It’s only September and yet the thermometer has dipped into the 30’s. Since we live in a big old farmhouse with lots of character, we have consciously changed it as little as possible. In a perfect world, we would have all of the original storm windows. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. We have a mixture of old wooden storms, some aluminum and a couple of windows that have been missing the storm for years. But we have learned how to button up this old fashioned house using some old techniques and developing a couple of new ones by trial and error.
- First and thankfully, a previous owner had the foresight to completely surround the framing of the house with insulation from the attic to the basement. That addition is key to keeping any house warm during the Wisconsin winters. There are several ways to insulate the walls in all price ranges. Many of them can be done by a do-it-yourself enthusiast.
- The next most important thing that can be done to keep the drafts out of an old home are tight windows. A previous owner installed aluminum double hung windows. We check them over every year (washing them when possible) to make sure that there is a tight seal. If the caulking has hardened or fallen away, we replace it. There are also some of the original wood framed storm windows that we check over every year—re-caulking as necessary. We put the storm in the window and go inside with a candle to check for any draft. If there are drafts or the window feels loose, we fill it in with rope putty.
- For windows that have the storm completely missing, we use the plastic window kits. In order to be effective, they are best installed on a calm, warm day so that the adhesive is tacky enough to stick well. For any window that is going to be subject to lots of wind, it is a good idea to install plastic on the inside and outside as well. Follow the directions for the window product.
- Lastly, the simplest thing to do to help the house be warmer in the winter is is the same as when our ancestors did it. Open the shades during the day! Capture the solar energy inside on sunny days, then close the drapes at dark and hold the heat in!
Another item that must be attended to before the winter sets in is making sure that your furnace is in good working order. It is a good idea to leave this to the expert. Your favorite furnace guy can come out and inspect and or repair your furnace. There may be a charge for the service but compared to an emergency call in the dead of winter; or worse yet a fire call, it is well worth the price!
- Smoke detectors need their batteries changed twice a year. Utilizing the biennial time change date will help jog your memory. If your smoke detectors are old (anything over ten years), it may be time to replace the whole unit rather than just the batteries. (If you want to test your smoke detector, use a spray tester, rather than the smoke from a match or candle, because the smoke can actually cause the detector to fail.)
- CO (carbon monoxide) detectors are inexpensive and useful tools that have been proven to save lives.
- Outlets are often a source of secret heat loss. Insulating liners are available that can be installed behind the outlet cover that can help keep these sneaky heat thieves from creating cold spots in the room.
Some people dread the fall, knowing that it is the precursor to winter. Others, like me, revel in the beauty of the fall colors and the smell of the crisp leaves. I thank the good Lord for the reminder (and the time) to prepare for the cold season. Good planning and good preparation leads to a great party! So this winter, prepare for Old Man Winter and Party On!
If you have tips for preparing for the fall preparation I would love to hear from you! Please respond here or send an email to John at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.