I haven’t always lived in North Carolina –

I haven’t always lived in North Carolina – I actually grew up in the Northeastern part of the country. I have wonderful childhood memories of sledding, snowball fights, and I was always excited when we had a snow day. When I moved to the south, I thought, incorrectly, that cold winters were behind me. Yup, I was wrong.

This past December, we had one of the coldest winters I have experienced in a long time. My husband and I live in an old farmhouse and while that sounds romantic, and it is beautiful, it also means fireplaces with dampers that don’t close and drafty rooms. We heat primarily with wood, so we are usually too warm in the winter; we weren’t surprised when we heard other people talking about how their furnaces couldn’t keep up with the low temperatures, but our wood stove also couldn’t keep up with the cold. Everyone rushed out to buy electric heaters and fireplaces as people searched for ways to keep their houses warm. The impact to local power grids was apparent as we experienced rolling blackouts – a first for me.  The following month when we received our utility bills in the mail, everyone was hit hard.

Because of this extreme cold last year, and because it’s fall and we are approaching winter, now is a good time to do an energy check of our houses. You know – do all the things we were racing to get done in the cold of last winter. So, what should you check?

  • Check your cupboards under the sinks and plug any holes around the pipes.
  • Check doors and windows and replace weather stripping to prevent drafts.
  • Consider putting up insulated curtains. Even doing only a couple of rooms will help.
  • Cover the openings of unused fireplaces. My husband and I have a fireplace in our dining room, that has a rusted damper, and it will not close - we cover the opening to keep the cold air out.
  • Have your furnace checked to make sure it is in good working order.
  • Replace air filters.
  • One common source of drafts are light switches and electric receptacles. You can buy foam seals from any home improvement store that line the cover and provide a little extra insulation.
  • Make sure window unit air conditioners are taken out of the windows when you no longer need them, or place window plastic over them for insulation from the cold.

None of these things are expensive and they aren’t complicated – it just takes some thought and planning. Yes, I am hoping for a milder winter, but if we get hit with a cold spell, we will be a little better prepared this year