Baby, it's cold outside... and that can be tough on the wallet! How can you make sure your home is energy efficient during the winter months? Here are a few tips that most homeowners can implement on their own to save money, while keeping toasty warm inside when temperatures are frigid outside!
Furnace: Furnaces older than 10 years may be wasting a lot of energy. Consider purchasing a new one for maximum safety, and savings on your heating bill. If your furnace filters are dirty, your unit will need to work harder to heat your home, using more energy. Furnace filters should be changed once monthly during the winter months.
Gas Heater: Properly maintaining your gas heater is both a cost efficiency and safety issue. If your gas heater is not properly maintained it can cause dangerous poison to enter the air of your home, and at the very least it may be costing you more money than it should. A professional should check your gas heater(s) once a year, but there are some maintenance things you can, and should, address on your own. First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust, and vacuum the air passages to the burner. It is also important to clean the burner of lint and dirt.
Windows: Windows can be a major culprit in losing heat (and driving up electric bills) during the winter months. Inspect all of your windows and consider replacing inefficient or very old windows with new, more energy efficient windows. Caulking around your windows should be replaced periodically to ensure that warm air is not escaping, and that cold air is not entering your home. You can also purchase window insulation film kits that can keep up to 70% of cold air from coming in through closed windows. Replacing lighter "summer" curtains with thicker fabric can be helpful as well. Storm windows can also be installed to help keep cold air out.
Doors: Can you see light around the doors in your home that access the garage or outdoors? Your weather stripping should be replaced. It is an inexpensive do-it-yourself repair that can save you money on energy costs. Another inexpensive tool is draft guards, which can be purchased at home improvement stores, and can help cold air from escaping from under doors. Storm doors can also be installed to help keep cold air out.
Floors: Do you have hardwood or tile floors in your home? Consider placing area rugs to keep the chill off of the floor during winter months, by adding a layer of insulation.
Insulation: Make sure your attic is fully insulated. This is the most important area of your home in regards to retaining heat. In order to do this you need to determine the "R-Value" of your attic. Installing insulation can be a time-consuming, risky and messy task, so many homeowners opt to hire professionals to do this job. However, if you are interested in tackling this task on your own, there are a few tips you should keep in mind. First of all, always follow manufacturer recommendations to the letter to ensure you are installing insulation properly and safely. To ensure the safety of yourself and others living in your home, always purchase "no-itch" products, wear protective clothing (covering arms, legs, hands and head), wear safety goggles, and take great care when moving around in your attic. Always make sure someone who can call 911 is home when tackling this project in the event of a fall.
Get an Energy Audit: Many utility companies will come perform a free energy audit in your home to help you identify areas that may be driving your energy costs up.