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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween is around the corner!

Baby, it's getting cold outside!

Now's the time to winterize your home.
There's nothing better than cozying up on your couch during a winter blizzard while you're warm and comfortable inside. And there's nothing worse than feeling cold winter drafts all around you because you didn't take the time to winterize your home.

Fall is the perfect time for homeowners to prepare their home for the inevitable cold and snow, and one of the most beneficial ways to keep heat in and cold out is by winterizing your windows and doors.

But before you pull out your caulking gun, pick up the phone and get an energy audit.

"The audit will tell you exactly where the issues are in your home," says Francois Hamann, president of Eco Insulation in Markham, Ont. "It's a federal program, so homeowners will get money back depending on what upgrade they're doing. They might as well take advantage because it really is the best way to make sure your home is ready for winter."

If you notice the snow around your home is melting faster than your neighbours or you have large icicles hanging from your home, there's a good chance your attic is poorly insulated. Hamann says one of the most important places to winterize is the attic: poorly insulated attics are responsible for 25 to 30 per cent of a home's heat loss. Hamann says most homes don't have an attic with an R-value (insulation value) rating higher than 24, but to properly insulate your attic a minimum rating of R40 is needed.

"If your attic isn't properly insulated, you'll experience pockets of air where it's colder in your home," says Hamann.

He notes the best way to insulate the area is with cellulose insulation, a cost-effective and environmentally friendly product that performs well in extremely cold temperatures.

To winterize windows and doors, using high performance spray foam insulation and caulking will ensure there is no air leakage. Replacing door jamb weatherstripping and re-caulking the exterior of windows are low-cost options that can make a big difference to your bottom line.

If your windows and doors are beyond repair, they should be replaced with new energy-efficient options.

Technical advances mean today's best windows allow heat to come in while preventing it from escaping. Adam Jones, owner of MAXgreen Windows and Doors Ltd. in Calgary, advises homeowners to invest in triple-paned (or triple-glazed) windows for ultimate efficiency.

A triple-pane window provides more insulation and is more energy-efficient than the double-pane window (or dual pane), not just because of the added barrier but because this extra layer allows another surface to be given a low-emittance (low-E) coating. Essentially a low-E coating hinders radiant heat transfer: very little heat will be lost from the inside or gained from the outside.

He also advises homeowners to invest in crank-style windows over the builder-grade sliding variety. "Sliding windows commonly found in new construction don't seal quite as tight as casement (crank) windows," says Jones. "Although crank windows might cost 15 to 25 per cent more than sliding windows, they'll save you more in home efficiency."

Although some homeowners swear by storm doors to block out wind and cold, Jones says investing in a high quality fibreglass door is more beneficial when it comes to winterizing your home.

"Fibreglass doors are less likely to warp," says Jones. "And the inside of the door is injected with foam so it insulates better and keeps heat in."

Many homeowners might not think of the garage when they go about winterizing their home, but organizing the space is imperative if you want to utilize the garage over winter.

During the hot summer months, the garage is frequently used as a workshop for home projects and the car is parked on the street or driveway. But when the weather grows cold, homeowners generally want to shelter their cars from the elements. And to do that, they have to get everything off the floor.

Because the car often takes up most of the garage, walls and ceilings are the most valuable storage areas.

"Use the height in your garage to store things used less often, such as seasonal decorations and tires," says Rick Scully, chief transformation officer of Nuvo Garage in Toronto. "You can buy ceiling baskets that hang from the ceiling where you can store items."

The walls are ideal for storing frequently used tools and new garage storage products are available for this purpose.

"They are basically heavy-duty PVC wall panels that homeowners can insert hooks in," says Scully. "The hooks and panel are so strong, you can hang anything from ladders to lawn mowers on them."
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