How to Weatherize Your Home to Save Money and Electricity
Texas residents are naturally feeling nervous as colder weather approaches, following days-long blackouts and the massive strain to heat homes in record-low temperatures caused by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. While the state has made some strides to avoid such catastrophic impacts this year, homeowners can also prepare for winter by weatherizing their homes.
Taking steps to weatherize can save money on electric bills, keep your home warmer in cold temperatures, and reduce the demand on the state’s power supply. These weatherization tips not only help in freezing temperatures, but also save energy in the Texas heat. Even when power outages occur, weatherized homes fare better in maintaining indoor temperatures longer and keeping occupants safe. Some residents may also qualify for assistance with weatherization (read on for more).
Tips to Weatherize Your Home
When your home’s heat or air conditioning is working and your bills are manageable, it’s easy to forget about simple ways you can save money on your energy costs. However, it’s the perfect time to weatherize your home before the temperatures reach any extremes. Those drafty windows and doors are important to tackle now.
Taking steps to weatherize your home could save you 10% to 20% on energy costs this winter. The US Department of Energy offers guidance on DIY Home Energy Assessments or you can consider hiring a professional.
Address drafts and ventilation issues.
Doors and windows are often the culprits of air leaks. Look for movement when you shake them or light seeping through frames.
The Department of Energy suggests these two easy ways to check for leaks: 1) Shine a flashlight to detect large cracks. 2) Put a dollar bill in a door or window. If it easily slides out when it’s shut, there’s probably energy loss. You can also test for drafts by passing areas with a lighted stick of incense.
Some easy, money-saving solutions include:
- Add caulk or weatherstripping in small gaps. A standard door costs about $20-$30 if you do it yourself. If you hire someone to weatherstrip all doors and windows, labor costs will be the majority of your spending. Consider these types of weatherstripping for different areas.
- Install plastic sheeting over windows in the coldest months.
- Install draft guards. For only $10-$20 each, a variety of draft stoppers are available to help prevent heat from escaping the bottom of both windows and doors. For cheaper solutions on less-used doors, roll up a towel at the door’s base.
- If it’s time to upgrade, consider installing new energy-efficient windows and doors.
Have you ever plugged something in just to feel a draft coming from the outlet? It’s not uncommon. The potential pathways for air leaks are numerous, so remember to check these common air-leakers: outdoor water faucets, siding/chimney intersections, and the foundation. Indoor areas include electrical outlets, baseboards, fireplace dampers, attic doors, vents, fans, and any exhaust units to the outside. Seal any leaks around these areas or replace them if necessary (like damaged fireplace dampers, dryer vent close flaps, or stove vents). Caulk any plumbing fixtures that have gaps.
Energy.gov offers these tips for weatherstripping windows:
- Weatherstripping should be applied to clean, dry surfaces in temperatures above 20°F (-7° C).
- Measure the area to be weatherstripped twice before making a cut.
- Apply weatherstripping snugly against both surfaces. The material should compress when the window or door is shut.
When weatherstripping doors:
- Choose the appropriate door sweeps and thresholds for the bottom of the doors.
- Weatherstrip the entire door jamb.
- Apply one continuous strip along each side.
- Make sure the weatherstripping meets tightly at the corners.
- Use a thickness that causes the weatherstripping to press tightly between the door and the door jamb when the door closes without making it difficult to shut.
Add more insulation.
Depending on the age of your home, the insulation levels may be less than the required amount installed in new homes today. And it’s not just older homes﹘9 out of 10 U.S. homes are under-insulated. Heat can escape easily through floors, walls, and ceilings. Inspect areas like the attic, including the hatch to see if it closes tightly and is insulated. Weatherstrip around the attic door. Check ductwork, pipes, and chimneys to see if they are sealed well. Use expanding foam or other sealant to keep cold air out in the winter and hot air in the summer.
Keep air circulation moving.
Covered air vents means your heat or air will have to work harder to maintain your home’s temperature. Make sure vents are clear of rugs, furniture, or any obstructions. The direction of your ceiling fan is also impacted by the season. In the winter, set fans to move air downward (counterclockwise); in the summer, set fans to move air upward (clockwise). Turn off fans when you’re not in the room to conserve energy.
Weatherize or uninstall exterior units.
Window air conditioning units can cause major air leaks, so it’s wise to uninstall them and fix any leaks in the colder months. If you leave it in the window, make sure it’s covered and sealed well around the edges.
Finally, determine if it’s time to update your central heating or air conditioner all together. It’s better to replace it before extreme weather strikes. And while you may face some minimal up-front costs of weatherizing your home, you’ll see savings in your energy bill and a comfortable home that’s easier to heat or cool. In addition to weatherizing efforts, consider these tips to conserve electricity during the winter months.
Payless Power offers a variety of affordable prepaid electricity plans that help you conserve energy and save you up to 20% on energy costs each year. Type in your zip code to find a plan with no deposit or credit check necessary.
Home Weatherization Assistance
Find out if you qualify for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which offers assistance to low-income residents. You could qualify for energy audits and weatherization efforts. Check online to see if you’re eligible for WAP services based on income and to find your local WAP office. Additionally, the Texas CEAP helps low-income residents with immediate energy needs (such as financial assistance). Contact the Texas Department of Health and Human Services office at 855-937-2372 for direction to the right resources.