Keep Dust Out, Heat In by Weatherizing Your Home

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When the wind blows through the Las Vegas valley, dust particles can lodge in the mechanisms that you depend on to keep your home comfortable, healthy, and productive—and new residents can learn that “desert climate” does not always mean “hot weather”.

Temperatures in Vegas can drop to the 30s during the winter. Sometimes it’s only after moving here that new residents discover how cold the desert can get, says Joanne Arballo, a subject matter expert at Southwest Gas who helps locals get the information they need for home weatherization.

“Basically you’re tightly sealing the home, preventing air from leaking indoors-to-out, and outdoors-to-in,” says Arballo.

To keep dust and wind out—and power bills a bit lower—Arballo recommends adding the following home weatherization activities to your lifestyle:

  • Learn the A B C settings for your water heater. An owner’s manual or spec sheet can translate between the letter that the manufacturer has assigned, and the corresponding temperature, Arballo says. For example, specs from American Water Heater show the lowest temperature setting as about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the highest setting as about 150 degrees. In this example, warm = 80 degrees, A = 130 degrees, B = 140 degrees, and C = 150 degrees. The guide suggests adjusting the settings based on demand for hot water in your home—for example, turning it to the lowest setting when you’ll be away on vacation to minimize energy loss.
  • Open blinds and curtains during the day to let in as much natural heat and sunlight as possible.
  • Seal gaps. Even when closed, doors and windows can become drafty and dusty. So can electrical outlets or light fixtures on an outer bearing wall. Caulking or weather stripping can help keep out drafts and dust, says Arballo. Also, gasket kits can provide foam material to seal gaps between metal plates and the wall.
  • Take advantage of Southwest Gas’s rebate programs for weatherizing. Rebates range from $20 for installing a Smart Low-Flow Showerhead, to up to 30 percent or $3,000 for participating in the NV Smarter Greener Better® Solar Water Heating Program.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and wrap pipes. The Las Vegas Valley Water District recommends using pipe insulation, insulated “faucet socks,” or an old towel with duct tape.

When should you start weatherizing? When you’ve stopped using your air conditioner, that’s a good time to prepare your home for winter weather, says Arline Rick, Eligibility Specialist at HELP of Southern Nevada, a local nonprofit organization that assists about 600 low-income households per year in weatherizing their homes.

Some aspects of the Las Vegas climate—high winds and low rainfall—affect residents year-round, says Rick. For this reason, they use the word “weatherizing” rather than “winterizing,” Rick says.

As for how long it takes to weatherize a home, Rick says that depends on how extensive your to-do list is. However, one week should be enough time to do the following:

  • Walk through the home to assess its readiness for winter. Look for gaps between doors and their frames, and between windows and their frames; sealing them can help save on home heating costs. Also check settings for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and water heaters—they may need adjusting.
  • List any items to add, adjust, remove, or replace—such as air filters, air vents, door shoes, door thresholds, pools and spas (make sure they’ve got a cover on them), “sleep” features on electronics (they help save energy), and water heaters (they last about 10-15 years).
  • Do research. Local utility providers, such as NV Energy and Southwest Gas offer weatherizing and energy savings tips. Check out the Nevada Housing Division‘s list of area weatherization assistance programs for more information on the types of improvements offered by local governments and organizations.
  • Keep one or two days open in your schedule for the actual weatherizing.
  • Get help, if needed. Either ask a friend or relative to assist, or consider hiring a handyperson for jobs that require heavy lifting, installation of new items such as heaters or windows, or climbing onto ladders.

By weatherizing your home for winter, you can get a head start on saving energy this winter.

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