Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009

Winterize Your Home with These 10 Tips

By Kathleen Wills
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The cold has arrived and we all know what that means. These quick winterizing tips will save money, energy—and keep you warm!

1. Use draft snakes. Use a draft snake or roll up a towel and stuff under leaky doors and windows. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use.

2.  Tune up furnace and replace filters. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use so they should be replaced once a month during winter. Even better, consider switching to a permanent filter which will eliminate waste and maintenance. Also remember to clean, lubricate and adjust your furnace, which saves up to 5% on heating costs. To take it a step further, if you have an old furnace, seriously consider investing in a new Energy Star furnace, which can save you 50% on your heating costs.

3. Operate ceiling fans in reverse. Most fans have a cord or switch that reverses the rotation. This will push the warm air that rises to the ceiling back down into the living space. This can result in a 10% reduction on your heating costs.

4. Put on a sweater. Sounds obvious but a heavy sweater can add 4 degrees to your body heat.

5. Caulk and weatherstrip. As mentioned above, air leaks are a big contributor to energy loss. Trick: move a lit incense stick along suspected leakage areas. Where the smoke flickers is where you have air sneaking in.

6. Install storm doors and windows. They provide greater flexibility for light and ventilation and can increase energy efficiency by 45%. Look for Energy Star products. 

7. Insulate. This is one of the best ways to save energy. Add more insulation between walls, your attic floor and basement ceiling.

8. Wrap hot water pipes. If your pipes are warm to the touch then they should be insulated. This is not only an energy-saving tip but also a deterrent for freezing pipes. Look for pre-slit pipe foam with at least an R-3 rating.

9. Seal and insulate Ducts. Air moving through ducts are big energy wasters if the ducts are not connected properly or while the air travels through cold rooms. Sealing and insulating them can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by 20% or more.

10. Lower the thermostat and water heater temperature. With all of these improvements in place you'll be able to turn down the heat. For every degree you lower the thermostat, you'll save up to 3% on your heating bill. Or, install a programmable thermostat, which only costs about $50. It saves the average household $180 a year. Lowering your hot water temperature to 120 degrees will reduce your heating bill by up to 10%.

If you want help figuring out where to start, think about getting a home energy audit. An audit will help you assess how much energy your home uses and make suggestions on the steps you can take to improve efficiency. Energy Star's website walks you through the steps you need to take whether you do it yourself or hire a professional.  

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