It’s Not too Late to Winterize Homes
Local home repair expert shares tips for keeping your home cozy.
If this year’s glorious fall weather left you lagging behind in preparing your home for the current sub-zero chill, not to worry! There are still many steps homeowners can take to ward off the winter weather and keep their homes well maintained, according to home repair specialist Bob Nettesheim, owner of RGN Inc. in Libertyville.
Nettesheim says that homeowners can begin with simple fixes, such as making sure all storm windows are closed and installing new weather stripping around doors that are leaking air. Also, ceiling fans should be running in reverse (for most fans this is in a clockwise direction), to push heated air down so it circulates throughout a room.
He recommends changing furnace filters every six weeks during the winter to cut down on dust in the home and also to help the furnace function more efficiently. He suggests writing the date of the change right on the filter so it’s easy to know when a new filter is needed.
Leaky windows can make heating ineffective and create chilly rooms. To determine exactly where leaks are, Nettesheim suggests holding a lighted incense stick or candle around window frames. The smoke or flame will blow horizontally in areas that need sealing.
Leaky frames are best re-caulked or re-insulated in the spring, but in the meantime, homeowners can install window sealing kits that shrink wrap plastic to windows using heat from a hair dryer. Though not necessarily the most attractive fix, Nettesheim says these kits are effective in keeping cold air out.
Air often seeps in around light switches and electrical outlets. An easy fix is to remove the faceplates and install foam insulation behind them. Pre-cut foam gaskets are available at home improvement and hardware stores.
Seal Out Cold Air
Cold air intrusion into the home in less obvious areas is a major source of heat loss and corresponding high heating bills, according to Nettesheim.
“I find that there are always gaps in homes through which cold air can enter,” Nettesheim explains. “A few areas to inspect are where hoses, wires and pipes pass through the outside wall of the home.”
The hose that leads to the air conditioning unit outside is one place where cold air often enters the home.
“If you can see light outside from the basement where the A/C pipe passes through the wall, you will need to seal it,” Nettesheim said.
Other areas to inspect include the sites where electrical wires, sump pump pipes, cable wires, dryer vents and furnace exhaust pipes pass through outside walls, according to Nettesheim.
He also points out that exhaust from newer high efficiency furnaces now exits through the wall instead of up the chimney, so this is another area to check for cold air entry.
Expandable foam is a good way to seal these gaps and is available at most home improvement centers.
“Not only will sealing these gaps help keep your home warmer, it also can keep out unwanted critters, such as mice,” says Nettesheim.
Another area where air intrusion is common is the top of the concrete basement wall, where the foundation meets the house.
“The concrete wall can have chips or dips that the 2x4 wall plate does not seal,” says Nettesheim.
Homeowners can check for air intrusion in these areas by placing a hand in-between floor joists above the concrete wall.
“If you feel cold air, look for the source of entry. Expandable foam can seal these gaps very well and it also can help to put insulation between the joists,” he adds.
Stop the Damming Ice
Ice damming on the roof is a major concern in the winter, according to Nettesheim. The condition is caused when the attic is too warm and melts snow on the roof. The melted snow runs down the roof and freezes as it reaches the gutters. The buildup of ice can sometimes cause water to leak under the shingles, enter the home and leave water spots on ceilings and walls.
While Nettesheim says that some minor ice damming is normal, these minor ice formations can be resolved by filling a nylon stocking with salt (the type used on the driveways and sidewalks to melt ice) and tossing the stocking up on the roof, with the end hanging down over the gutter. This creates a channel for the melted ice to flow into the gutters; however, Nettesheim says, it is only a temporary fix.
He points out that one indication of an ice damming problem is the formation of icicles from gutters on a cold winter day, when there should be no melting snow. Another warning sign, is if the neighbors’ rooftops are full of snow, but the homeowner's rooftop has no snow.
“The attic should be nearly the same temperature as outside,” Nettesheim says.
Attic spaces are often too warm for several reasons: some older homes have bathroom fans venting into the attic; the roof vents may be clogged; there may not be enough air circulation in the attic; or there simply may not be enough insulation in the attic.
“If you can see the ceiling joists in the attic floor, there is not enough insulation,” Nettesheim says.
Libertyville resident Bob Nettesheim is the owner of RGN Inc., a home repair business.
For more information call: 847-899-1538.