It’s that time of year again when the mercury drops below freezing and those who have to work outside begin to gear up and stay warm during the cold winter months…especially if you live in northern states. Many construction workers and others who work outside usually know how to prepare for the wintertime, but there are many others who aren’t sure where to begin. The team here from Dependable Construction have some simple tips to keep you warm and healthy while you work on a jobsite.
1.) Wear Proper Clothing and Protection
This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people underestimate how cold it can get outside and not dress accordingly. First thing to remember is if you’re going to be outside for a long period of time, it’s important to wear two or three layers of clothing as well as a pair of insulated boots. (Long underwear helps a lot.) You should also wear two pairs of socks. Avoid wearing steel-toed boots. The metal attracts the cold and your feet will freeze over time. Try and find composite toe boots. They’re almost as good as steel-toed boots and will keep your feet from freezing.
Also, if you can, try and wear head, neck and eye protection. While it’s good to protect your entire body, you also need to protect the flesh on your face and head. Wear a scarf, ski mask/helmet liner and goggles to protect your eyes. This will prevent frostbite and windburn.
2.) Keep Moving
Another good way to stay warm is keep moving. Movement generates heat and keeps your blood flowing. This is also why layering is important. As you work, you will sweat. That sweat could freeze and make you cold. The more layers you have on, the easier it is stay dry. Last thing you need is to freeze inside your own clothing. If you’ll be doing work where you think you’ll sweat a lot, bring an extra pair of clothes just to be safe. Keep moving, stay dry and you’ll stay warm.
3.) Stay Hydrated – Yes Even in Winter Time
You may not feel thirsty, but yes, it is important to stay hydrated in the winter time. Water is a must when working in cold weather environments. If you have access to warm soups, broths or other warm liquids…those are okay too. But, avoid large amounts of caffeine in cold weather. (This includes soda and coffee.)
If you’ve been to a cold weather football game, some people like to hide a flask in their coats and think that a certain kind of “beveridge” will keep them warm. Folks, drinking alcohol doesn’t do anything to keep you warm. In fact, it gets you more dehydrated and can impair you when you’re working on a jobsite. Let’s face it…alcohol and jobsite don’t mix on the best of days. The chances of something happening on a cold weather day increases if alcohol is involved. Keep the flasks at home.
4.) Take Breaks
While it’s good to get into a rhythm and get work done, it’s also important not to over-do it when working in the cold weather. Make sure you take breaks to rest and warm yourself up. If your employer has a heating tent or nearby heater, take advantage of it. Be mindful that while having heaters on a jobsite is a good thing, it can also produce other hazards as well.
You have nothing to prove by staying out in the cold weather longer than others. Get yourself warmed up and take a load off. Trust us, you’ll feel a lot better.
5.) Guard Against Winter Hazards
Lastly, when working outside make sure you or your workmates are not getting frostbite or some other cold-related illness. Recognize symptoms of frostbite, pneumonia, hypothermia or overexposure. If someone’s cheeks, hands or other parts of their body start to turn red or get blisters, it’s time to take them inside and then seek medical attention.
If you see someone shaking excessively, or if their lips are discolored, or if they’re dazed and confused, they may be experiencing hypothermia. If that’s the case, that person should be taken to a hospital immediately to be checked out.
When you’re trying to determine where heat is escaping in your home, it helps to start with a comprehensive checklist.
Whether it’s the middle of winter or the hottest month of summer, there is no doubt that energy is moving through the cracks and crevices of your home. It even moves through the walls, doors and windows. If you’ve never done a home energy efficiency “audit,” now is a great time to consider it. Before you go out and get new windows and doors, it helps to know where you are currently leaking heat. It could be that the insulation near a window needs to be upgraded, or the weather-stripping near a door should be replaced. So how does one find the spots where their home is losing heat?
It helps to narrow down the possible spaces where a home could lose energy. Dependable Construction view these five places where energy lose normally occurs:
- Floors and below grade spaces
- Doors and windows
- Air leakage (infiltration)
Now remember these areas are not all the same in terms of energy leakage. Heat loss due to infiltration is far more significant than what is lost through walls and ceilings. In order to understand their relative importance, it helps to look at energy loss in this order:
- Infiltration / Air Leakage: 35%
- Windows and Doors: 18%-20%
- Floors and Below Grade Space: 15%-18%
- Walls: 12%-14%
- Ceilings: 10%
One might guess that the best way to prepare for winter is by purchasing insulation. While certainly not a bad idea, it’s not always the best investment. Reducing air leaks around certain openings is a more direct way to stem the flow of energy loss.
Where are air leaks occurring in your home?
Believe it or not, the biggest culprits for air leakage/infiltration may be places you never thought about before. Air can leak out through plumbing vents, switches, electrical outlets, recessed lighting fixtures exposed to the attic; vertical plumbing stacks open to the basement, attic stairs, or any other opening that is exposed to the coolest parts of the home. Through these openings, heated air can be drawn out of the home and escapes through the roof.
What is the bottom line for fixing infiltration leakage?
Focus on insulating the largest openings first. This may require purchasing new windows or doors with better insulation. While certainly more costly than weather-stripping or insulation, they will provide the most bang for the buck in terms of energy efficiency. After windows and doors have been addressed, consider insulating your attic. Although more heat is lost through the walls than the attic, it is a lot less expensive.
Is it time for a Home Energy Audit?
If you need to determine where heat is escaping in your home, it helps to start with a comprehensive checklist. This gives you a basis with which to evaluate your home and prioritize energy-efficient upgrades.
According to the “Do It Yourself Home Energy Audits” page on the Department of Energy’s website (Energy.gov), there are several areas of your home that will need inspection.
The basement: If your basement is unheated, it is probably insulated with an R-value of 25, which is the minimum recommended level of insulation. It may be worth upgrading this to a higher level of insulation, such as R-19. Make sure your water heater, furnace ducts, and hot water pipes are also insulated.
Heating and cooling equipment: If you have a forced-air furnace, make sure the filters are changed regularly, generally about once every month or two, or more frequently during periods of high energy usage. Hire a professional to check and clean your equipment at least once per year.
Air leaks: As mentioned earlier, plumbing and electrical openings are a major source of air leakage. In addition to electrical outlets, pipes and plumbing fixtures look for cracks in the mortar, foundation and siding of your home as well as near windows and doors. These can usually be sealed with caulk or weather-stripping.
Check insulation in walls and ceilings: Depending on the year when your home was built, the insulation levels could be less than the recommended minimum. Given the rising cost of energy, this level of insulation might not be enough. Determine whether openings for ductwork, pipes and chimneys are sealed properly and if not, apply an expanding foam caulk or other sealant.
Checking the insulation in a wall is much more difficult than in the attic. Turn off the electricity at the circuit breaker level and remove wall outlets, then gently probe the wall with a long stick. Insulation in the wall will create a slight resistance. You could also make a small hole in a closet wall or some other unobtrusive spot. Ideally, the cavity should be filled with insulation material.
Those beautiful, colorful, shiny icicles lights hanging from your roof may look nice but the real ones are an issue. Icicles are a really bad sign that you may have an ice dam issue, a ridge of ice along the edge of your roof can put a dent in your wallet when it causes damage your house. But don’t freak out just yet. Here are six things every homeowner needs to know.
1. Icicles send water pouring down your walls
Count yourself lucky if you caught the ice dam in time so that moldy insulation was the only problem. A really bad leak will continue right through the insulation. This may take some time, but once it does, it’ll start to destroy the walls, ceilings, flooring. That’s a great way to wave goodbye to the in ground pool Savings Account you’ve been working on for years. One way to ensure homeowners never get a catastrophic leak is to ensure there’s never enough ice or snow to cause an ice dam. Homeowners need to making sure the base of their gutters & downspouts are clear. Dependable Construction recommends having them cleaned out twice a year. But that’s only the beginning of the issues Icicles can cause.
2. Icicles can destroy your roof’s insulation.
So here’s how ice dams work: When heat escapes through your roof, it melts the snow up there. Then it gets cold again, and that water freezes along the ridge of your roof. If this happens enough, the ice builds up into an ice dam. Once the ice dam is established, when the warm air melts more snow, that water gets trapped behind the ice dam and just hangs out there in a puddle. Believe it or not water isn’t supposed to puddle up on your roof. It can seep down through the roof and turn your insulation into a wet mess. This is one of the reason Ohio passed a code in 2006 require all new roofing systems have Ice & water shield installed along all gutter line of a heated and cooled structure.
3. Icicles can pull roof shingles loose and rip down gutters.
Ice dams weigh a ton, when mixed with debris in the gutter. Which means all that weight can tear gutters away from your house. But if there’s no ice, there’s no ice damage. So make sure your home’s insulated well and as adequate venting and you shouldn’t have a problem. But if you see one forming, try this DIY trick: Fill pantyhose with an ice-melt product, and place on freezing-prone points of your roof.
4. Icicles infest your house with mold.
Once your insulation is that soggy mess, something worse could be lurking. MOLD! It’s just nasty. Mold is expensive to get rid of and ensure it’s completely gone. Fittingly, the way to prevent it is good insulation. So your roof doesn’t get too warm in the first place. Having sufficient insulation is key, but keep in mind that a well-insulated attic has to be balanced with good ventilation system. An attic shouldn’t be more than 15 degrees hotter than rest of the house. If it is, you need better ventilation system. Not sure about your insulation/ventilation balance? You can find a home energy auditor through the Residential Energy Services Network, or check with your local energy utility, as many of them offer free audits to customers.
- Icicles damage something or someone special to you
Did we mention how heavy ice dams are? Weight can inflict damage to your gutters as well. A ton of it! And in dangerous ways you don’t even want to think about. Like suddenly breaking loose and falling on:
- Glass table
- Your car or truck
- Your kids
- Your pets
- Even you
If preventative measures haven’t worked to keep icicles at bay, or you’re just learning about ice dams too late to prevent one, getting rid of an ice dam as quickly as possible is crucial. This is where companies like ours can help.
#6 Icicles grow in lots of spots around your house, not just the roof
It makes sense that ice dams can damage your roof. Duh. But ice danger just keeps going and going when it clings to any part of your house. Case in point: gas meters, a frozen-over meter can cause your gas to shut off unexpectedly, not something you want to happen during the winter. Other places icicles hang out on:
- Tree limbs
- Playground equipment
- Anything outside that will let snow puddle on it when it melts
It’s tempting to put your home maintenance blinders on during the frigid winter months, like I do when it comes to cleaning out my truck, so try to carve out a little time to pull on your boots and take a slow lap around the outside of your home. You don’t have to do the work of fixing the problem, but you need to know whether or not you have a problem.
Clearing away the beginnings of any ice buildup can save your wallet big time and give you piece of mind.
The forecast for Ohio is always changing. Dependable Construction sees it all the time. 7 degrees on Monday 41 degrees on Tuesday. On some days add in the wind chill factor, and some might say it’s it just too cold to work. Construction workers have to deal with this all the time.
With all this in mind Dependable Construction offers these seven tips to make sure you don’t fall prey to the cold winter:
- Thermal insulated coveralls are very important and are at the top of our list. The coverall design largely eliminates core body heat loss while affording good range of motion. They’re a bit costly, but if your work is outdoors in winter, start measuring. They also help keep your pants dry.
- Double layer thermal socks and insulated boots. Great idea if you’re going to be standing or walking on cold surfaces. Since steel toes are notorious for acting as a “cold sink” it’s always best to have them if your required to where steel toe. When possible ask for a composite toe, which is almost as strong. Also, try to stand on a mat, plywood or other insulating barrier if you’ll be out in the cold for long periods.
- Scarves are very effective at protecting the neck and chest from heat loss, and they allow easy adjustment or removal for cooling as needed.
- Glove selection should is very important. Fabric and texture need to be suited to the job, but try to find gloves that allow you to use a liner. Usually they need to be a little over-sized, but many improvements have been made over the years. Also, insulated mittens have been developed with various configurations for finger dexterity. Others even allow you to place a hand warmer inside them.
- Wrap-around eye protection can also help preserve body heat. There is a lot of blood flow in and around the eyes, and wearing glasses can minimize heat loss. I addition, eyeballs are covered with a mucous membrane, and subject to being desiccated and irritated by cold, dry air and wind. Not to mention dirt particles.
- Helmet liners under a hard hat are very effective at preserving neck and head heat, if your jobsite requires you to wear them. Fleece lined fabric is very comfortable and a good insulator. The hard hat breaks the wind and allows the liner to do its job; it’s a very effective assembly.
- Use skin creme, moisturizer, barrier creams, etc. on any exposed skin. You are basically trying to ward off hypothermia and avoid frostbite on any exposed skin, so try to figure out how to cover as much as possible and not look too alien in the process. Ski masks can be useful, but they’re not designed for use with a hard hat.
The team at Dependable Construction hope these tips and and remind everyone to stay warm.
A few minor improvements to your home could make a major difference in your heating bills come January, potentially saving hundreds of dollars.
It’s hard to believe, but winter is practically at our doorstep. It may be painful to think about ice and snow just yet, but the calendar suggests that now is the time to get ready. A few minor improvements to your home could make a major difference in your heating bills come January, potentially saving hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, many of these essential home improvements are simple and affordable. Consider adding these five home improvement tasks to your fall “to-do” list.
Get a home energy audit. Find a qualified professional who can come to your home and help you figure out where you are wasting energy. Some local power companies are happy to offer energy audits for customers, oftentimes at no additional charge. But even if your power company doesn’t offer this, it is a worthwhile investment. A qualified contractor will be able to provide an in-depth energy audit that will save you money in the long run. Now is the time to pinpoint and fix any energy issues so you can see an immediate impact on your energy bills.
Patch up any air leaks. November and December are great months for solving any air leakage problems in your home, so grab some caulk or expanding foam and seal up leaks around electrical outlets, air vents, windows, doors, etc. More than likely there will be some small holes that can be sealed quite easily, which can make a real difference when cold weather sets in.
Have your heating system checked. A regular tune-up of your furnace may seem unnecessary, but it can save a lot of money over time. Many HVAC companies offer an annual contract for regular maintenance on your furnace and air conditioner, which means you get an annual inspection of each system every year. Remember, if your heating system isn’t running itself efficiently, you could be paying too much to heat your home. This might also be the time to have a programmable thermostat installed. The latest versions offer wireless controls and smartphone apps that let you set heating and cooling remotely. Programmable thermostats are a great way to save money by ensuring that your home is the right temperature at all times.
Add more insulation. Unless you live in an older home, your walls are likely to be well insulated with fiberglass insulation. However, if your home is older you might consider insulating the walls sufficiently. Since heat travels skyward, be sure your attic is well insulated too. This can be a do-it-yourself job but it might be easier to hire a professional.
Install new doors and windows. This may seem a little “over the top” if you’re planning to install them yourself, but most people are happy to let the professionals install new entry doors and windows. While this might be a larger investment than installation and caulking, nothing keeps the heat from escaping your home better than sealing up the largest “holes.” When shopping for windows and doors, look for a professional installer in your area. Your installer can show you which windows are likely to reduce your energy bills and which doors have the best insulation.
Install solar shades. Even if you can’t get new windows right now, solar shades can help keep the heat in your home during the winter and the heat out during summer months. Look for high-efficiency solar shades for the windows that let in the most cold air – usually on the north or east sides of your home.
Winter comes along and apparently tries to destroy our water lines every year. The best way to minimize the damage from cold weather on household plumbing is to do a little preventive winterizing. A good starting point is to winterize outside faucets and fixtures. These few steps will take a small amount of time but they could save you a lot of money and inconvenience.
First things first, no matter what kind of hose bibs you have, freeze proof or not, it is very important to remove hoses, a splicer or connections from the spigot during the winter. Not removing hoses or any other connections from the hose bib can trap water and can therefore surely cause the fixture to freeze. This is always a difficult step to take because most people will want to use the outside water until the very point when the freezing weather begins. It’s best to preempt the cold weather by disconnecting hoses early since even one night of freezing weather can cause a break in the pipes.
The next step to winterizing outside faucets is leak detection and repair. Check all hose bibs, yard hydrants and other fixtures for leaks and drips. If you do find any leaks or drips repair or replace the fixture before the temperature drops to freezing. Water dripping, no matter how slowly, can block up and freeze in the pipe or fixture. Although a frozen outdoor faucet may not be apparent until the next season it may be possible to minimize the damage by repairing the leak before the winter.
Getting as much water out of the pipes is the second step to winterizing outdoor faucets. If you have a hose bib that is not freeze-proof the best way to do this is to shut off that line if possible and drain it down. If you cannot isolate the water supply to the hose bib to shut it off be sure to use extra insulation in the next step.
For a frost free hose bib or a yard hydrant, this step isn’t necessary since the fixture design keeps the water well back away from the end of the spigot. Just as with regular hose bibs, however, hoses and other attachments should be removed from frost free hose bibs and yard hydrants before the winter or they may not drain down properly.
The last step to winterizing outdoor faucets is to protect them with insulation. An easy way to do this is to install a hose bib cover on each outdoor fixture including frost free hose bibs. Hose bib covers are square or dome-shaped to fit right over outdoor faucets. They are made of thick foam so they are quite effective at keeping most of the cold away from the valve. When covering regular hose bibs that could not be drained extra insulation can be installed inside the hose bib cover to keep it warm and dry throughout the winter. In most situations, however, the hose bib cover will provide enough insulation.
Frost free hose bibs should be covered as well because although they are resistant to freezing they are not completely frost proof in the coldest weather. There are rubber gaskets and washers inside the frost free hose bibs that will benefit from the extra protection from the cold that a hose bib cover can provide.
Hose bib covers can be found at most hardware or home improvement stores and are very inexpensive and easy to install. Covers can usually be reused for several years so they are a good long-term purchase. For just a few dollars per fixture, you can winterize outside faucets quickly and then move on to the other winterizing plumbing tasks that are necessary if you live in a cold climate.