Don't give cold weather the cold shoulder this year

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Don't look now, but a mild fall is about to give way to winter's grip.

With all the attention given to energy conservation in recent years, homeowners might have lulled themselves into a sense of complacency when it comes to saving money on energy, according to the Home Service Store.

Step one in continued energy savings is a self-assessment by the homeowner of what remains to be done. Although memories of last winter might be a distant memory -- except for the high heating bills most Americans paid -- homeowners should ask themselves what improvements they should have made. Where did most of the icy drafts come from? Did interior windows fog up? Did the furnace run constantly?

The assessment will lead to a to-do list of sorts. Some tasks which require outdoor work such as installation of storm windows or caulking should be done while the weather still is relatively mild. Some caulks shouldn't be applied when temperatures fall near freezing.

Repair roof leaks now

A common problem in many homes last year was roof leaks caused by ice dams. An ice dam is caused when snow on the roof melts at the shingle level during daytime temperatures then refreezes at night. According to John Karlesky of Lowes, a 700-store chain of home-improvement centers, hundreds or thousands of pounds of ice can accumulate over a period of days or weeks. The thawing action can seep under shingles and into the house. The accumulation can block gutters, too. Homeowners often try to chip away at the thick ice, but it's dangerous duty -- probably best left to professionals.

A remedy for ice dams is to apply electrical heating tape to the first few feet above the gutters before the snow and ice get a chance to pile up. Heating experts at Lowes say the tape restricts the accumulation of ice. Homeowners can install the tape but experts caution roof climbers to be careful. Professional help for installation is available.

It's a good idea also to make sure the insulation in your attic is at the appropriate R-factor. Heat that escapes through the roof can exacerbate the ice-dam problem.

Don't forget exterior doors. If you don't have a storm door, think again. Considerable heat is lost when cold winds pound your main entries. Storm doors are moderately priced in the $75 to $300 range, depending on quality. Installation should take no more than 2-3 hours, with a minimum of tools.

Basement pipes and ducts need attention, too. If your basement ceiling is unfinished, your water pipes and heating ducts could use a layer of insulating foam or wrap. Products for just these jobs are available at any supply center.

There's one more step you can take while the weather is still warm: clean your windows. Dirt and grime that accumulates over dusty summer months can cut down on warming ambient light. If this coming winter is anything like last year, you'll need all the warmth you can get.

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