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13 things to do this Halloween to prepare winter’s horror

Some winters in the Washington area can be scary, and some of them downright horrifying.

Remember 2010? Snomageddon? Our region was buried underneath as much as 32 inches of snow. There even was more in some places.

So, while last year’s winter season didn’t come close to that nightmare, anything can happen this year.

The Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative is urging homeowners to take these 13 steps this Halloween week to prepare for the winter season that lurking just around the corner.

1. Batts in the Belfry

The U.S. Department of Energy says insulating is the most cost-effective way to reduce energy bills 10-50 percent. Insulate the attic floor with R60 fiberglass batts, loose-fill, rigid-foam, or spray-foam insulation. Install an insulated cover over pull-down stairs. Do not cover or block soffit vents, wires, motors or recessed lights. Consult an expert to determine the best insulation for the home’s construction.

2. Caulk Cracks

Caulk masonry cracks in walls and between the house and concrete foundation. Seal openings around plumbing pipes, ducts, vents, chimneys, and anything that goes through floors, walls, ceilings, and roof with caulk or insulating spray foam.

3. Hair-Raising Heating

About half of household winter energy goes to heating. That’s hair-raising! To save energy:

  • Set an energy-saving programmable thermostat to 68 degrees during winter days and 55 degrees at night.
  • Have systems checked by a licensed service technician yearly.
  • Replace or clean air filters regularly.
  • Insulate and seal air ducts that travel through unheated areas.
  • Install an add-on heat pump, which delivers more than three times the energy it uses, to an attic room above a garage or sunroom. Add a heat pump to an electric-heating system to trim costs 30 to 40 percent.
  • Purchasing a new heating system with 90-plus annual fuel-utilization efficiency.

4. Ominous Outlets

Try something spooky: Put your hand near electrical outlets and switch plates. If you feel cold air, place foam outlet and switch-plate pads under wall covers.

5. Curtain Costumes

Windows dressed in curtain ‘costumes’ help block bone-chilling air from traveling right through glass like ghosts. Blinds, lined drapes, and honeycomb-like shades help too, as do storm and double-paned windows. Close treatments at night to trap heat indoors, and open them during the day to let in the sun’s heat.

6. Creepy, Crawly Air

Carefully run a lighted candle or incense stick around window frames. If the flame flickers, bone-chilling air could creep into the house. Apply weather-stripping or caulk around frames.

7. Ghoulish Gaskets

Ghoulishly cold air can slither under exterior doors. Attach pliable gaskets on door bottoms at thresholds.

8. Hot Water Horror!

Next to heating and cooling, a water heater uses the most home energy. Avoid horribly high bills and scalding by lowering the thermostat from 140 to 120 degrees on an electric water heater, and between warm and hot on a gas heater. When your water heater has given up the ghost, purchase an energy-efficient one.

9. Disguise Water Pipes

Put hot water pipes running through an unheated crawl space, garage, or outdoor utility room in a disguise of insulation.

10. Jack-O-Lantern Lighting

Old goblins lit pumpkin jack-o-lanterns with candles, but today’s artificial candles with energy-saving LED bulbs do the trick. At your home, replace old-fashion incandescent and holiday light bulbs with LEDs. They use 90 percent less energy, last years, and are safe to touch. As with jack-o-lanterns, turn lights off when leaving or going to bed.

11. Fireplace Phantom

Air drafts, like phantoms, pull heated room air up chimneys. And when flames die, cold drafts seep into the house. Stop draft phantoms by closing the flue damper and tempered glass doors when a wood-burning fireplace is not in use. Caulk around the fireplace perimeter.

12. Boo-tiful Trees

On dark, eerie nights, let a windbreak of evergreen trees planted on the northern and northwestern sides of the house block cold howling winds. Even during Halloween week, plant deciduous trees on the southern and western sides of the house. When they lose their leaves every autumn, sun beams through branches will help warm the house.

13. Put a Stake in Energy Vampires!

When red lights glow in the dark on TV’s, DVD players, computers, printers, and other electrical devices, you’ll know energy vampires are sucking electricity from your wires! Put a “stake” in them by plugging your electronics into power strips and turning the strips off. Also, unplug chargers when they are not charging cellphones and other devices.

Flickr photo: Gordon Werner

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