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End the Draft!

Winterizing is a sound domestic policy

November 19, 2008, 12:00 am

“Winterizing” sounds like a therapy term. I can picture it now. I’m sitting on the sofa and, across from me, an analyst with a calm, soothing voice says, “I hear what you’re saying, Zane, but I want you to ask yourself if you’re being 100 percent honest about your feelings…I think there’s a danger that you’re winterizing your emotions.”

He probably would be wearing moccasins, maybe even a vest.

“Weather-stripping” sounds like a college prank. Like having to get naked against a flagpole during a blizzard while tinny speakers belt out the ’80s Van Halen hit, “Hot for Teacher.” But weather-stripping is in fact one of the key elements of winterizing—or “weatherizing,” which is the act of preparing one’s home for the extremes of summer and winter. If it sounds silly, rest assured, it is deadly serious. From the Homeowner’s Association of America:

Unless you live in the tropics, the time to consider the annual ritual of winterizing your home is now—before it’s too late and:

    • a tree limb is blown down in a blizzard and shatters your picture window.
    • a mailman injures his wrist when he falls on your slippery sidewalk—or even worse, seeing your wife or kids desperately trying to get up off the ground and yelling for your help.
    • a cold snap freezes the water in your basement laundry room’s pipes, making them burst.
    • a friend comes over for a holiday get together and gets an unpleasant surprise. As she enters the house, accumulated ice over the entryway falls on her head, giving her a concussion.
    • you open your heating bills and have a cardiac arrest—because they’re so high.

That’s right. Nobody’s laughing about getting naked in the snow now. Well, maybe a little bit because this is the HAA’s advice for Santa Fe where, unbeknownst to the group, very few people have basements or such distinctly chauvinist attitudes, let alone picture windows.

In all honesty though, the debilitating succession of cardiac arrest-inducing $300 utility bills I received last year didn’t happen because of mysterious or even unseen forces. It was a conspiracy, but a conspiracy cooked up between my doors and doorjambs, where there are finger-sized gaps. Apparently my drafty chimneys, decaying thresholds and few remaining single-paned windows were another triumvirate bent on my financial destruction.

The final conspirator was my own laziness.

I had shelled out the big bucks for a hyper-efficient boiler to power my heating system, but then neglected to put a couple hundred dollars into keeping all that efficiently generated heat in the actual house.

I had put in double-paned, insulated windows during a remodel, but hadn’t been able to afford to replace the doors that had glazing on them. A few bucks’ worth of clear plastic could have made a big difference there. New thresholds and proper, yes, weather-stripping in all the doorjambs would have made a dramatic effect.

Here are the big figures that come into play, according to the United States Energy Information Administration: Approximately half of the total energy consumption in the US is used in buildings, with the remainder consumed by industry and transportation. Of the building usage, a full 21 percent is consumed in residential applications, ie, our houses.

Inside the average home during the winter, a full third of total heat loss happens through doors and windows. Thus making the effort and investment to insulate and seal wherever possible makes a considerable difference not only in terms of the utility bill, but in terms of overall energy conservation.

So, you see, if you fail to winterize your home and contain heating bills and energy use, you’re not just lazy, you’re a verifiable eco-criminal, a coal-sucking pawn of Big Oil and the energy establishment.

The problem is, it’s not easy to find someone to help you out. There’s nothing in the phone book under “winterization” and even the modern standard of a Google search leaves Santa Feans looking for local expertise high and dry.

The New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority is a great resource for those unable to afford hiring a contractor to perform a comprehensive inspection and appropriate upgrades or temporary fixes.

In Santa Fe, the MFA uses Department of Energy and state of New Mexico funds to help support Los Amigos Educational Resource Center, Inc. Los Amigos performs “energy audits” and will help qualified applicants with winterization and energy optimizing services and supplies. This Weatherization Assistance Program is available to renters and homeowners alike who can’t afford to hire professionals or are unable to do the work themselves.

For those feeling handy, local hardware stores with knowledgeable staff, like Big Jo True Value, will be able to provide the supplies, like weather-stripping, insulation, caulking and window film, as well as advice on how to do it yourself.

If you’d rather hire a pro, most local contractors will be glad for the work and, with new construction plummeting, good prices might be negotiated.

Remember, you don’t want your concussed mailman to throw your icicle-covered children through the picture window. I’ve heard something like that can happen if proper preparations are ignored.

Los Amigos Educational
Resource Center, inc.
1540 6th St.

Big Jo True Value Hardware
1311 Siler Road


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