Is your house leaking heat? Here’s how to save energy and money with renovations.

Homeowners familiar with chilly interiors have some options to weatherize their home.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tiffany Young at work in the front room of her Salt Lake City home on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

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Tiffany Young doesn’t get to enjoy the feeling of coming home to a nice warm house on cold winter days. Her old Sugar House home just won’t keep the heat in.

“You can almost feel a breeze coming through the window,” Young said. “In the wintertime, I just can’t sit near the windows.”

The one-bedroom home was a great fit for her when she moved in several years ago, particularly because it had a good yard that backed up to an alley. Though she is a technical writer by day, she wanted to keep up her passion work of rescuing and rehabilitating ducks. Salt Lake City ordinances require that she house her 20-odd ducks at least 50 feet from neighbors’ homes.

But the home was built more than 100 years ago, and heating and cooling have proven difficult over the years. She has made changes to her home life to make up for the insulation problems – wearing extra layers in winter, sleeping in the basement during the hot summer.

Young said she just didn’t know where to start for repairs. She also worried that the costs would pile up.

“It’s just, like, too big of a hurdle to even tackle because it feels like there are eight other dominoes that will fall at the same time,” Young said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tiffany Young in her Salt Lake City home on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

Weatherizing your home doesn’t just make it more comfortable to live in, proper insulation also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves you money on energy bills.

Where to start?

Insulating your home for winter and summer weather doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor, said Kurt Antonino, owner of Green Tech Construction.

One of the first steps he would recommend is as simple as readjusting the weather stripping along doors. That could include buying a new door sweep for the bottom of exterior doors, or it may just take a screwdriver to realign it to prevent air from entering the home. Windows could also be a culprit allowing air in and out.

Insulation in the attic is another place homeowners should look when trying to keep warm air inside during the winter.

Though more complicated, sealing areas in the basement that extend to the outside could put a big dent in heat loss during the winter, Antonino said. Rim joists, or beams along the floor that abut the exterior walls, can have holes to the outside for pipes and wires to get through.

“A lot of builders never seal that rim joist,” Antonino said. “You’d be really surprised by the amount of air that leaks. That’s probably where most air could come into older homes.”

A contractor can fairly easily insulate those areas with spray foam, Antonino said, if the basement is unfinished. It would cost more if drywall had to be removed.

Insulating your home doesn’t need to be a massive or costly project, Antonino said.

“Whatever their budget’s going to be, they most certainly could do it in stages,” Antonino said.

Help with repair funds

Homeowners can even ease the cost of weatherizing by contacting their energy providers. Both Rocky Mountain Power and Dominion Energy offer rebates for improvements including insulation and window replacement.

For homeowners making 80% or below the area median income, there are a few programs available to help pay for these upgrades.

Salt Lake County supports projects through its Green and Healthy Homes Programs, offering grants and interest-free loans for home repairs. For applicants, the county will conduct an overall assessment of the home to determine how much funding to provide.

“Many of the projects we do are energy-related,” county housing program manager John Russell said, “but there’s also a lot of health and safety that goes along with that assessment.

Though most approved homes can receive up to $25,000 in financing for projects, the county can’t provide that to everyone, Russell said, so funding is prioritized for the most critical projects for the people most in need.

“We always have clients and there’s not enough time or money to be able to satisfy all the needs,” Russell said. “It’s a balancing act.”

Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity also funds repairs for homeowners making less than the area median income. People interested in learning more about the program can contact Kate Nielsen at 801-263-0136 ext 5 or Kate@habitatsaltlake.com.

Primary focuses for Habitat for Humanity are health related, but weatherizing can improve some health conditions, said CEO Ed Blake. During inversions or when the air is smokey from wildfires, asthma can be exacerbated if that toxic air is making its way into the home.