While Charleston residents haven’t felt the need to pull out those winter coats just yet, the fact is that—say it with me—"Winter is coming!" Winter has never been a predictable season in the Lowcountry.
We might enjoy a breezy and beautiful 75-degree day only to be surprised by a high of 55 degrees the very next day. It’s for that reason that early winterization is key for helping to avoid high energy bills during the colder months. Don’t be caught unprepared when frosty weather eventually rears its head. These eight steps will save you time, money, and grief over energy costs and other cold-weather issues.
- Dodge the drafts! No matter how small, pesky streams of air that leak in through gaps in windows, doors, chimneys, and siding have a big impact on your heating bill. Use caulk and weatherstrip tape to seal any gaps in these areas, and invest an entire $10 or so in a draft guard that slips under the door to prevent air from leaking in. If you use window units, remove those for the winter to keep drafts out around the edges.
- Clean out gutters. This is especially important for safety’s sake. Make sure to clear out all autumn leaves and debris that may have collected in the gutters. Water must be able to flow freely to prevent icicles and ice dams. It isn’t often that we have to worry about these in the Lowcountry, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Remember those ice storms from last January? Yeah. Clear those gutters.
- Flush out the water heater. This will get rid of particles and sediment that might have settled in the base of your water heater and cause it to work harder.
- Replace filters. You should be changing your central air filters regularly anyway, but take this as a gentle reminder. Clogged air filters force central air and heating systems to use more energy.
- Give the heating system a tune-up. Don’t be surprised by a lack of heat when the temperatures drop suddenly! Make sure your HVAC system is in working order for the colder months. Some utility companies provide free check-ups to ensure your heating system is working properly to reduce energy use and costs.
- Reverse ceiling fans. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the base that enables you to reverse the direction in which the blades turn. Counter-clockwise motion cools the room, while clockwise motion warms the room. Since hot air rises, some of it stays up near the ceiling. Reversing the direction of the blades forces that warmer air down, preventing the need to turn up the thermostat.
- Insulate pipes. Keep those pipes warm to prevent freezing and bursting. Pipe foam can be found at most any hardware store and is easy to install. Simply cut it to size, wrap the pipe, and seal it with duct tape.
- Turn the heat down! When you leave the house—especially for longer periods of time—turn the temperature down on the thermostat. There’s no reason to keep the house toasty when no one is there. Even better, invest in a programmable thermostat.