Cold in, dollars out — winterize your home for big savings

Winterize your home before the cold hits. Small upgrades can make a big difference.

Better late than never, as the saying goes. Winter is soon to arrive in Denver, and it’s not too late to make a few home improvements that could have a big effect on your energy bill come December. The cold and snow can also wreak havoc on your home’s exterior. A little prevention can save you big bucks in the chilly months and keep your lawn, plants and outside appliances protected. After all, even though winter makes us all suffer a little, your home or wallet shouldn’t have to.

For Denver residents with low and moderate incomes, visit RenewDenver.org to learn more about grant and low-interest financing for home upgrade and repair through the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA).

Windows and doors
Probably the first, best tip for keeping the heat in is to weatherproof your windows and doors. Cracks, gaps, and old, single-pane glass can make for big drafts and heat loss.

  • Closing the holes with caulk and weather stripping are cheap and easy solutions to the problem. If you’re not so handy, there are plenty of how-to videos online.
  • Even better, you can use plastic window-insulator-kits to stop drafts entirely and put an extra layer of protection between you and the cold. Kits can be found at your local hardware store, and are cheap and easy to install.
  • Storm doors and storm windows are another excellent way to weatherproof your house. If you have them, take the time to install them right away. If not, talk to a professional to see if and where to get some.
  • Draft snake — This is one of our favorites. Gaps under external doors are incredibly common and let out the heat 24 hours a day. A draft snake [picture?] effectively and cheaply blocks drafts and even keeps snow from blowing in. You can find them in stores, online, or even easily make one yourself by sewing a fabric tube and filling it with sand or cat litter.

Furnace and fireplace
Tune-up and clean-up your furnace and fireplace. Get some professional maintenance and increase the efficiency and lifespan of your furnace. If money is tight, just replace the filters – but educate yourself first. Temporary filters are cheaper, but they need to be cleaned or changed every month during heating season. Permanent filters last years, can save you money in the long run and greatly improve air quality.

Smart or programmable thermostat
This is another tool that, with a little investment up front, can save you big bucks as the years go by. Smart thermostats lower the temp in your home when you’re away or asleep, and bring it back up again when you need it. Some estimate that installing modern temperature control can save you up to 30 percent. Those with older, poorly insulated homes will see the biggest savings — and you could recoup your cost in as little as three months. Also check for rebates, which can make upgrades more cost-efficient.

Extra insulation
Hot air rises, cold air sinks. And if your attic isn’t insulated, you’re letting heat escape as easily as possible. It’s also helpful to insulate the walls of an attached garage or basement ceiling.

Remove window A/C unit
Vents and spaces around your window A/C unit are notorious for letting cold air sneak in during colder months. Remove the unit in the fall – and if you can’t, wrap it in plastic or make a cover using cardboard.

Clean gutters and downspouts
Protect your roof, walls and foundation. The temperature varies greatly in Denver throughout the winter season. If your gutters and downspouts don’t drain properly, ice can build up and severely damage your home’s roof, gutters and walls. Also, if melting water isn’t moved away from the foundation, water can pool and create cracks, not to mention a skating rink in your front yard.

Trim trees
Snow and ice are heavy, especially during the wet storms of Spring. If they build up on overhanging branches, power and telephone lines are in danger.

Good luck on your projects! And to learn more about DURA programs, visit RenewDenver.org or call 303-534-3872.

By offering zero or low-interest loans to low and moderate-income homeowners for home repair, as well as grants to renters and homeowners with disabilities for access modifications to their home, Denver Urban Renewal Authority’s housing rehabilitation programs help qualifying Denver residents live in safe and comfortable housing. DURA also finds and manages all contractors throughout the process, ensuring work quality and timeliness.