SENIOR SCOOP: Quick to-dos to save energy, boost comfort as winter settles in

Pamela Kirkby

Your to-do list is probably pretty long to prepare your house as chilly temperatures have begun to hit us.

After you finish cleaning the gutters, putting the garden to bed, weatherizing the outside faucets and getting your shovels ready, turn your attention to the interior of your home to be sure you're doing all the small winterizing tasks that can save money, prevent problems or disasters, and make your home more comfortable.

Here are six DIY, no cost or low-cost changes you can make.

Thermostat. Program your thermostat so that it automatically reduces the temperature at night and when you're out during the day. By using a programmable thermostat correctly, you could save $180 in energy costs each year.

Water heater. Dial back the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees F. By doing so, you could see annual energy savings between 4 percent and 22 percent, according to Energy Saver, a consumer-oriented resource by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) designed to help consumers save energy,

Fireplace. Make sure the chimney and fireplace are in good working order before starting any fires this season. Burn only simple papers and clean wood because many items release toxic fumes. When you're not using your fireplace, shut the chimney's damper tightly to stop warm air from flowing up and out.

Ceiling fan. Reverse your fan, so it rotates clockwise during the winter. That creates an updraft that forces warm air near the ceiling into your living space.

Furnace. Get your furnace cleaned and tuned up and change your filters regularly.

Weatherize. Look for places where air enters. Caulk and seal air leaks where there are small openings for plumbing, ducts, or electrical wiring that come through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets; caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows; add plastic film to your windows; and install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.

If your utility bills still seem to be high, consider the age of your windows. Older windows are a leading source of drafts and replacing them can save you money in utility costs but also, add value to your home if you are considering selling.

Another item to inspect is your attic. Do you have a walk-up? If so, check the space under the door to indicate if there is a draft; if so, place a door draft stopper there to prevent the cold air in the attic from entering the home. How does the insulation look? Regardless, if you haven’t looked in your attic in a while, you might want to consider taking a peek to make sure there aren’t any issues with air ducts, plywood under the roof, etc. We often ignore spaces we don’t occupy and sometimes problems creep up on us.

The same goes for the basement...haven’t been down there in a while? Look around to see if there has been any evidence of water seepage or mold/mildew. These things can be easily remedied but if you wait too long, you might have serious problems that the next homeowner will not want to inherit. In that case, it could cost YOU lots of money to remedy.

As we grow older and become more comfortable in our homes, we tend to become complacent. Just as our bodies need to stay conditioned for optimum use, so do our homes. They, too, grow older and develop problems with age. Always keep in mind that the home needs care and updating, regardless of when you plan to sell it. I see too many people devasted with surprise and financial hardship due to the fact that they have deferred so much maintenance.

Whether you are staying put and need to boost your comfort now, or if you are thinking ahead to selling, home maintenance is a priority. It could be overwhelming to understand what to do about energy conservation, but there are consultants and websites to help, such as energy.gov. If you would like advice about deferred maintenance or updates, a local realtor such as myself would be happy to chat with you. The important thing is to take action and get ahead of things!

Connecticut Media Group