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Our House Isn’t Keeping Heat In As Well This Winter

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We have an old house. It’s either 100 years old or very close to it. The last few winters, it has done very well with keeping in the heat. It always amazed me how well insulated the house was. This year is different and I’m not sure why. I don’t have any bills yet to back this up, but I can tell things are different this year with how often the heat turns on and how quickly the temperature drops when the heat turns off. It also feels drafty.

The main thing that we do every year is put plastic on certain windows. That’s basically it because our home already has blown-in insulation and we have a few trees that are nice windbreakers.

Wait a minute. Our neighbor cut down some trees this summer. Could that be affecting us even though the trees were a distance from our house?

According to the USDA:

The reduction in wind speed behind a windbreak modifies the environmental conditions in this sheltered zone. The sheltered zone extends as far as ten to fifteen times the height of the windbreak downwind from the windbreak.

Wow. Those trees were close enough and they were in the right position to block the wind. I was sad to see them go to begin with (there was an owl that liked to hang out on the top of one of them), but now it could be related to our home not being able to fight the winter winds like it used to. I guess we were spoiled and we didn’t even realize it.

I have a few ideas of things we could try to help combat the extra wind this winter. One is to create a small windbreak using snow. That’ll be some good exercise for me and a fun project for me and my son. Doing that should help to at least keep the basement warmer. Then I am going to borrow a trick from a commenter at Lifehacker. To find drafts in your home, burn a stick of incense and take it around your doors and windows. The smoke will change directions when you go by a draft. I can definitely feel them – it’s time to find them and seal them up!

For our future dream home, we are definitely going to incorporate a windbreak.


6 Comments

  • Reply MadeMistakes |

    Too bad about losing the trees, unfortunately we don’t get a say in what our neighbours do sometimes!

    Good luck finding those drafts, I know I have a few in my house too – good tip about the incense!

  • Reply Kimberly |

    Don’t you have less stuff than you used to? You know how a fridge or freezer keeps its cool better when it is full? Maybe your house held its heat better when it was full. 🙂 I’m being silly, but you never know…

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    You are right to think about building up around the basement.

    My dad’s family used to ‘bank’ the house for winter. They’d put bales of hay against the foundation and then dirt over that in order to block the cracks in the foundation.

    When we had our heat off (we put it on November 11) there was one day when the main level was too chilly and I had to use the fireplace. I went to the basement which was warmer than upstairs. (I believe that is the only time the basement has ever been warmer than upstairs.) I asked my dh if he’d been running the heater and he said no. We concluded that the basement, being below grade, wasn’t affected by the high winds that day so had held the heat from the previous day plus had some solar gain. Upstairs, the solar gain was offset by the wind.

    We have resolved to bury as much of our next home as possible. We hope to find a lot facing south on the side of hill so we can build the house into the ground on 3 sides.

  • Reply Caleb |

    I agree with Craig. I think that you may just need to upgrade your insulation. I am an HVAC contractor, and I run into this problem all of the time. Allot of times in older houses and buildings, the insulation, even the sprayed insulation, is just old. How long ago was your upgrade? That probably has a lot to do with it. Especially if you can see a difference from last winter.

    Caleb (Blueprint Economics)

So, what do you think ?