For the INSIDE, you need to stop energy leaks to keep the WARM air IN & the COLD air OUT!
Weatherstripping & caulking is probably the least expensive, simplest, most effective way to cut down on utility bills-even in the summer! This is also easy to do for the novice or diy-er.
*** Improperly sealed homes can waste 10 to 15 percent of the homeowner's heating dollars***.
1. Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather-stripping, wood putty & caulk any holes you see that allow heat to escape. Make sure doors seal properly.
2. If your windows leak really badly, consider replacing them with newer, more efficient ones. Keep in mind, however, that replacing windows can be expensive - it could take you quite awhile to recover your costs from the energy savings alone. But new windows also provide other benefits, such as improved appearance and comfort. There's also tax credits for this, so check w/your accountant to see if you qualify. This is also a good way to increase home value if you're thinking of selling your home, but again, as this is expensive, make sure that the cost is worth it for the price you'll get for your home.
3. Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the wall or ceiling or floor has the potential to waste energy. Plumbing vents can be especially bad, since they begin below the floor and go all the way through the roof. Seal them all with caulking or weatherstripping. This is a HUGE one!!! Check ALL vents to the outside to make sure they are sealed properly.
4. Electric wall plugs and switches can allow cold air in. Purchase simple-to-install, pre-cut foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate and effectively prevent leaks. This one was new to me. A quick trip to Home Depot helped solve this one for me & is a super easy & inexpensive fix!
5. Don't forget to close the damper on your fireplace when not in use! Your chimney functions as a large open window that draws warm air out of the room and creates a draft. Does it get easier than this one?
6. Examine your house's heating ducts for leaks. Think of your ductwork as huge hoses, bringing hot air instead of water into your house. Mostly out of sight, ducts can leak for years without you knowing it. They can become torn or crushed and flattened. Old duct tape - the worse thing to use to seal ductwork, by the way - will dry up and fall away over time, allowing junctions and splices to open, spilling heated air into your attic or under the house. It's wasteful.
***According to field research performed by the California Energy Commission, you can save roughly 10 percent of your heating bill by preventing leaky ducts.***
Check Your Insulation
1. Insulate your attic. In an older home, that can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs. Before energy efficiency standards, homes were often built with little or no insulation. As a result, large amounts of heat can be lost through walls, floors and - since heat rises - especially ceilings. The home I currently home wasn't insulated when I purchased it 7 years ago, needless to say, living in WI, this was the 1st thing I did before I moved in. Energy bill decreased over 20% that 1st winter compared to the previous owner's bills. I recommend spray foam if you can afford as this is more efficient & offers better coverage, however, the traditional insultation by the roll is easier to install for teh DIY-er. Make sure you install the correct "R" rating & that you aren't blocking any vents & soffits.
2. Weather-strip and insulate your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out the top of your house. I have a double-sided draft stopper on the door leading to my 2nd floor which works just fine.
3. Seal holes in the attic that lead down into the house, such as open wall tops and duct, plumbing, or electrical runs. Any hole that leads from a basement or crawlspace to an attic is a big energy waster. Cover and seal them with spray foam and rigid foam board if necessary.
Check Your Heating System
1. Get a routine maintenance and inspection of your heating system each autumn to make sure it is in good working order. You should be on a 6 month schedule for inspection.
2. Replace your heater's air filter. My programable thermostat has a "change filter" reminder. If you're doesn't, doing a monthly check is quick & easy. Your heating system will work less hard, use less energy and last longer as a result.
*** If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them. Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.***
3. If your heating system is old, you might consider updating it. A pre-1977 gas furnace is probably 50 percent to 60 percent efficient today. That means only half of the fuel used by the furnace actually reaches your home as heat. Modern gas furnaces, on the other hand, achieve efficiency ratings as high as 97 percent. By replacing an old heating system with one of the most efficient models, you can cut your natural gas use nearly in half! Again, there are tax credits available for this, check w/your accountant.
4. Use a programable thermostat. If you have an older home, consider installing one. This allows you to program your HVAC system to turn down the heat when you're at work or sleeping, & then increase the temperature to a comfortable level when you're at home. Remember - it takes less energy to warm a cool home than to maintain a warm temperature all day long. Proper use could cut your heating costs from 20 to 75 percent.
5. Reverse the switch on your ceiling fans so they blow upward, toward the ceiling. By reversing the fan's direction, the blades move air upward in winter. This is especially valuable in high ceiling rooms, where heat that naturally rises is forced back down into the room. This is fairly simple to do & anyone handy w/a screwdriver is good to go.
6. Make sure all hearing vents are opened and unblocked by furniture or other items. This will ensure that the air is evenly distributed through the home.
Some other General Tips to get & KEEP your home warm & cozy:
Get the Fireplace Ready:
• Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
• If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
• Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
• Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
• Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoint, if necessary.
Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows
• Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
• If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
• Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.
Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts
• If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
• Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
• Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
• Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
• Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.
Service Weather-Specific Equipment (OK...I still have to do these...yikes!)
• Drain gas from lawnmowers.
• Service or tune-up snow blowers.
• Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
• Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
• Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.
• Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
• Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
• Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
• Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
• Secure crawlspace entrances.
Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
• Some cities require a smoke detector in every room.
• Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
• Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.
• Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher older than 10 years.
Prevent Plumbing Freezes
• Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
• Drain all garden hoses.
• Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
• Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
• If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.
Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces
• Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
• Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
• Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias in areas where the ground freezes.
• Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
• Don't automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard. I do this around the back fence as cover for birds for protection.
• Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.
Prepare an Emergency Kit (We will actually discuss this in greater depth in upcoming show!):
• Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
• Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
• Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
*** Don't forget about the pets! Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.***
So, for now...get your home warm & cozy for you & your loved ones...& clear that chimney for the upcoming Santa visit!!
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