Last winter was one of the coldest in recent history, when shifts in the polar vortex brought record-breaking cold air to the Eastern United States. Here in Illinois, it even made it to the top 10 coldest winters on record—quite a feat in a state notorious for its harsh winters!
While forecasts aren’t predicting a repeat of last year, there’s still a high chance of this being a big winter for three-quarters of the country. For the average homeowner, that means bills, bills, bills yet again. But why does it cost so much to keep warm in winter?
Blame Air Leakage.
Warm air leaking out of your house and cold air leaking in is one of the primary reasons for the surge in your energy bills. There are a lot of openings and cracks in your home, so air leakage can’t be avoided completely.
That said, old or leaky windows are still massive energy drains. They’re the culprit behind 30% of your heating losses in winter! Your heating system ends up working twice as hard, hence the spike in your winter electric bill.
How can you detect air leakage?
Focus on the areas in your home most vulnerable to leaks. You can detect them by holding up a damp hand near the edges of your windows and doors or by checking for light streaming through those same edges. Lit incense sticks are also an excellent tool, because the smoke can help you detect air entering as well as exiting your house.
What can you do to reduce air leakage?
Small air leaks can be remedied with the help of caulk and weatherstripping. Note that I emphasize “small”. This is why it’s vital that homeowners do routine checks even before winter hits: the sooner you catch an air leak, the easier it will be to fix. That’ll save you both money and time.
The next step up from caulk and weatherstripping is storm doors and windows, which seal drafts and increase fenestrations’ energy efficiency by 45%. But older doors and windows are a different case entirely. If they are leaky and inefficient, that may be just because they’ve reached the end of their service lives. If this is the case with your doors and windows, it’s time for a replacement.
Why should you replace old doors and windows?
Simply put, it’s a better guarantee that air leakage will be kept in check for much longer. The less air leaks your home has, the more energy-efficient it is. And the more energy-efficient your home is, the more money you save.
Also, if you live in an area known for cold winters (like I do), make sure the door or window you choose has a low U-factor. U-factor is the rate at which heat flows through a door or window. Your goal is to keep indoor heat in, and the lower the U-factor is, the higher the insulating value.
Another good reason to replace your doors and windows is resale value. Energy-efficient doors and windows always drive sales. With tax credits gone, window replacement costs are slightly higher for the homeowner, but they can be recouped over time.
Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report showed that entry door replacement can give you an ROI of up to 96.6% of the initial costs, while window replacement gives back up to 79.3%. But even if you’re not selling, energy-efficient options still make sense. Think of it as investing in your own comfort.
Worth it? Absolutely.
Justin Bartley began as a contractor for Next Door and Window and worked his way up to become the company’s installation manager. For him, every project has its own story to tell, and he is always eager to share what he experiences every day. Catch him on his blog at http://www.nextdoorandwindow.com/blog.