Before winter settles in, take steps to keep cold out

HOMEWORK

November 07, 1999|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

ALL IT TAKES is a few chilly nights to remind us that it won't be long before freezing temperatures move in for winter. So, before the wind chill heads into negative figures, now is the time to think about winterizing your house.

The first thing to do is shut off exterior hose bibs. This is surprisingly easy to forget. Turn the faucet off on the inside and open it up on the outside. This will allow the water to drain out of the pipe and prevent it from freezing and possibly breaking the pipe.

Some other things to consider:

Sealing drafty windows with weatherstripping, or sealing them with heat-shrink plastic film (available from most home centers and hardware stores.)

Sealing drafty doors. If you can see sunlight under the door, cold air can also get under it. You might need new weatherstripping or a replacement threshold.

Cleaning gutters after all the leaves have fallen. Clogged downspouts can cause ice to build up, which can allow water to run behind the gutter and into the soffit. That can damage the wood behind it and could end up as a leak in your wall. In addition, the weight of a gutter section full of ice could pull it right off the house.

If you have a vacation home or own a vacant property, winterizing is essential and a little more complicated because you need to drain the water system of the entire house. To do this, shut the water off at the meter, then open all the faucets in the house and let them drain. It is especially important to open one in the basement, or at the hose bib, or wherever the lowest point in the system is. For drain pipes with traps in them, pour some antifreeze into them. If you have exposed water pipes in a crawl space, you can buy heat tape to protect them.

While you're sealing things up, keep another element in mind: indoor air quality. This includes allergens such as pollen and mold spores getting in, and other allergens (dust mites, pet dander, mildew) and pollutants (carbon monoxide, radon) staying in. The more tightly closed up a structure is, the more pollutants will linger.

Here are tips from the American Lung Association and 3M Co. on improving indoor air quality:

Keep roofs and windows in good repair. Leaks, excess condensation and humidity can encourage mold and mildew.

Replace furnace air filters at least every three months.

If you have chronic dust problems, consider getting a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner designed to pick up and not recirculate dust particles; or install an air cleaner in your heating-ventilating system.

Have your house tested for radon, a radioactive gas that, with long exposure, can cause lung cancer. If the test levels are high, you can install radon abatement systems. You can also buy radon testing kits at home centers.

If your heat depends on burning fossil fuel (gas, oil, coal), install a carbon monoxide monitor.

Don't store recyclables such as bottles and cans, rags or cardboard and paper indoors, where they can contribute toxic fumes and dust. Store these materials in a covered area outdoors. Don't store recyclables or anything else stacked against or near a furnace or water heater.

For a free booklet on improving indoor air quality, send a postcard with your name and mailing address to Guide for Creating Healthier Homes, c/o Filtrete Filters, 2982 N. Cleveland Ave., Roseville, N.M., 55113. You can also ask for a booklet by e-mail; send your name and mailing address to: 3mfiltrete@3mservice. montagenet.com.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

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