Coming from Chicago 10 years ago my blood was a little thicker than it is now. Well ok, I feel like a wimp in the cold every time I visit my family for the holidays. Now it may never reach below freezing like it does in Chicago but I will sure have the heat on during our more temperate weather. Since it can get chilly enough to wear a sweater in the evening, here are some things you can do around home to save energy, improve your indoor air quality and be comfortable enough to walk around barefoot, even in the dead of the winter.
1. Seal up your leaks
Warm air raises and can escape out the chimney of a fireplace. A chimney pillow can be installed in the flue to stop heated air from escaping during the winter. Just be sure to leave the tag on and remove the pillow come summer. Also check around potential leakage “hot spots” such as old windows, doors, plumbing penetrations under sinks and electrical outlets. By replacing old weatherstripping around the doors or caulking around the windows or plumbing penetrations you can effectively keep your conditioned air where it belongs, inside. Check the local hardware store to find outlet sealers to add a little insulation behind light switches too.
2. Get up to snuff with your insulation
For Phoenix and central Arizona, the DOE recommends at least 12-inches of blown-in cellulose or an R-38 value to slow the transfer of cold air into the home. If your attic has fiberglass batt insulation, it should be in contact with the attic floor at all times to work properly.
3. Have your furnace or heat pump inspected
A seasonal tune-up may be in order if not done annually. If the temperatures will never reach the temperature set-point the HVAC system may be low on refrigerant or something else may be awry. It's best to have it checked by a professional.
4. Remove shade screens
During the Phoenix winters, solar gain through windows can help significantly warm the home, lowering energy bills from decreased heat use. Shade screens can be unclipped and stored until it comes time for summer.
5. Stay safe
Install CO detectors if you have a fireplace or gas appliances 3-6 feet from the ground. Use a bubble solution to check for gas leaks around fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces and feeder lines. Be sure that the furnace or water heater has a good clearance to allow for fresh air intake and that they are not located in the same room as a dryer.
Follow these tips for a safe and comfortable winter in the Valley of the Sun.
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