It’s fall and cooler temperatures are just around the corner, if they haven’t already settled in your area. So what can you do to prepare for the winter so the cold temperatures don’t take a bite out of your budget?
Keep the Cold Out
Did your energy audit reveal that you need better insulation? If so, prepare early so you aren’t caught off guard by the cool weather.
1. Sealing and insulating the exterior of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors and floors — is one of the most cost effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that you can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% of your energy bill) just by sealing and insulating. Here are a few easy ways you can save:
- Caulking drafty windows and door frames is a great way to eliminate the energy lost through these spaces. For hints on using rope caulk, check out our post all about what it does and how to use it. Keep in mind that rope caulk is most easily applied before it gets too cold, so you’ll want to do this right away!
- Check under your sinks, in your bathrooms, in basements and other areas for places where pipes and vents go through the floor, wall or ceiling. If you need additional help, consider purchasing a handheld leak detector. You may have gaps that could be letting cold air in and your warm air out that you don’t even know about! These gaps are easily sealed with rope or traditional caulk.
- Easy-to-apply weather stripping can keep drafts from coming through door jambs and window sashes.
- Foam switch and outlet gaskets are easy to install (requiring just a screw driver!) and can eliminate leaky outlets and switches, especially on exterior walls.
2. Seal ducts. Sealing air ducts can dramatically improve the efficiency of a heating and cooling system. Unsealed ducts typically leak about 10-15% of the conditioned air flowing through the ducts while pulling unwanted air into the conditioned parts of your house. This creates pressure differentials, exacerbating air leak problems.
- Adhesive sealant: Mastic fibrous sealant is used for coating thermal insulation on pipes and ducts and sealing uninsulated ducts.
- Aluminum tape: Aluminum tape is a much more effective and long-lasting way to seal sheet metal heating ducts than duct tape. And, if you forget to seal drafts until it gets cold, aluminum tape can be applied in cold temperatures and is very tolerant of temperature extremes.
- Duct shields: Central air conditioner draft shields and covers are an effective means of keep cold air from entering your home through air conditioning ducts during the winter than covering them with tape, blankets or cardboard or closing the louvers.
3. Prevent chimney drafts. Chimney balloons are inflatable, tight-sealing chimney dampers made of 3-ply poly plastic that stops uncontrolled air leaks.
4. Make the switch to a programmable thermostat. Never forget to adjust the thermostat while you’re away and save around the clock with these a few simple setting. For more information, check out our previous post on how to set your programmable thermostat to save the most money while staying comfortable.
5. If you need to heat a single room, consider using a space heater. A portable space heater can comfortably heat a single room quickly and without using energy to heat your entire home.
6. Clean your filters. Dirty air filters force your heating system to work harder than necessary, wasting electricity and taking longer to reach a comfortable temperature. This is because the airflow is restricted by dust and debris caught by the filter. Can’t remember to change your filters? Install an air filter whistle to remind you that the filter is dirty and needs to be changed.
If you’re in the market for a new heating system, be sure to consider an energy efficient furnace that is ENERGY STAR qualified. Be sure to check out information on rebates available in your area, too!
Change Your Habits
7. Wear a sweater. For every degree you turn down your thermostat, you can save 3-5% on heating costs.
8. Turn down the thermostat when you are away. The best approach is to use a programmable thermostat. You’ll never forget!
9. Let the sun heat your home during the day. Open your blinds and curtains during the day and close them at sundown for insulation.
10. Is your desk or couch next to a drafty window? First try sealing your window (see above). If you’re still not warm enough, rearrange the room so you’re not sitting in a drafty area.
So there you have it. Weatherize your home before the cold weather moves in and save all year round!
—The EnergyEarth Team
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