Portland, Oregon’s chilly, wet winters make weatherization and energy-efficiency indispensible for every homeowner. The following suggestions include tips that a do-it-yourselfer could handle as well as jobs best done by a professional. Some major fixes and improvements can be accomplished as part of a home remodel.
The first set of tips will help you save money on heating bills.
- Start with an energy audit. Professionals will check your home for air leaks using blowers and for poor insulation using thermal imaging. They will measure the thickness of the insulation in all areas of your home, gauge the airtightness of your heating ducts, and note the efficiency levels of your furnace and water heater. Beginning in January 2018, the city of Portland will require every home being put up for sale to first undergo an energy audit and the energy score to be disclosed.
- Seal up gaps in your home. Look for spaces around doors, windows, and chimneys where warm air can escape and moisture can enter, and then get to work with a caulk gun. Replace old weatherstripping on windows and exterior doors, including sweeps on the bottoms of the doors. Don’t overlook the heating and air conditioning ductwork throughout your home; it can be leaky, too.
- Add insulation. Depending on the size of the undertaking, this could be a job for a professional. Attics are the easiest places to add insulation. The insulation, either blown-in or in rolls or batts, should be at least 10-14 inches thick, for an R-Value of R-38 or higher. You can add either type of insulation on top of your existing attic insulation. Basement walls should have insulation, and a remodel would be a good time to add that. Additionally, cold air can enter your home where the bottom of the walls and the foundation come together, so don’t overlook that area. The older your home, the less likely it is that its exterior walls will be insulated. You can add insulation by cutting round holes at the top of the wall between each stud, blowing in insulation, and then patching the holes.
- Upgrade your windows. This is a major project, but it can make a major improvement in your home’s energy efficiency. Before you select replacement windows for your home, do some homework. A number of factors play into the energy efficiency of a window, including its orientation to the sun, the way it opens and closes, the type of glass and number of panes, and the framing material.
- Replace your heating system. This is another big-ticket improvement that will make a difference in your heating costs and can be part of a larger renovation or whole-house remodel. In areas such as Portland where summer and winter temperatures are relatively mild, heat pumps can be an energy-efficient choice. And if it’s time to replace a water heater, keep in mind that tankless water heaters and heat pump water heaters offer some efficiencies.
- Buy a programmable thermostat. A device that automatically raises and lowers your home’s temperature depending on the time of day certainly isn’t a new idea, but “smart thermostat” technology has taken off in recent years.
Saving Your Property
These suggestions will help you avoid property damage and other winter hazards.
- Clean your gutters early and often. A clogged gutter or downspout will let the water run where you don’t want it to go.
- Prune your trees to keep them from blowing against your house during a December windstorm.
- Winterize your sprinkler system. Even though Portland doesn’t often have extended periods of below-zero weather, the temperature does go low enough to freeze hoses and underground sprinkler systems.
- If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, get on the chimney sweep’s schedule before burning season starts.
- Reseal your deck before the rains begin. It will extend the life of the wood and make it look nicer.
- Have your furnace inspected. The inspector will check fuel connections, the condition of the heat exchanger, and the burner combustion. Such an inspection can save you from a surprise breakdown in midwinter or from a potentially deadly carbon monoxide leak.