Chicago winters can be brutally cold, sending residents of even the comfiest homes to hide under cozy blankets. As we head out of the fall season, now is a good time to prepare your home for winter in the Windy City – including taking steps to minimize heat loss and keep your family warm and safe. 

As of 2017, more than half of Chicago’s homes were built before 1950. This means that many homeowners are forced to deal with drafty windows and doors, leaky floors, and poorly insulated attics. All of these are areas where heat can escape – which not only makes your home cold, but can drive up your winter energy costs, too. 

Looking for ways to avoid heat loss in your Chicago home? Let’s explore some important things to keep in mind – including some easy ways to keep your home warm and cozy all winter long.

How to Detect Heat Loss In Your Home

As we all hunker down for winter, it’s important to do a thorough check for drafts or leaks throughout your home. Start by walking around your home and taking note of any spots where it feels cooler, or where you feel a flow of air. You should pay attention to the areas around doors and windows, as well as pipes and vents in the floors and walls, as these are common sources of leaks and gaps. 

If you feel drafts or cool breezes by hand, it may be time to take action. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to start this process before the coldest days of the year. In addition to giving you more time to resolve the issue, identifying potential sources of heat loss early can help you avoid feeling the pinch on your winter utility bills later in the season. 

Similarly, you can always call in a professional home inspector to help you identify potential problem areas. A Home Preservation Inspection can help you take better care of the place you call home. An experienced and knowledgeable home inspector can help you look for structural or mechanical concerns, identify potential safety hazards, and learn about basic system maintenance that can help keep your home in good working order, all year round. This might include identifying areas that need to be sealed or replaced, such as drafty windows or gaps where the gas line enters the fireplace. A home inspector can also identify and make recommendations for areas where more insulation may be added, such as the attic or crawl space. 

8 Impactful Ways to Minimize Heat Loss During Fall and Winter

Looking for a few go-to ways to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient, all winter long? Below, we count down eight ways to protect your home from heat loss – from major projects to quick DIY fixes: 

1.) Update your insulation

The most effective way to keep heat in and the cold out is to make sure your home is properly insulated. When done properly, insulating your home will help you stay warm and save on heating expenses during the entire winter season. To maximize your time and budget, it may be a good idea to start with the areas where heat tends to escape, such as your attic. Remember that hot air rises; making sure that the tallest areas of your home are properly insulated can help prevent heat from escaping. 

2.) Weatherize or replace troublesome windows and doors

Even if you keep them closed, windows and doors tend to be some of the biggest offenders for heat loss in any home. 

Some older buildings and homes have windows that are too thin to effectively keep hot air in.  Replacing them with modern energy-efficient windows can help you stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Similarly, repairing broken windows and taking care to maintain the caulking around the frames on the exterior can help minimize heat loss. You can also seal up windows with specialized treatments such as insulating window film, which adheres to the glass in order to minimize heat loss and soften the light that comes into your space. 

Similarly, doors can get warped from temperature and humidity fluctuations over time, causing gaps to develop between the door and the frame. Beyond replacing outdated or broken doors, you can take some simple steps to minimize heat loss, including using weather stripping to form a buffer that reduces gaps, prevents heat loss, and stops cold air from coming in.

3.) Seal off any leaking areas

If you took a walk around your home, you may have noticed many places where cold air seems to be leaking in – and that often means warm air flowing out. Be sure to check the areas around any vents and pipes coming in and out of the floors, ceilings, and walls, and consider sealing off gaps or cracks with caulk, insulating foam, or wood putty, as appropriate. There are some sneaky areas where heat can escape, too, like recessed lighting or the areas where gas and plumbing lines head to the outside. 

4.) Fill in any gaps in the floorboards

Floorboards shrink and expand with temperature fluctuations, causing gaps to appear in between the planks. To avoid heat loss through the floor, consider filling in the gaps with wood putty, which can be purchased from your local hardware store. You may also want to talk with a professional about adding additional insulation; research suggests that adding proper ground floor insulation can help reduce heat loss in your home by up to 92%

5.) Add rugs to your floors

If you can’t fill in the gaps in your floorboards, adding a thick rug is a next best option. The material will help prevent drafts from coming up through the floor. Also, remember that warm air rises and cooler air falls. Your floors will naturally be cooler, so a thick rug can help your feet feel warm and cozy all winter long. 

6.) Close off any unused vents

Vents and exhaust fans can be an annoying source through which hot air escapes outside. Close off vents when not in use. In particular, some of Chicago’s older homes may have vents that are no longer used, often because the HVAC may have been rerouted or changed at some point in the past. If you discover one of these vestigial vents, look into having it sealed off by a professional.

7.) Stop heat loss through the fireplace and chimney

Many homes have unused or even decorative fireplaces where lots of heat can escape. If you never use your fireplace, a professional can make sure that your chimney is properly sealed. To minimize everyday heat loss through your fireplace, be sure to close your damper and plug the chimney flue when not in use; consider adding a heat-air exchange system; seal up cracks and gaps around your fireplace hearth; and have your unit regularly cleaned and serviced. 

8.) Use thick, insulating curtains

To help trap heat indoors, keep your curtains open during the day, and closed when the sun goes down. This method works best if your windows get a good amount of direct sunlight during the day; north-facing windows will be less helpful in letting in warmth from the winter, while east, west, and south-facing windows will let in more sunlight and thermal energy.

Need a Little Help Making It Through the Winter?

Whether you’re buying a property, selling a property, or need a professional’s perspective for how to maintain and protect your property, Windy City Home Inspection has an inspection for you — during the winter, and all year long. 

Looking to protect your home from the wear and tear of a tough winter season? A home inspector can be an important partner. At Windy City Home Inspection, our inspectors are available for Home Preservation Inspections, which can help you gain a better understanding of your home, including the the age and quality of major components and systems around your property such as the roof, furnace, and water heater. We also offer our clients access to Home Owner’s Resource, a free service that allows you to ask maintenance questions about your property to experienced professionals, 24/7.

With Windy City, you can expect a competent, thorough inspection that covers all the bases and never cuts corners. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our signature Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards — yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is truly committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.