How to save money and energy by winterizing your home
When Jamison Berwager’s bathroom-sink faucet failed to turn on after a very cold winter night in Washington D.C., he knew his decision to put off re-insulating the adjoining room was a bad one.
“We got lucky the previous winter,” says the Petworth Angie’s List member who contacted highly rated Omar’s General Contracting in Maryland for a $1,070 insulation installation and dethawing project.. “I was worried about the plumbing situation quickly deteriorating.”
Energy experts say most local homes leak money that could be saved if houses were well winterized, or prepared for cold weather through projects that save energy and money while protecting them from damage. They recommend beginning these projects in the fall.
Washington D.C. remodeler Brandon Butler says a few maintenance projects can save homeowners nearly $1,000 on their utility bills, a huge energy savings each year. Turning off the water supply to the outside faucets, ensuring your home has enough insulation, air sealing windows and doors and making sure your chimney flue opens and shuts tightly are all projects that can save money during the winter season, Butler says.
“It’s a simple measure to make sure everything is properly winterized, but people want to only pay when there is a problem,” says the owner of highly rated Holdfast, a handyman business in the Upper Chevy Chase neighborhood of D.C., and co-owner of highly rated Denny and Gardner Remodeling in Sterling, Va.
Pascale Maslin, owner of highly rated Energy Efficiency Experts in Washington, conducts home energy audits to pinpoint air leaks in a home and offers solutions. “Most leaks come from the attic, basement, crawl spaces, band joists, and windows and doors,” she says.
Correcting air leaks before the temperature drops improves comfort and savings, says Maslin, who charges $400 for an audit or $100 after a Pepco rebate offered in Maryland. At press time, Virginia didn’t offer a rebate, but Washington offers a $500 incentive for a qualifying home energy upgrade.
Winterization projects Maslin recommends to homeowners include insulating the attic and pipes, maintaining HVAC systems, cleaning gutters to ensure that snow melts quickly, sealing windows and doors and replacing them with energy efficient models. Upgrading a home’s thermostat to a digital model costs $200 to $250, says Butler, but the savings over the winter can be much more.
When Stephen Anderson saw his heating bill last winter, he hired Energy Efficiency Experts to conduct an energy audit. Then, highly rated DRO Enterprises of Germantown, Md., insulated his attic, crawl spaces and basement, and sealed leaks throughout his home in April. “If it took a few years to get the money back then great, but we would be warmer immediately,” says the Silver Spring, Md., member, who spent $8,000 on the project.
DRO Enterprises owner Bill Smith told Anderson to expect a 20 percent savings on his energy bill, although he says he’s seen savings as high as 60 percent in some customers’ cases. “Our goal is to make the home more comfortable so you appreciate it more — then the savings become gravy,” he says.