Fall Projects for the Texas Cooling Season

September 17, 2010

I know with this intense heat it may be hard to imagine, but fall is coming (it can’t come soon enough!). When I think of the fall, there is a sense of excitement that comes over me. I love this season for so many reasons, primarily for the beautiful weather it brings. It’s funny, living in Texas you can definitely tell when the season changes from summer to fall because people start to crawl out from their air conditioned cracks to finally enjoy the outside world.

The change in weather not only brings people outside, but it also makes certain tasks such as home improvement projects easier too. It’s a great time to do any projects that you’ve been putting off because of the blazing heat. In addition to tackling some of those postponed projects, it is also a good time to begin preparing your home for the cooler season to come. After such a brutal summer, I know it’s hard to imagine preparing your home for the winter season, but there are some projects that you can do in the fall that will help protect your home during the winter. Some can even save you money.

Below are five fall projects to prepare your home for the winter:

Seal Leaks. As I’ve mentioned before, sealing leaks in your home can lower your Texas electricity bill during the summer months. Air conditioned air escapes through any crack or leak in doors, windows, etc., which wastes money. This is the same problem when you are heating your home as well. Air leakage can account for up to 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling a home. Luckily sealing these leaks can be a fairly easy do-it-yourself project. According to ehow.com, here is what you need to do these projects yourself:

  1. Window leaks – You need to insulate your windows to fill in the leaks. They recommend using a 3M window insulation kit. They’re a little more expensive, but are the best on the market and include a higher quality plastic and tape that will last till the spring.
  2. Gaps around doors and windows – Use exterior caulk to fill in any gaps around doors and windows. To close any gaps from the inside you can use an interior caulk which comes in strips. Just measure the length and width of the side of the door to see how much material you need.

Insulate Your Hot Water Heater. One item that increases your gas or electricity bill during the cooler months is your hot water heater. A good way to lower your usage is to apply a water heater blanket or pre-cut jacket. These make your hot water heater more efficient so your water stays hotter longer. They’re priced between $10.00 – $20.00 and are quick and easy to install. Just be sure to look for ones that have an insulating value of at least R-8. Note: this method will not help if your water heater tank has a high R-value of insulation, which is at least a rating of R-24. If you cannot tell what your tank is ranked, touch it and if it is warm to the touch then it needs a blanket.

Insulate the Attic. From personal experience, this is a great way to reduce your energy costs during the hot summer months. We applied ten inches of insulation in our attic and on our next bill we saw a big difference. With adding insulation, you not only save during the warmer months but can save you money in the cooler months as well. According to an article from AssociatedContent.com , “[f]or about thirty bucks, you can purchase a sheet of insulation and apply it to what’s already in the attic, potentially saving hundreds of dollars before spring.” One thing to note is that each house varies on the amount of insulation needed to see savings. Many older homes, for example, have less insulation than the homes built today. So they may see greater savings compared to a newer built home.

Trim Trees and Bushes. If you’re looking to be outside and one with nature, this is a good project for you. In addition to promoting plant health and growth, trimming trees is necessary to remove any broken or dead limbs. This is important because they can break off and cause damage during a winter storm. Now, if you are just as clueless as me about which tools to use, here is some information to help.
1. Hand-pruner – This is a good garden tool that can be used for cutting bushes, hedges, stems, ornamental trees, etc. A good rule of thumb is it these should only be used for cutting wood less than one inch in diameter.
2. Pruning-saw – This can cut branches over three inches in diameter. It’s sturdy and has an easy handgrip.
3. Lopper – This is meant for trimming branches too thick for a hand pruner and too thin for a hand saw.

Some words of wisdom: if this seems to be too much of a project for you, call the professionals. It is much easier and cheaper to do that than to end up in the hospital.

Prevent Pipes from Freezing. For those of you who live in places where it freezes, a good fall project would be to wrap your pipes. You can do this fairly inexpensively and it doesn’t require much work. Just measure the pipe length, purchase pipe insulation (foam tubes that fit around each pipe) and wrap them around your pipes. This will help keep your pipes warm and will make them less likely to freeze. If you’d like to take it a step further, for pipes that run along the exterior walls, you can install fiberglass insulation between the wall and the pipe that will add additional protection from the cold. An easier alternative to fiberglass insulation is to wrap pipes that run along exterior walls with electrical heating tape. (Warning – because using heat tape is essentially wrapping an electrical wire around your water pipes, it is very important to read the directions and warnings to make sure it is installed properly). This is a good way to keep your pipes from freezing because it is controlled by a thermostat that turns on or off to maintain the heat around the pipes.

Online Resources:
http://voices.yahoo.com/how-trim-tree-branches-yourself-3017003.html?cat=32
http://moneypit.com/article/easy-fall-home-improvement-projects
http://voices.yahoo.com/five-fall-home-improvement-projects-under-50-629544.html?cat=6
http://suite101.com/a/how-to-prevent-water-pipes-from-freezing-a88927
http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11280
http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13070
http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11350

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About 

Brooke is a stay-at-home mom who blogs on the side for Bounce Energy. She mainly writes about ways to save energy and money with a focus on family and enjoying Texas.