A Safe and Eco-Friendly Checklist to Winterize Your Home

It’s the time of year when the dip in temperatures calls for a steaming mug of hot cocoa while sitting by the fireplace. The idea creates a picture-perfect scene on a cold and wintry day. But, would that be all you need to stay cozy and comfortable in your home? Of course not. You also have to consider that it’s the season when injuries arise and damages surface due to poor home maintenance. Other than the scenarios you’ve pictured out in your mind, you have to pay more attention on how to effectively winterize your home.

Even before the cold months begin, you should already be taking the necessary efforts to prepare your home for the winter season. Not only will it keep the entire household more comfortable and free from possible injuries, it will also keep at bay the financial problems that may arise all of a sudden.

So if you haven’t taken the measures yet to winterize your home, here’s a comprehensive checklist that presents safe and eco-friendly techniques to winterproof your space!

 

A Safe and Eco-Friendly Checklist to Winterize Your Home

 

Why is it Necessary to Winterize Your Home?

 

Conserve Energy While Saving Money

Winterizing your home involves providing an insulation system to your home as a protection against the cold. If you apply proper sealing methods to your home, you can consume less energy needed to generate heat, which in turn, can cut costs on your utility expenses. 

Prevent Structure Damages

An important step to winterize your home is inspecting whether or not the HVAC is in good condition and conducting regular maintenance of the plumbing system. Making these part of your routine allows you to steer clear from unnecessary repairs in the future. 

Keep the Home Safe from Disasters

You might already be aware that the freezing temperatures and the harsh winter snow can carry potential disasters to your home. For instance, water that becomes iced in your pipes can burst if not handled early on. Preparing for these issues from the get-go is a smart move in providing added protection to your home.

 

31 Safe and Green Ways to Winterize Your Home

 

1. Switch to Greener Insulation Alternatives

One of the primary steps to winterizing home is the use and installation of insulators to help combat the subfreezing temperature. But in choosing the heat-resistant materials to use, you need to take extra caution since there are options that might contain toxic chemicals. Here are some of the eco-friendly alternatives.

Wool

Ever wondered how sheep survive amidst the extremely chilly weather? It’s because their wool has fire retardant properties. In the same way that it protects their bodies, wool can also give your home the warmth that it needs this winter. If compressed, the wool fibers form small air pockets where the inner layer takes in moisture and the outer coating resists water. Talk about the perfect way to produce heat all the while steering clear from condensation. 

Cotton/Denim 

One of the most sustainable alternatives available in the market, cotton is a safe and natural material that you can utilize. There are several denim scraps that are recycled into layers of blankets that can act as fiberglass alternatives in your walls. These cotton fabrics are naturally insect repellant. Moreover, they are not detrimental to the respiratory system since they don’t contain formaldehyde.

Icynene

Made of castor oil, Icynene is a foam that increases its volume once sprayed to a surface. Not only does it help reduce your energy usage, but it also serves as a strong insulator to your home. It can cover leaks and holes and has a noise-cancellation property. 

Polystyrene

Polystyrene can be a spray foam or a sturdy foam board that strengthens the structure of the building. Since it is mainly composed of plastic, it might not seem like an eco-friendly alternative at first. However, polystyrene can help conserve energy and this is the reason why it is still considered as a green option. 

Aerogel

One of the easiest insulators to install, aerogel often comes in stickers or sheets that are extremely lightweight. It carries an interesting history wherein Samuel Stephens Kistler, the person who allegedly invented aerogel in 1931, made a bet that he can remove the liquid in a jelly-filled jar without shrinking the jelly. He ended up winning by replacing the liquid with air. 

Therma Cork

This renewable and recyclable option is guaranteed to be non-toxic and has soundproofing abilities as well. However, this option might leave a negative carbon footprint since the material is made from oak trees’ outer bark. 

Cellulose

Mostly composed of recycled paper, cellulose is your best bet if you’re searching for cheaper alternatives that are safe to install and can surely minimize the toxins in your house. Moreover, you can count on the fact that the paper in the walls won’t contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.

2. Drain and Disconnect all Outside Hoses

Look out for all the areas where there is a supply of water – from outdoor spigots, swap, sprinkler systems, hoses. Make sure to drain and disconnect them since they might harbor molds or worse, they’ll end up thawing and causing water damage. 

3. Inspect Roof and Gutters

If you don’t want your drainage system to be clogged with leaves and debris, then it is a must that you clean the roof and gutters before winter. Otherwise, the water will flow over the gutters and into undesignated areas – such as the yard, corridor, and basement. This could then lead to other issues regarding mold. 

4. Wrap the Pipes

A freezing pipe is the last thing you’d want to face this winter, unless you’re fine with expensive leaks and debris due to pipes’ cracking. This isn’t far from happening if the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. But you can avoid it by wrapping the exposed pipes with insulation. There are a lot of sleeves or tapes available in home improvement stores. 

5. Keep Enough Supply of Firewood

Perhaps a fireplace can be anyone’s best friend this cold season. To keep this warm haven lit up during the wintery nights, you should store enough supply of firewood. Having rotten wood or running out of supply in the middle of winter is a stranded situation you don’t want to be in. Keep the firewood in a safe location where it can remain intact.  

6. Plant Trees to Serve as Windbreak 

It is usually discouraged to plant trees outside your home since the wind may cause them to fall and ruin the roof and glasses. However, evergreens are not bad at all, if you know the right places for them. In fact, these windbreaks can reduce wind velocity that goes in the direction of your home, making it less impactful. Moreover, planting windbreaks has been proven to minimize energy consumption and lower your electricity bills by up to 30%. 

7. Eliminate Dead Trees

While it can be beneficial to plant windbreaks around the home, you also need to consider the harm that the dead trees can cause if the branches come falling on your roofs, gutters, decks, cars, and even unsuspecting passersby. Cut them off as early as in summer or fall. 

8. Install a Heat Resistance System in the Garage

Commonly one of the most unheated spaces at home, your garage shouldn’t be neglected when you’re planning on the installation of insulators. It may just be a small section but leaving it cold will make it difficult to heat the home. 

9. Buy a Heat Recovery Ventilator

While it’s a good practice to seal your home for the winter, this also means that good air quality is hampered in the process. There is, therefore, a greater demand for ventilation in order to supply the room with fresh air. One viable solution is to get a heat recovery ventilator (also called HRVs or air to air heat exchangers). What gives it a leg up over other systems is its capacity to recycle amounts of heat that are usually lost through the process of ventilation. 

10. Test for Radon Gas

Considered as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, radon gas is a naturally-occurring invisible gas that can generally be detected indoors – inside the houses, schools, and workplaces. Conducting a radon test will allow you to inspect the gas levels in your home to know whether or not they are elevated. This, in turn, will make you take precautionary steps to reduce the levels. Radon test kits are readily available in several stores, but you can also hire professional contractors to perform the test for you.  

11. Learn About Rebates and Tax Credits

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners are given assistance in efforts to create an energy-efficient home. For instance, if you have furnaces or boilers that are dysfunctional, you can ask the government to perform an energy audit and see if you can be granted some of their perks. 

Note that there are also a number of utility districts that made rebates and incentives available in their programs to help you conserve energy.

12. Inspect Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Are your carbon monoxide detectors working properly? If not, you must replace old batteries or even buy new ones and have them installed near the water heater and/or furnace. It is important that they remain in good condition before the cold winter blow comes creeping inside your home. In fact, some cities even require CO detectors in every room. 

If you’re using gas range when cooking, install a fan on your stove hood that will vent the carbon monoxide outside in order to minimize exposure. 

Note: If your burners produce yellow-tipped flame, it indicates a greater emission of harmful gases.  

13. Be Mindful of the Mold

Molds like to thrive in environments with high levels of moisture, such as your bathroom and kitchen. They can pose potential health risks, especially for people with asthma and a low immune system. Not only that; fungi also affect the structural integrity of the building. This is why it is recommended to use ventilation systems in areas and on appliances where molds can potentially grow. More importantly, you should steer clear from leakage as it can harbor these types of fungi.

14. Clean Furnace Filters

Never face the winter with a dirty filter for your furnace, unless you’re fine with air being obstructed from its normal flow in your heating system. This means that it will require more time for the furnace to run since less warm air is spreading throughout the house. Dirty filters are also the number one cause of malfunctioning heating systems. Even if that doesn’t happen your electricity bill will skyrocket from your system losing efficiency.

15. Seal the Windows and Doors

Try standing near the door and window and see if you can feel the air leaking through. If so, then weatherstripping is in order! Caulk the gaps in order to retain the warm air inside and block the cold air from coming in. This can even slash 10 to 15 percent off your energy bills! 

Plastic or Bubble Wrap

One of the most inexpensive ways to weatherproofing is through covering your windows or doors with plastic shrink wrap. It may not exactly be appealing to the eyes but it sure can help prevent the cold air from creeping in. 

Draft Stopper

Also called a draft blocker, a draft stopper makes sure that the icy wind howling can’t enter through the tiny space between the floor and the door. They’re pretty cheap as well, you can buy door blockers for about $10. However, you can also choose to do-it-yourself. In fact, even a simple rolled-up towel can already fulfil the purpose. 

Door Sweep

Just like draft blockers, door sweeps are also designed to block the crack between the door bottom and the threshold. These are usually attached at the bottom edge to serve as a physical barrier. Depending on the size and material type, door sweeps can come in the form of rubber or metal strips. 

Storm Doors and Windows

Glass panels installed in front of an exterior door or window can act as winter screens. They secure your house from the chilly wind, all the while maintaining ventilation inside. Storm doors and windows also prevent insects from flying inside the house.   

Tip: Before you install any winter-proofing materials to the doors and windows, don’t forget to measure the dimensions first. Having a half-blocked sill is almost the same as having no draft blockers at all. 

16. Use Heavy and Non-Toxic Curtains

Replace your spring and summer curtains with thicker ones to prep your home for the winter. However, you must also be careful since some materials may contain toxins. Non-vinyl blackout blinds and curtains are recommended to keep your family both warm and safe.    

17. Add Straw Bales

Aside from installing heat-resistant materials inside your home, it is also a good idea to winterize the foundation of the house. Buy straw bales and scatter them around to block the chilly air, keeping the floors warm. 

18. Take Advantage of the Sunlight 

This is a pretty easy trick to provide extra insulation without requiring any cent. Make use of the sun’s natural light and open your curtains during the day. Just don’t forget to close them at night or else the efforts will only go in vain. 

19. Keep Furniture Away from the Vents

To maximize airflow, position the furniture or any obstacle away from the vents. Otherwise, you’ll end up heating the furniture alone, and not the entire house. 

20. Reverse the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans

As much as ceiling fans can cool down the heat during summer, surprisingly, they can also warm you up this winter! You just have to know how to turn the right buttons to do so. Have your fan rotate in reverse or clockwise by flipping the directional switch on the fan. This way, you’re letting the hot air that gathered near the ceiling push down and circulate around the room. The bonus is: you can reduce your energy bill by up to 10 percent!

21. Put an Air Deflector Over Vents

In order to make the air distribution more efficient, insert air deflectors over the vents. For instance, if you have vents near curtains, the deflector will ensure that the heat is directed outward instead of drifting upward the fabrics.   

22. Grow Herbs and Vegetables Inside the House

You might already be aware that plants have a filtering power, allowing them to remove toxins out of the air. Since part of the winterizing process is basically sealing any leaks in the house, poor air quality cannot circulate its way out. In this case, growing herbs and vegetables is your green solution to making sure that the air you breathe is clean. Just note of these care tips to make sure your air plant survives.    

23. Cover Your Water Heater

Insulating materials aren’t only meant to cover your body. You can also use them to make sure your water heater stays warm. This way, you will not only cut on expenses, but also contribute to the environment in doing so by keeping energy consumption to a minimum. 

24. Ask for an Energy Audit

Investing in an energy audit is never a bad idea. This assessment will allow you to know how much energy you’re losing and where they’re going exactly. In effect, it will help you improve your energy consumption based on the recommendations included in the audit. For instance, the results will tell you if additional insulation must be made or simply discard appliances that are no longer performing well. 

25. Clean Up Your Fireplace

When winterizing your home and you plan on spending long nights by the fireplace, then this calls for some cleaning up. Make sure no animal nest nor creosote are left since they bring hazardous effects. 

26. Get a Smart Thermostat

Looking for a modernized approach in winterizing your home but remains eco-friendly at the same time? Try investing in a smart thermostat! This is a programmable version that makes room for customization so it doesn’t run when not necessary. Not only will it make an eco-purchase but smart thermostats are definitely more convenient as they can learn your schedule and heat automatically. 

27. Distribute Clean Blankets Around the House

There is no need to turn up the heat when you have thick blankets within arms reach. They still serve the same purpose, although you’ll undeniably get to save so much with this method. Be sure to place comfy blankets to various places around the house – on the living room, on beds, and attic. Clean them as early as now so they’re ready for pull out whenever. 

28. Prepare an Emergency Kit

In the event of a power outage, you need to stay vigilant, especially on the weather that’s known to be disaster-prone. Prepare your emergency essentials that contain candles, matches (or lighter), battery backup, extra water supply, non-perishable food, blankets, and a first-aid kit. Place them in an easy-to-access location and never neglect to make an evacuation plan. The contact numbers of authorities and utility companies should be saved on your phone as well. 

29. Get a Chimney Balloon

Much like other caulking tools, a chimney balloon serves as a barrier to keep cold draughts from coming in and warm air from escaping. It is a durable, pillow-like material that is inserted and inflated in the chimney or unused fireplaces. Apart from the heat control, chimney balloons can also blocks undesired pests, debris, toxins and odors from traveling down your home. 

30. Start Composting

There are many reasons to start your composting routine and here’s one thing that might give you that push this winter- it can help to generate heat. This is a natural occurrence as a result of organic materials breaking down into microbes. Typically, compost materials are placed in showers and greenhouses to warm them up.  

31. Block off Vacant Rooms

Having to heat a larger area requires much effort and energy, not to mention how this can increase your heating bills. A viable solution for this is to seal off the unused rooms. Close the doors and weatherproof the edges by inserting blankets or drafters. Ideally, this should be done while the weather is still mild instead of waiting for the first cold to hit. 

 

You might already be aware of these winterizing tips that redundancy is the only way to describe them. However, constantly emphasizing these things can save you from the consequences unexpected problems brought by the winter season. And while winterizing requires you to invest some time and money, the benefits will take you a long way.  If you want a full winter-proof solution, consulting a home design expert is also a good idea. In fact, winter is the perfect time for a remodeling project due to convenience in project scheduling, permit approvals and many other more!

Need a hand in making your home design ready for the winter? Lugbill Designs is adept in home styling and interior design to help you live in safety and comfort.

The Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Building Materials

In the recent years, green building has risen into popularity with new homeowners looking for new ways to potentially lower energy costs and thus, limit impact on the environment. To meet this increasing demand, home builders and interior designers have found a better option in employing the use of alternative building materials in construction.

Today, the use of sustainable building materials is on the rise. Some of these are made out of natural materials while others are designed to use resources in the most efficient manner. Regardless of the objective, there are many reasons why contractors and homeowners should switch to green building.

 

Why Invest in Sustainable Building Materials?

Energy conservation has significantly become a top priority amongst the world population. In fact, a 2016 World Green Building Trends report by Dodge Data and Analytics, green building is officially a global trend – a shift that is driven by consumer demands. It is even expected to significantly increase in the coming years.

Although green building is more than the materials you use, your decision on which ones to use still matters. In this article, we list some of the green options that make a better alternative to the traditional materials.

1. Bamboo

Bamboo is a highly sustainable building material that is distinguished by its unrivalled tensile strength, durability and lightweight properties. Its aesthetic resemblance to wood makes it a cost-effective alternative to traditional hardwood and a green material for tiles, ceilings, privacy screens and more.

2. Wood

Wood retains its title as a historic and classic sustainable material that adds a timeless flair to buildings. Building with wood offers significant benefits as processing them into lumbers require less intensive methods in comparison with other industrial building products such as concrete, glass and steel.

3. Reclaimed Wood

Building with reclaimed wood is a responsible way to lower the amount of materials being dumped to landfills and prevent the need to cut down more trees in the process. But, probably what home builders and interior designers are after most is the depth and exquisite character only old wood can provide.

4. Cork

The renewability, versatility, near-impenetrability and fire resistant qualities of cork make it a suitable material for flooring, insulation, acoustic wall covering and more. Harvesting it doesn’t require cutting the tree. In fact, each cork tree can be stripped off of its bark up to 20 times in its entire life.

5. Mycelium

Mycelium is a mushroom-based material that is tested to be stronger than concrete, lighter than bricks and more insulated than fiberglass. What’s more, being made of fungi, it has the ability to self-heal meaning it can reduce the need for costly repairs. It’s also entirely organic and compostable.

Did You Know? Mycelium thrives underground and without light, meaning it doesn’t require external energy resource to grow.

6. Ferrock

Ferrock is another cement alternative that is made of recycled steel dust or ferrous rocks from the steel industry. It offers a greener alternative to the traditional cement manufacturing process as it absorbs carbon dioxide while it hardens and dries. Further, any structure made with Ferrock is proven to last longer, barely requiring repair and replacement.

7. Timbercrete®

Timbercrete® is an eco-friendly product made up of timber waste from several sources and concrete. The result is a material that is lighter than a solid concrete but with higher thermal insulating properties and unmatched strength. It is also user-friendly as it can be easily nailed, screwed or sawn like a regular timber and can be made to appear like sandstone, mud brick or cobblestone.

8. Wool Bricks

Wool brick is a zero-carbon product that is developed by researchers in Spain and Scotland who have added wool fibers and alginate (a natural polymer from seaweeds) to the clay of the brick. The result is a sustainable, non-toxic brick that is 37% stronger than a traditional brick.

9. Recycled Plastic

Instead of producing new materials, researches are creating lightweight concrete, tiles, insulation, lumber and more out of recycled plastics and trash. Building with recycled plastics helps lower the construction costs and provides a new use for plastic wastes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

10. Shipping Containers

Building houses out of shipping containers is probably the epitome of the sustainable and modern building. It makes use of the reclaimed materials that otherwise would be left to rust at the point they are retired. They can be modified into sustainable and durable houses and into endless design possibilities.

The Best Sustainable Material for You

Like anything you would decide on, you should do a careful research on which sustainable materials to use for your home. Learning more about these alternatives will lead you to the options that will be most suitable for your lifestyle and preferences as well.

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