Why is My House So Cold?

It’s Minnesota. It’s winter. And it’s cold outside. But why isn’t it warmer in my house? If you’re like me, you’ve got the heat cranked up, but you’re still covered in blankets and your feet are still freezing. Why does that happen? Aren’t our homes supposed to be insulated from the weather?

Basically, what I’m wondering is why is my house so freaking cold?

I decided to do a little research into this. And it seems that there are a couple of possibilities to help explain my home’s lack of heat retention. I guess it’s also possible that it’s a combination of issues. All I know for sure is that my furnace is working overtime (and I’m paying for it), so I better move this investigation along.

Possibility #1: The Windows

When I say my house is drafty, I really mean that my house is drafty. When I sit by the windows I can feel the cold air oozing in. So it’s not shocking that the first item on my list is a window. Typically, windows should have several layers of insulation (not just the window itself, but around the window).

My windows were failing me somewhere. Because there was a lot of cold air coming through. There are a couple of ways to address this issue:

  • Replace the Window: This is always a good bet, but you want to make sure you’re moving up in the window world. In other words, replacing your windows might cost you a pretty penny. But modern windows are made with energy efficiency in mind, meaning that you can get some of that money back in the long run. But still, replacing your drafty windows is a great way to eliminate that cold, stiff breeze getting in through the cracks.
  • Seal the Window for the Season: Replacing your windows can be incredibly expensive. Sometimes, you just don’t have that kind of cash. Not everyone does and certainly not on a whim. It can also take a good long while for the windows to be available and the installer to have time for you. So as a short term solution, you can seal the window. You can install what’s called a window insulator kit. It’s essentially a piece of heavy duty plastic you put around your entire window. This helps keep the strong breezes out. It’s not as good as a new window, of course, but it should do in a pinch.

Of course, the windows aren’t the only weak point in a house.

Possibility #2: It’s Your Roof

Or, rather, it might be your attic. Most homes have some kind of attic space. Now, that doesn’t always translate to the creepy-horror-movie style attic filled with boxes and old dolls. Sometimes it’s just a place for all your home’s ductwork to live. In any case, it’s a big space between your ceiling and your roof.

Usually, it’s filled with insulation. That’s a good thing because heat rises. And without that insulation, all of your heat would rise right through your roof. Unfortunately, that insulation also tends to break down over time. In most cases, you’re going to want to have at least 10 to 14 inches of good insulation in your attic.

It turns out if you don’t have that insulation, bad things can happen—and it can make your entire house colder. It happens like this: heat rises (as we’ve already established), but as it does so, all of that air has to be replaced. Where is it replaced from? Outside!

Essentially, the heat rising out of your attic creates a vacuum. That is filled by the warm air of your house and the warm air of your house is replaced by the cold air outside (it gets in through your windows, your foundation, and so on). The only way to solve this problem is to keep your roof well insulated. And, in doing so, you help keep warm air in your house, too.

So if your basement is freezing (like mine is), it might be because your roof needs insulation. I know it sounds weird, but that’s how science works.

Possibility #3: There’s an Open Window Somewhere

My windows could be bad, my roof could be bad, or the two could be conspiring to make me as cold as possible. It’s also a possibility that I have a window open, just a crack somewhere. My plan now is to make sure my house is buttoned up, get under a blanket, and call the roofing contractor in the morning!

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