Overhead Door. A 38-year veteran in the industry, he compared an overhead door to a car: “If it’s running and it’s working good, you probably only need to have it serviced maybe once every five years.”
But homeowners may still look for trouble spots, such as bad seals around the doorframes of overhead and entry doors, which usually last about 10 years. Also, lift springs and tracks may need attention to maintain peak operating performance.
“A technician can come out and check the adjustment balance on the springs and tighten up nuts and bolts that may be loose and do any lubrication that may be required. But it doesn’t require annual maintenance. Is it a good idea? Some people would probably say yes, but it’s really not needed [annually],” he said.
Pre-painted steel doors have become the most popular style, according to Huss, offering “the best bang for the buck.” The doors are hot-dipped galvanized, then primed and painted with a polyester topcoat. Homeowners also may choose wood doors at the upper end of the price range or steel doors with a wood-simulated exterior; however, steel provides the highest insulation value.
He emphasized the best way to maintain the door itself is to grab a paint brush.
“Most people never paint their doors, but we always recommend people give it at least one coat of paint sometime over the next five years with a good latex paint,” Huss said. “Like anything else that’s steel, if you take good care of it, it can last an awful long time.”
When no one’s home
For homeowners planning to head south for the winter and those trying to sell or rent a vacant house, additional precautions should be considered, according to Chad Boyers, a real estate agent with Danberry Realtors. He said maintaining a minimum temperature between 55 and 60 degrees tops the winterizing to-do list.
Electric and gas furnaces draw from utility companies for fuel, but furnaces using oil or propane need adequate supplies to last the entire time the home will sit vacant, if not longer. And a professional should service the furnace beforehand to ensure it functions properly.
“That being said, even if you have it set [at the right temperature], you can still run into issues where the furnace stops working,” Boyers said. “And then also have some sort of arrangements set up, whether it’s with a neighbor or family member, to stop by the house at regular intervals and check it to make sure that in fact everything is working properly.
“Unfortunately it does happen where, even for a couple-week vacation sometime in the winter, people can go away and day two of their vacation, the furnace stopped working, and they come back to a horrific scenario.”
Other measures homeowners may overlook include snow removal and interior lighting controlled by a timer to preserve the appearance the house is occupied, which deters break-ins. Also, he added, whether staying home for the winter or leaving the house vacant, owners should turn off the main valve to in-ground sprinkler systems to prevent pipes from freezing.
“I know that I didn’t do that one year; I had major issues the next year,” he said.