Dealing with pesky (and costly) drafts

THE REAL ESTATE WONK

January 18, 2008|By JAMIE SMITH HOPKINS

If you're getting a chill despite the money you're throwing at Baltimore Gas and Electric, it's probably high time to winterize your home.

Here's the good news: You can do some of it yourself.

Check for cold spots, advises David Lupberger, the home improvement expert for ServiceMagic, which connects homeowners with prescreened contractors. If you find drafts around your doors, you can buy a simple weatherstripping kit to reduce the airflow, he says.

You can weatherstrip drafty windows, too. The U.S. Department of Energy discusses weatherstripping and other energy-efficiency tips here: eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home. (It recommends doing this work whether you're a homeowner or renter.)

If you're battling cold air seeping in around switches and plug receptacles on exterior walls, try a foam insulating kit, Lupberger suggests.

Should you have a fireplace with no glass doors, consider installing some, he says. After all, "a fireplace is a hole in your wall," he says.

"I don't think people realize how inefficient fireplaces can be," Lupberger says.

Other tasks could require outside assistance. Replacing old windows. Getting an attic properly insulated. Having the furnace looked at to make sure it won't fail midwinter, or to see whether it's so old that a more energy-efficient replacement is worth the money.

The older your home - and there are lots of old homes in and around Baltimore - the more likely you'll need to do this sort of work. Homes weren't built years ago with $100-a-barrel oil in mind.

"Most people already know where the cold spots are," Lupberger said. "There's a reason why that room isn't as comfortable."

Find Jamie's blog at baltimoresun.com/ realestatewonk

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