Now that the end of winter has finally arrived, and we are beginning to see sunshine and green grass again, it is time to start preparing your house for summer. Spring is the prime time to get outside and enjoy the weather, but it is also the perfect time to make sure your home is properly sealed and ready to keep you cool once you go back indoors. Below, we have listed some tips for making sure you and your home are in tip top shape this spring.
- Seal up the cracks. One thing you may have noticed after this winter that seems like a small issue: cracks. Cracks in the concrete might not seem like a big deal, but consider everything that might be leaking into your home; water, mold, and even hot air could be seeping inside. Take some time this spring to remedy the problem by power washing any concrete and then using a sealant to close up any cracks. Speaking of “cracks,” consider if your windows or doors are leaky, and if so, add caulk or weather stripping around the edges. This will prevent both cold air from entering your home in the winter as well as the loss of much-needed cool air in the summertime.
- Check faucets for freeze damage. Checking the faucets on the exterior of your home is an often forgotten maintenance check. During the winter, it is possible that water in the pipes leading to the outdoors froze, thus damaging the pipe. To check your faucet for freeze damage, turn the flow of water on and try to stop it with your thumb. If you are able to stop the water flow, it is likely that the pipe inside is damaged and will need to be replaced.
- Give your AC some TLC. Whatever kind of AC unit you may have, it likely could use a little love before summer comes. This spring, be sure to clean and/or replace your AC’s filters to keep it performing at its best. (Maintaining your air conditioning system can lower its energy consumption by up to 15%!) The evaporator coil should also be cleaned annually, and spring is a great time to do this if you haven’t already. If you have an AC unit that’s outdoors, have a contractor come to service the outside unit of the AC. This will make sure everything will be all set and ready to run at maximum efficiency come the next heat wave.
- Keep windows open at night. If you’re already feeling a little too warm in your house, crack open the windows at night. Open more than one window to create a cross-breeze effect that will cool both you and your home down a little. Come morning, shut the windows and use window coverings like curtains or blinds to keep in the cool air and prevent direct sunlight from streaming in, re-heating your home. If you don’t already have window coverings, consider installing some. Check out Energy.gov’s page on energy efficient window attachments if you aren’t sure what kind to get, or if you’re looking to switch up the décor of your home.
- Set your thermostat high. While this may seem counterintuitive to keeping your house cool, it actually will help you save on energy bills. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the more you are likely to save. Additionally, leaving the house thermostat at a high temperature when you are away will also help you save on cooling bills. Think you can’t bear to turn the thermostat up any higher? Well, take our next step to heart and you may find you’re able to crank it up a little higher when you’re at home.
- Dust off those ceiling fans! With ceiling fans running, you can turn the thermostat up 4 °F with no reduction in comfort because of the cool breeze. Be sure to turn it off when you are no longer in the room, though—fans can cool us, but do not do much to cool the room itself. While we are on the note of fans, check to make sure any laundry room, bathroom, or kitchen fans vent to the outside, not just to the attic, to reduce the heat in your home.
- Decrease the heat! There are a number of appliances that could be putting off a lot of heat into your home. For example, try to avoid using the oven during especially hot days; instead, use the stovetop, a microwave, or an outdoor grill. Or, consider air drying your dishes and clothing instead of running a dishwasher or dryer, which will minimize the amount of heat buildup in your home. Additionally, avoid placing lamps or televisions near your AC’s thermostat, as it will sense the heat coming off these appliances. Another step is to make sure you have energy efficient lightbulbs that run cooler than old incandescent bulbs. (Incandescent lights only use 10%-15% of electricity to produce light, while the rest is generated into heat.) Take advantage of daylight when and where you can, but avoid direct sunlight on hotter days.
- Weatherize your home in advance. To help avoid high energy bills both in the summer and in the winter, get yourself an energy audit with HEAT Squad. Our certified energy auditors will be able to assess your home and let you know problem areas as well as the recommended measures to remedy them. Following through on energy efficiency upgrades will make your home more comfortable all year round, keeping cool air and hot air exactly where you want them, when you want them.
For energy efficiency upgrades that you might make post-energy audit, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont offers an Energy Loan to help you complete those upgrades—and incentives are available through Efficiency Vermont! We hope these simple steps to keeping your home up-to-date this season will benefit you and keep you and your home ready for summer this year!
Author: Jillian Branchaud, Community Engagement AmeriCorps Member