Home Winterization Can Save You Big Bucks

Making the right moves to winterize your home can save you hundreds of dollars this winter.

For instance, the U.S. Department of Energy said that a typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 per year on home utility bills – with heating and cooling accounting for around 48% of the total.

However, just doing a few simple things can reduce those bills by as much as 25%, DOE said.

Installing a programmable thermostat is one modification that can pay for itself very quickly, since it helps to manage the heating system much more precisely than a ‘dumb’ thermostat can.

Even simpler things like checking insulation — in attics, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors and crawl spaces – can result in savings of hundreds per year. Homeowners should also check for air leaks around walls, ceilings, lighting and plumbing fixtures, switches and electrical outlets.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Appraisal Institute suggest the following updates for immediate savings on energy bills:

* Cover drafty windows. Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.

* Adjust the temperature. When consumers are home and awake, set the thermostat as low as is comfortable. When asleep or out of the house, turn the thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours and save around 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills.

* Find and seal leaks. Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Add caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

* Maintain heating systems. Schedule service for the heating system. Find out what maintenance is required to keep the heating system operating efficiently. Replace the furnace filter once a month, or as needed.

* Reduce heat loss from the fireplace. Keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.

DOE also suggests that homeowners:

* Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.

* Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to perform this task, contact a professional.

* Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.

* Turn off kitchen, bath and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after finishing cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.

* During winter, keep the draperies and shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter the home and closed at night to reduce the chill from cold windows. Windows can account for 10-25 percent of a heating bill by letting heat out.

With winter about to serve up its worst weather, now is a good time to go through these tips, and make the changes needed to keep your home heating expenses to a minimum this year.


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