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Winterize to save energy and money

Posted on September 24, 2012
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Winterize-home-2012

Winterizing Checklist + Union Plus Rebates

Get your home in shape for winter using this information.  You'll make your home more energy-efficient and avoid potential costly damage. 

Check windows and doors for air leaks … they add to heating costs.  Here's a simple test.  With windows and doors closed, turn on exhaust fans, then take an incense stick and hold it near windows and doors. If the smoke blows horizontally, you have a leak. Seal small ones with caulk and larger ones with expanding foam or foam board. Remember to weather strip around doors. 

Review the settings on your programmable thermostat. Family schedules change from year to year, so make sure last year's settings still make sense. If you don't have a programmable thermostat, consider getting one.  It can be a good investment that quickly pays for itself. 

Turn off water to hoses and lawn sprinklers.  When temperatures fall below freezing, water in the faucet can freeze and cause pipes to burst. It's not enough to shut off the water outside; also turn off water from the indoor supply valve so that no water is in the faucet. Then drain outdoor faucets, spray nozzles, and hoses before disconnecting. 

Move piles of leaves, compost, and wood away from your house and other structures. Rodents and small animals like to nest in debris. Wood also attracts termites that can migrate into your home for the winter causing costly damage.

Turn off power to the outdoor compressor for your central AC. Rodents are attracted to the heat generated by the power running through the compressor, even when it isn't running.

Cover outdoor furniture. Or store it in your garage or shed.  This prolongs the life and enjoyment of your investment.

Clean out gutters after all the leaves have fallen. Clogged gutters can lead to ice dams, which can create leaks along the roof edge and result in interior wall damage.

Wash windows. You'll appreciate the extra natural light and warmth that streams through clean windows.

Have a professional service your home heating system. A properly maintained heating system works better, runs more cost-efficiently, and prolongs the life of the equipment. Malfunctioning systems also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Union Plus Credit Cardholders: Union Plus offers a one-time $50 rebate to union members who use their Union Plus Credit Card to purchase an annual heating and cooling system maintenance agreement with a union HVAC contractor. Check it out.


Replace furnace filters monthly. Dirty filters make your furnace work harder decreasing system efficiency.  Vacuum heat registers frequently and make sure furniture isn't blocking them.

Have your chimney inspected and cleaned. If you regularly burn wood, creosote builds up. A basic chimney inspection and sweeping takes about 90 minutes and costs $150 to $300. Beware of low bids or excessive proposals.

Skip duct cleaning services. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there's no proof that cleaning ducts prevents health problems, nor do studies conclusively show that dirty ducts increase the levels of airborne particulates in a home.

Check detectors and fire extinguishers. You probably know that you should check the batteries in your detector when you change your clock for Daylight Savings Time, but did you also know that smoke and CO detectors don't last forever?  Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years and CO detectors every 5 years. If you have a combo smoke/CO alarm, replace it after 5 years. Manufacture dates are on the back of the detectors. Similarly, fire extinguishers should be replaced after 12 years or after they've been used.

Save money with Union Plus discounts & rebates

Watch this ConsumerReports.org video on winterizing your home for more tips.

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