Using Snow to Insulate Your House

By , January 29, 2015

If you’re getting snow these days, whether that’s normal or not, the good news is that you can use it to your advantage to insulate your house. The bad news is, it means more shoveling!

Snow is an excellent insulator. You know this if you’ve ever made a snow cave or igloo. My father has always used this to his advantage by shoveling snow up against the base of the house. I learned it from him, and did the same thing back when we owned a house with a foundation.

 Can't stop it from falling, may as well put it to work! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

Can’t stop it from falling, may as well put it to work! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

The technique is simple. All one need do is circle the house, shoveling yard snow up against the wall, starting at the base and building up a couple of feet. Make a loose snow berm around the foundation.

You will, of course, have already closed your vents when winter approached, so there’s no excess air escaping from your basement or crawlspace. Nevertheless, heat will continue to seep from your foundation. The berm of snow seals this in somewhat, keeping the warm air from escaping, preventing cold air from seeping in. The escaping heat will eventually melt the berm away from the foundation. Keep an eye on it, and refresh as needed.

If you have gardens along your foundation, this practice offers mixed blessings. The piled snow will insulate your garden as well as your foundation, helping to protect any bulbs you have planted there. On the other hand, the pile of snow will keep that ground colder into the spring. When we had foundation gardens, depending on the year, we’d either leave the snow, or scrape most of it off, to allow the soil to warm earlier. All in all, it gave us a slightly increased measure of control, and it worked well.

Our “homestead” cabin is on pilings. The back wall of the cabin is close enough to the ground that we can insulate that side, but we can’t on the other.

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