Winter is coming! And though we live in the balmy-weathered Bay Area, it behooves us to prepare for the rainy, windy, cold (and sometimes super nice) months ahead. Keeping cool air out and warm air in not only maximizes the level of coziness, but also is sustainable for the environment and your budget alike. Most changes can be made quite easily. Preparing now will result in more time to lay back, relax and enjoy your cozy winter abode.
1. Service your system.
Anyone who actually lives in the sunshine state can contest to the fact that it gets cold. Whether you’re using a furnace, wood stove, boiler, or heat pump to keep warm, it’s crucial to have your system cleaned and serviced. Dirt is more than likely the number one cause of system failure. Cleaning the filters yourself will save you some money but know that it’s a dirty job. Most California HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) service experts advise that you wait until the filter is completely dry, after cleaning, before putting it back. And remember, you can’t run your HVAC system without a filter. (But before we go any further, can we mention how fabulous the radiator is in the picture above? Paige discovered these several months back from the company Caleido. We haven’t been able to get these out of our minds since.)
2. Get your ducts in order.
If you happen to be using a forced-air heating system, you’re probably depending on ductwork to deliver heated air to your living space. Examine your house’s heating ducts for leaks. Mostly out of sight, ducts can leak for years without anyone ever knowing. They can become torn or crushed and flattened. Old duct tape—which was probably the worst kind of tape there was—tends to dry up and crumble over time. This unfortunately allows junctions and splices to open, spilling heated air into your attic or under the house. This can be wasteful but an easy fix if done right. According to the California Energy Commission, you can save roughly 10 percent on your heating bill by preventing leaky ducts. But when not taken care of it can diminish the heating efficiency by as much as 40 percent. A home energy auditor, (we recommend Rising Design & Construction) can tell you whether or not your ducts need to be sealed. Also, any ductwork in unconditioned (cold) space like an attic, basement or crawl space should be insulated so that your heated air has protection from cold temperatures.
3. Invest in insulating the attic.
If you’re lucky enough to have an attic, be sure that it’s properly insulated. In older homes, that can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs. Before energy efficiency standards, homes were often built with little to no insulation. As a result, large amounts may be getting lost through walls, floors and—since heat rises—ceilings.
Are you familiar with the Residential Efficiency Rebate program? It is a whole-house approach to improving the energy efficiency of residential homes. The program is open to customers and is available for attic and exterior wall insulation, whole house fans, attic fans (solar and electric), duct insulation, house envelope and duct sealing, window film, and other efficiency products—depending where you live. If you reside in San Francisco, it’s easy to find out all you need to know, here. If not, see what programs apply in your area by visiting the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org).
4. Give you doors and windows an upgrade.
First, check the weatherstripping on your main entry door and windows. If you can see even a sliver of daylight at any point around the door, or if you can feel a draft coming in around the edge, you need new weatherstripping. Bring a piece of your old weatherstripping to the local hardware store to ensure you get identical new material (especially for those of us who don’t own our homes or flats). Another 10 percent of most air leaks are through our windows and doors. So cleaning them (inside out, of course) is a start in finding cracks both on the glass and old caulk.
5. Furniture and furnishing remix.
Think of your home and furnishings like your wardrobe. When the weather changes, it’s time to pull out those chenille rugs, throws, wool shags, and heavy velvety drapery—we’re in love with all the 2012/2013 cozy home trends. What’s better than a comfy and warm retreat after a long day’s work.
Pulling your furniture in a little closer to the center of the room, by the fireplace—or rearranging your rooms is another easy winter ready trick. Our Design Remix also allows you the make the most of what you already have, with an in-home design and color consultation. We can make recommendations for rearranging your space including an in-home interview with one of our designers. The remix includes: Color palette, Basic furniture arrangement plan, Basic furnishing suggestions and a Basic shopping list—sounds fun, right? Click here to learn how you can get started.
Whether you live in a large house or chic one-room pad, the Outer Sunset or the sunny Mission District, these easy and inexpensive ways to prepare for the winter months will keep you warm and ready all season long.