Winter in Washington is characterized by wind and precipitation, so your first line of defense is the exterior of your home — roof, walls and windows.
Rain and snow are in the forecast, but Northwest home experts say that, with the right preparation, you can leave your worries at the door and enjoy a cozy home all winter. Here are some of their top tips for getting your house ready to beat the chill.
Start on the outside
Winter in Washington is characterized by wind and precipitation, so your first line of defense is the exterior of your home — roof, walls and windows. Adding more insulation to ceilings and walls is relatively simple, but replacing drafty windows presents lots of choices. Your options include traditional wood-frame windows, windows with exteriors clad in protective coatings, and vinyl-frame windows. All of these will feature double-pane glass designed with better insulation properties.
“The most common reason for people to replace windows is that they are drafty or they are fogging up between the panels,” Andy Zerbel, an estimator with Window World of North Puget Sound, says. Problems occur with old single-pane windows, but also with double-pane windows where the seal between the glass panels has deteriorated. “When this happens inside double-pane windows, you can end up with mildew forming.”
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Zerbel’s company specializes in vinyl frame replacement windows. They have “low-e” glass — specially coated glass that reflects heat. “Low-e keeps your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter,” Zerbel explains. “You’ll notice that low-e glass also blocks sound. That’s because it’s twice as thick as older window glass.”
Not ready to replace problematic windows and doors? Pro-Tection Seattle offers a solution called solar window film to increase the energy efficiency of single and double-pane windows. Applied directly to the window glass, the film is invisible but effective. Most films are applied to the interior glass, but some specialty films are placed on the outside.
“Window film is known for preventing heat rays from entering your home, but it also helps reduce heat loss and drafts by keeping heat in,” George Emerson, a Pro-Tection sale representative, explains. If you’re opening drapes and shades to get more daylight during the winter months, window film can help prevent sun damage. “It will filter out up to 98 percent of the infrared spectrum, protecting furniture, flooring and artwork from fading,” Emerson says.
Step up your systems
King County encourages homeowners to take the “house as a system” approach. Start with insulation improvements, and once you have those in place, move on to look at your home’s heating systems. Just about every expert you’ll talk with will recommend starting with a home heating audit to see how well your current system is performing.
Is heat getting to all the rooms in the house? Can you control it by zones, so you can enjoy a cool sleeping area, but a cozy living room? Do you need a more powerful central furnace?
“A home energy audit tells you what’s happening in your home, what’s working and where there are trouble spots,” Danielle Onat says. She’s the manager of digital marketing manager for Washington Energy Services. The regional company, headquartered in Lynnwood, conducts home heating audits. They also upgrade siding, insulation and gutters and provide electric and gas heating solutions.
“All furnaces and other heating units have an expected lifespan,” Onat says. “At some point, efficiency drops off and you’ll want to replace it with a unit that uses energy more efficiently.”
Investing in a new heating system also reduces the chances that your furnace or water heater breaks down — a serious inconvenience any time during the year, but a real danger during a major winter storm. “Fixing your system, upgrading your system — it’s all about peace of mind,” Onat says.
Keep in mind that If the chilly room in the house is a living room or family room that already has a fireplace, you may be able to make it easier to use and more effective. Fireplace inserts can increase efficiency, and so can the very popular vented and ventless gas-burning units.
“Gas fireplaces are a great way to zone-heat your home,” Onat points out. “You’re putting the warmth in the rooms your family uses the most. When you’re using the fireplace, you don’t have to continuously run your furnace or your heat pump through your whole home.”
The Seattle Home Show October 19–21 at CenturyLink Field Event Center features vendors demonstrating these and other solutions for home heating and insulation challenges.