With summer heat making way for milder fall weather across the Lone Star State, we welcome the first taste of fall. And after last winter’s harsh extremes, it’s a good idea to prepare now so you can reduce your energy costs later. The problem is that some homeowners are unsure about where to start improving their home’s energy efficiency. While an energy audit is a great way to start, all Texas homes have places that should be inspected at least once a year. So, to keep it simple, we’ve put together a top-to-bottom guide of home improvement projects you can complete to help prepare your home for fall.
1) Check Your Roof
- Ensure that rain water drains away from your home to keep your home dry and comfortable. Check rain gutters and down spouts to free them of debris.
- Clear roof vents of leaves or animal nests. Some birds build nests in vent pipes, but while blocking them with steel wool keeps the critters out, it can also collect dust. This slows air circulation and causes exhaust furnace or sewer gas to vent into the home. Installing a properly sized vent cover takes care of this problem.
2) Check Your Attic
- Keep your attic dry. Roofs take a pounding during the year from rain and sun. Shingles can crack and crumble, letting water through. Examine the underside of the roof decking for leaks or water staining.
- Make sure attic vents are not obstructed by leaves or animal nests. If you find signs that squirrels, raccoons, or other critters have been nesting in your attic, you need to prevent their return as well as clean up any damage.
- Make sure your attic is air sealed. Sealing holes for electrical wiring, plumbing, and the tops framing of interior walls prevents warmed air from escaping into your attic. Look for signs of air moving up from below on insulation covered by a fine dust. Remember to seal around chimney flues and light fixture boxes.
3) Check Your HVAC System
- Check duct work for loose or broken connections and holes. Nearly 20 to 30 percent of the warm or cooled air moving through your duct work is lost through leakage. Re-attach disconnected sections and seal over any holes you find with aluminum tape or duct work mastic.
- Remember to change the air filter! Dirty air filters reduce the efficiency of your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system by making it run longer. and harder. Dust build up can also cause excessive wear to the blower and heat exchanging coils, resulting in costly repair bills.
4) Check Your Water Heater
- If you have a tank water heater, add a water heater jacket and insulate the hot water pipes. You can save about $20 annually.
- Fall is also a good time to drain and flush your water heater. This helps remove rust, scale, and other sediments in the tank that reduce your heater’s efficiency.
- If you have an on-demand heater, now is a good time for back-flushing to remove scale from that, as well.
5) Check Window & Door Snugness Drafts
- Examine how well your windows and doors close. One way is to close a piece of tissue paper in a window or door. If you can pull it out easily, it’s letting in outside air and moisture.
- Add weather stripping to doors and windows so that they close snugly.
- Re-glaze or caulk loose glass and replace any broken panes. These leak cold, moist air into your home and waste energy.
- Keep an eye out for loose or rotten frames and jambs. Repair any you find. Also consider replacing old doors and windows with new energy-efficient doors and windows before the weather gets colder.
- Install thermal backed drapes. These restrict cold air from infiltrating a room.
6) Switch Your Ceiling Fan’s Revolution
- During the winter, ceiling fans can be used to move warm air from near the ceiling so that it circulates throughout the room. Just flick the direction switch so that blades spin counterclockwise. And don’t forget to clean any dust from the blades before you turn the fan on!
7) Seal Crawlspaces
- Many homes in Texas are built with crawlspaces. While it was initially thought that venting crawlspaces reduced moisture and condensation, it really makes it worse. Outside humid air and moisture in the earth enter the cooler crawlspace and condense on exposed concrete and wood framing, causing mold and wood rot. Consequently, the crawlspace never dries out. Texas homes with sealed and insulated crawlspaces (or “encapsulated“) are more energy efficient with less moisture-related problems. An effective first step is to put down a moisture barrier in your home’s crawlspace . This is usually a single 6-8 mil thick plastic sheet that is laid over bare earth in the crawlspace to trap moisture and keep it from evaporating and penetrating into the home. Your home will feel dryer and warmer during the winter and less humid during the summer.
Remember, you don’t need to do all these home improvement projects in one day. There will still be quite a few mild fall weekends left before cold weather really arrives in Texas. Done promptly, they’ll also start saving you money right away and improve your home’s comfort. If any of these tasks turn out to be more difficult or demanding for you, hire a qualified professional. All the same, don’t let these little jobs linger undone too long especially since your energy costs will increase as winter arrives.
After all, you don’t want to be left out in the cold.