Getting Energy Ready For Winter
Energy prices are on the rise across the nation. As a result, heating costs will consume an increasingly larger portion of a household's energy budget. That's why it's important to check your home to insure that your heating dollars aren't being wasted. When cold weather approaches, use this checklist of simple ways to make your home more comfortable and keep those escalating energy bills at bay.
Check for Leaks
Weather-stripping and caulking is probably the least expensive, most effective way to cut down on energy waste. Improperly sealed homes can waste 10-15 percent of the homeowner's heating dollars. Take a look at these steps:
- Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather-stripping and caulk any holes you see that allow heat to escape. Make sure doors seal properly.
- If your windows leak really badly, consider replacing them with newer, more efficient ones. Keep in mind, 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, comfort and home value.
- Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the wall, 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 and weather-stripping.
- Electric wall plugs and switches can allow cold air in. Purchase easy to install, pre-cut foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate and effectively prevent leaks.
- Don't forget to close the damper on your fireplace. Of course the damper needs to be open if a fire is burning; but if the damper is open when you're not using the fireplace, your chimney functions as a large open window that draws warm air out of the room and creates a draft.
- Examine your homes heating ducts for leaks. Think of your ductwork as huge hoses, bringing hot air (instead of water) into your home. Mostly out of sight ducts can leak for years without you knowing it. They can become torn or crushed and flattened. Duct tape- the worst 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. You can save roughly 10% of your heating bill by preventing leaky ducts.
Check Your Insulation
- Insulate your attic. In an older home, that can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs. Before energy efficient standards, homes were often built with little to no insulation. As a result, large amounts of heat can be lost through walls, floors and ceilings (since heat rises).
- Weather-strip and insulate your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out the roof of your home.
How much insulation should you install?
Typical framed homes are now being built in California's Central Valley must meet insulation requirements of R-38 insulation in ceilings and R-19 for walls and floors
Check Your Heating System
- Get a routine maintenance and inspection of your heating system each fall to make sure everything is in good working order.
- Replace your furnace filter every 90 days. Your furnace will run more efficiently, won't work as hard, and have a longer life expectancy as a result.
- If your heating system is old, you might consider updating. A pre-1985 gas furnace is probably 70% efficient today. That means only 70% of the fuel used by the furnace actually reaches your home as heat. New gas furnaces are up to 98% efficient!
- Use the program feature in your programmable thermostat. This allows you to turn down the heat when your at work, sleeping or away; and turns back up to where is comfortable for you when your home. Not running your furnace at full capacity when away from home can drastically cut your usage, if used properly.There are also thermostats that have a programmable geo-fence! This allows the thermostat to know when you are home or not (by an app on your smartphone and the use of Wi-fi). It will automatically turn the heat down when you get a set distance away from home and turn back on once you come back into that set area. You can also control it from anywhere using your smartphone! Take a look at the new Honeywell Lyric.
- Reverse the switch on your ceiling fans so they blow upward, toward the ceiling. Ceiling fans are a great idea in the summer, when blowing downward can improve circulation and make a room feel cooler. However, a cooling draft is a bad idea when it's cold. By reversing the fans direction, the blades move air upward. This is especially valuable in high ceiling rooms, where heat that naturally rises is forced back down into the room.
- Make sure all heating vents are opened and unblocked by furniture or other items. This will ensure that the air is evenly distributed throughout the home.
I hope everyone had a great summer! It has been long and beautiful, albeit dry and not so great for our beautiful surroundings. I know I am still in summer mode and this instant change of weather has been a big wake up call for me that fall and winter are coming!
The Paragon Team