Here in New York City, it’s been pretty darn cold lately. When the temperature (or the wind chill) only has one digit in it, you know it’s not a good day to go outside! It’s tempting to just hunker down indoors, curl up on the couch, and do nothing all day. But what if the house isn’t a whole lot warmer than it is outside? That means you have at least one heat leak in your house, something that’s sucking some of that precious warmth out and letting in the bitter chill. Don’t crank up the furnace, though. Instead, consider a few common culprits that you might be able to easily fix.
Take a Top-Down Approach
Start by climbing up into the attic. How does the insulation look: nice and tall and fluffy, or thin, or, worse, nonexistent? If you’ve got inadequate insulation in your attic, that’s a big problem. Luckily, it’s not too hard to lay some more in there (though that stuff can make you really itchy when you handle it, so be sure to wear gloves). While you’re at it, get some insulating foam board and put a piece over the attic hatch so that’s insulated, too.
Check Your Seals
Weather-stripping is the stuff around the edges of your windows and doors that seals them tightly against drafts … or at least, it should. To find out if yours is doing its job, hold a dollar bill against the weather-stripping and close the window or door. Now, let go of the dollar. If it stays in place, you’re good. If you can pull it out or it falls out of place, you’ll need to replace those seals.
Cracks Are Whack
While you’re checking the edges of your windows and doors, examine the areas around them: the walls and the moldings. Don’t forget to do this on the outsides of them, too, outside the house. Do you see any cracks? If so, fill them in with some caulk. It’s fairly inexpensive and easy to do yourself. You might even want to check around your power outlets. Surprisingly, the edges of these can also be places that let cold air in.
Putting a Damper on Things
You wouldn’t think that a fixture specifically designed to help warm up your house would be making it colder, but if you think about it, it makes sense: After all, your chimney is basically a giant tube that connects your fireplace (and the rest of your house) with the air outside. But you can minimize this problem by making sure that the damper in your fireplace is closed whenever you don’t have a fire going. You might also want to experiment with leaving it half-closed during times when you have a fire lit to minimize the flow of the warm air up and out of your house. On the other hand, you might never intend to light a fire at all, in which case you should look into getting a cap for your chimney to seal it up tight. (Just don’t forget it’s there and try to light a fire later on!)