Column: Time To Prep for Winter

Column: Time To Prep for Winter


Lowe’s employees worked with Rebuilding Together Alexandria to get a local home ready for winter.

Lowe’s employees worked with Rebuilding Together Alexandria to get a local home ready for winter.

As the days get shorter, our Rebuilding Together Alexandria volunteers are scurrying around the city to get ready for winter.

Alexandria has an aging population of homeowners, many that are low-income or on a fixed income. A number of these long-time Alexandrians cannot afford to move since prices have increased dramatically over the years. However, these same homeowners also find it difficult to afford the maintenance on their homes — which is critical to helping them remain and live safely in them.

Helping these citizens stay in their homes is a key part of Rebuilding Together Alexandria’s mission. That’s why when the leaves start turning colors, we start focusing on weatherization and winterizing. We know that keeping these aging and struggling homeowners warm will help them save money and live more comfortably.

Recently we teamed up with Lowe’s employees to help John, a 93-year-old WWII veteran who has lived in his home in the city for the past three decades, get his home ready for winter. John was overwhelmed by the generosity of the volunteers, who spent over a week sealing windows and doors, fixing lights and floors, insulating and more. He could not stop smiling and thanking our Rebuilding Together volunteers for the free, high quality repairs and upgrades.

Our job will continue to grow as Alexandria’s population of those over 60 years old is expected to double by 2030; while the availability of affordably priced housing will continue to shrink, according to the Alexandria Office of Aging. To keep people like John in their homes, many houses will need to be adapted to accommodate homeowners’ fixed incomes and diminished physical abilities.

For our clients, we always start with an energy audit to determine what upgrades are needed and which make the most sense. Some of the common energy-saving upgrades we recommend include:

  • Insulate attic hatches: Adding more insulation to attics — including attic doors — are a great way to make a home more comfortable and efficient.

  • Set water heater to 120 degrees: According to the Department of Energy, every 10 degree reduction in water temperature will save 3-5 percent in energy costs.

  • Caulk around doors and windows: Caulking — along with weather-stripping — will cut energy use, saving nearly $200 a year.

  • Seal windows: Applying plastic film to windows saves money and minimizes cold drafts.

  • Install a programmable thermostat to lower utility bills: By using a programmable thermostat, homeowners can save about $180 annually.

These upgrades are important since many of our clients live in older homes and typically spend about 14 percent of their income on energy, as compared to 3.5 percent for higher-income households.

A few simple upgrades can change a life, save energy, and help strengthen our community. If you know an Alexandria homeowner who could use our help getting ready for winter, please visit or call 703-836-1021.