Combined with its brutal winters, the Windy City’s harsh, frigid gusts make Chicago’s cold season nearly unbearable. In addition to how miserable the Chicago area’s winters can be, utility bills during that time of year are notoriously high. These high prices are caused by local electricity providers having to outsource energy from nearby power grids, costing significantly more than the municipality’s self-generated power. Rather than complaining about lofty energy expenses, you should take action by winterizing your home as soon as possible.
First, Turn to Weather Strips
Windows and doors are must-have features of any home. Thanks to their moving parts, though, doors and windows are subject to gaps and holes that air can slip through. The greater the temperature difference between two bodies of air, the harder they try to seek equilibrium. In winter, more unwanted air from outside will enter your home than in any other season.
Weather strips are long, self-adhesive strips of a durable, Styrofoam-like material. They’re designed to patch the ever-present gaps in door and window assemblies. You should be able to find weather strips at any supermarket or hardware store. Fortunately, they’re not very expensive.
For Smaller Gaps, Try Caulk
Typically made primarily of silicone, polyurethane or latex, caulk is a common building material used to fill gaps. Caulk stops pretty much everything, including insects, dust, water and air. It’s even used for passive fire protection, also known as fire-stopping. Although it’s not free, caulk isn’t very expensive. You can find caulk and a caulk gun for less than $10.
Since caulk is intended for sealing small holes instead of the long gaps suitable for weatherstripping, finding these leaks might be more time-consuming. To detect as many leaks as possible, light an incense stick or a candle. After turning off all fans, closing all windows and shutting all doors, move your incense or candle around windows in a slow, deliberate manner. Any draft will cause the smoke to drift. This is an aid in identifying leaks because it helps you visualize unwanted incoming airflow. After finding leaks, apply caulk to seal them. Make sure to use sealant finishing tools to smooth out caulk before it dries. Also, always find caulk that matches the color of the surfaces you’ll be applying it to.
Reduce Your Water Heater’s Set Temperature
Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this might not seem very hot, 140-degree water feels very hot to the skin. Maintaining this temperature uses substantial energy, especially during wintertime.
Aside from providing hot water for washing dishes or bathing, water heaters maintain such high temperatures to prevent bacteria from flourishing. According to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, both of which are highly trusted entities, water heaters can safely be set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit while avoiding bacteria growth. Rest assured that this change won’t affect your showering or bathing experience. Depending on whom you ask, most people’s desired shower temperature is between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Although water heaters aren’t terrible energy hogs, you should strive to save money where you can. Setting your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit during winter, or even all year long, will reduce your overall energy expenses.
Protect Your Plumbing
Plumbing is arguably more prone to winter-related issues than any other component of your home. One of the most cost-effective measures you can take to winterize your home is insulating your pipes. This job is actually quite simple. It merely involves wrapping tubes of insulation around your pipes to protect them from freezing temperatures.
Don’t forget to turn off access to any outdoor faucets. These valves are probably in your crawl space. Lastly, outfit any exterior-facing spigots with Styrofoam protectors.
Turn Your Ceiling Fans Around
Look up at your nearest ceiling fan. Notice how the blades are slanted? When ceiling fans spin toward their blades’ lower-slanted side, they push warm air toward the floor. When they spin toward their blades’ higher-slanted side, they draw warm air to the ceiling. In the United States, fan blades are typically slanted with the left-hand side downward.
Put simply, if your fan blades slant this way, adjust your fan to spin clockwise during winter. Although fans don’t actually change indoor temperature, they’re scientifically proven to move warm air upward or downward, depending how the blades are slanted and in which direction fans spin.
Rely on Local Professionals
Arlington Heights’ own IBBOTSON Heating & Air Conditioning Co. strives to put smiles on customers’ faces through our outstanding HVAC services, and you can ask us anything about the topics discussed here. We perform a complete range of equipment installation, repair and maintenance. Whether you’re looking for assistance with your furnace, air conditioner, ventilation system, indoor air quality or ductwork, we’re more than capable of helping. Call us today!