As winter approaches, homeowners would be wise to protect their houses from another long season of cold winds, snow, sleet, and hail to offset astronomical heating bills. A small investment of time and a trip to the hardware store to properly prepare your home could mean real savings this winter for households already reeling from high costs. Below are several suggestions from architects to make heating your home more energy efficient and cost-effective, including do-it-yourself quick fixes:

  • Homeowners should consider weatherstripping as their first line of defense. Weatherstripping every door and window to keep warm air in and cold air out is one of the simplest, yet most impactful, measures to increase a home’s energy efficiency.
  • It also is important to mitigate heat loss through mail slots, mechanical chases, chimney flues, and other fixtures throughout the household that inadvertently allow air leakage. For maximum impact, weatherstrip the outlets on exterior walls with weatherstripping foam gaskets that can easily be placed under the coverplates of exterior outlets.
  • Protecting windows is another effective measure to reduce household energy consumption. Use a compass to identify which windows face north and which south. Outfit the appropriate windows with insulating shades on the inside to keep heat in and slow the loss of energy.
  • Another do-it-yourself solution is to recycle the heated exhaust from your clothes-dryer through an appropriate filter into your house. Purchase a bypass filter—basically just an 8-inch cube—from your local hardware store. Most filters have installation instructions right on the package and a screwdriver is the only tool needed for installation. The filter will help prevent ice build-up and rot on the outside of the house where the exhaust is vented. However, it also will raise the moisture level in the laundry room, so the door should be left open.

For homeowners interested in more elaborate renovations to improve energy efficiency, the American Institute of Architects encourages collaborating with an architect who can help develop solutions that suit your energy and budget needs.

Planning a home renovation? Visit AIA’s Architecture Firm Directory to find an architect near you.

If you are interested in renovating your current home, an architect can help establish the preliminary budget for the project. Prepare a customized cost opinion for your particular project can start with as little information as the basic size and location of your home. Of course, such an opinion is an estimate, but it is a good place to begin.

If you are building a new residence, consult with an architect to help plan your building and financing process. Let them know from the outset that you are interested in maximizing your new home’s energy efficiency especially for the cold weather months.

From simple ideas like increasing attic insulation to passive design strategies like site orientation to more complex design elements like implementing a geothermal system, architects can help meet your family’s home heating needs as well as your budget restraints. They are familiar with what construction of their designs is likely to cost, and will help you determine not only how long your project should take, but also how much it should cost and how it can be accomplished.

About the author: Dawn Zuber, AIA, is a residential architect and past chair of AIA's Custom Residential Architectures Network.

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