Cold days and nights are coming! There are many suggestions on how to best prepare one’s home that are available on-line. I’m going to add to the discussion, but from a somewhat different perspective.
For a specific, point-by-point set of instructions, consider having an energy audit completed. Free audits are available in Cambridge at the Cambridge Energy Alliance http://cambridgeenergyalliance.org/; in other parts of the Commonwealth contact Mass Save http://www.masssave.com/residential/home-energy-assessments/ or your local utility company.
Complete temperature-dependent activities and procedures first. Think of materials that need warm temperatures in order to cure, such as paint, sealant and concrete patching materials. Remember that the installation of storm windows and other tasks may require sealant.
Scrape away loose paint. Prime and paint exposed wood to minimize water penetration. Comply with local regulations if your home contains lead paint.
Be pro-active about minimizing the potential for ice dams. Clean out the gutters and downspouts; have de-icing cables installed; add attic insulation with baffles to maintain a 2” airspace above the insulation. Certain de-icing cables are regulated by both a thermometer and a humidistat and automatically turn themselves on.
Remember a few things that your science teacher taught: hot air rises, cold air drops and heat is transferred by conduction, convection and radiation.
Try to keep the warm and cool air mixed. Warm air tends to stratify above cool air and is somewhat resistant to mixing. Turn on the fan in your air handling unit if you have an air-based heating system. If you have steam or hot water heat, try using a “Vornado-type” fan to mix the air. These have a special blade geometry that sends air in a vortex that can penetrate stratified air.
Install opaque window treatment to minimize radiant heat loss at night. Heavy drapes, insulating blinds, and wood blinds are good examples of products that can be effective.
Minimize or eliminate air gaps at windows and doors. Install a door sweep at the bottom of exterior doors if needed. Replace the damper in your fireplace with one that has silicone seals.
Purchase a new energy-efficient house or condominium, if all else fails. I would be pleased to help you in this endeavor. (Yes, this is a self-serving statement, but it’s my blog.)