Bring On the Big Chill
We may not get three feet of snow (if any at all) during an Alabama winter, but it can still get pretty cold. If your home is not ready for the drop in temperature, you may see your energy bill increase greatly.
Use these steps to easily and economically winterize your home and reap energy savings.
Winterize Your Home in the Fall
Every fall you should take steps to prepare your home for the cold winter weather! Preparing and executing tasks in the fall will ensure you get the most out of your energy-saving efforts and allows you to complete the tasks before the cold weather and short days discourage you from taking action. A few quick and easy-to-do tasks will save you some major cash on your energy bills.
Lose the Leaks
Spaces around windows or cracks in walls, no matter how small, can have a big — and negative — impact on your energy costs each winter. Use a burning stick of incense to find any openings (the smoke will be drawn to the leak), paying special attention to areas where two different building materials meet, places like chimneys, and where wires or pipes run outside. Once you've identified the culprits, seal them up using caulk or weather stripping (around the sides of doors).
Another way to cut some major energy costs is to add storm windows to existing windows, or in some cases, replace existing windows with new double-pane, high energy efficiency models. There will be an initial expense, but over time, the savings pay back the investment and then some. Use MAX's Big-Ticket Item Calculator to see how you can afford updated or new windows.
Thanks to the shifty soil in many parts of Alabama, spaces under exterior doors are a common issue in our houses, and even the tiniest gap lets warm air out and cold air in. The best solution is a simple one used for decades: the draft snake. Make one by rolling up a towel and pushing it tight against the bottom of your door. Or if you want to be a bit more stylish, pick some pretty fabric, make it into a long, slender pouch and fill it with sand to weigh it down and keep it covering the space.
Up to 30 percent of the heated air in your home (air you are paying to warm) can escape from clogged or loose ductwork. Learn how to identify problems with your ductwork and fix some issues yourself on the Energy Star website.
Up Your Insulation
It may seem obvious, but people often forget about basic insulation. Adding extra or higher-rated insulation between walls and in your attic is a surefire way to keep more of your heater's hard work inside.
Another easy fix is reversing the spin on your ceiling fans to clockwise. This direction will push the warm air that has risen to your ceiling back down into the room, without creating a drafty breeze. This little trick could save you up to 10 percent on your energy costs.
Tame Your Home Temp
You can't do a thing about the weather, but you can get a handle on the environment inside your house. Maximize your control by installing a programmable thermostat. Set it to cut the heat back to 55 degrees at times when there's no one home, and you'll have one less thing to remember each morning. You will need to remember to open drapes and shutters during the day, letting the sun do what it does best: warm your house. And remember to close them once the sun goes down to trap all that energy inside.
Wind Down the Water Heater
What's the current temperature setting on your water heater? You probably don't know, and that means it's probably on the default setting, which for many models is a toasty 140 degrees. Lower it 15 to 20 degrees, and see if your morning shower is still comfortable. If so, you can save another 10 percent on your bill.
Protect Your Pipes
Wrapping any un-insulated water pipes with rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation may not save money each month, but it can prevent a costly burst pipe. Remember to cover outdoor spigots and leave indoor faucets dripping any time a hard freeze is predicted.
Check the Chimney
While energy experts agree that an open-front fireplace can actually suck the heat right out of a room instead of adding to it, many of us still enjoy the look, feel and crackling sounds of a roaring fire every now and then. Before you light that first match or turn on the gas logs, you need to do a chimney check up. This is best left to a professional, but you may not need a full "sweep," just a basic inspection. When you're not using your fireplace, remember to keep the damper closed.
Help Your Heater
Regularly changing the filters in your heating system will aid it in doing its job, and more efficiency means more savings. It's also a good idea to let a professional check it and do a yearly tune-up. If you find you need a new system, you may qualify for Energy Star federal tax credits. Find out here.
The best way to keep warm amid winter's chill is to minimize the loss of your own body heat. In other words, before you crank the thermostat up, put on a sweater!