Winter is coming, like it or not. Along with winter comes the need to heat your home and that, with the current economy, could be expensive this year. What can you do? Well, either freeze, or takes some simple, easy steps to winterize your home.
How much you spend to heat (and cool in the summer) will vary with the interaction of many factors. Bruce Snead, Extension specialist in residential energy at Kansas State University, says, “Your house’s size, shape, the number and quality of doors, windows and other openings, efficiency of the heating and cooling equipment, your own personal standards for comfort, and the rates paid for the fuel used are key elements that control your costs.”
You can improve all of these factors except the rates your utility charges. With your own time, effort, and $50 in materials, you can reduce your energy costs.
The key to saving energy economically is to choose simple, but effective, measures that you can do yourself. Check your home for these 10 items that can save a significant amount of energy and make your home a more comfortable place to live.
Air filtering into your home comes through the joints, holes, and cracks in the exterior skin of your house. Several types of caulks are available for different applications.
Latex and butyl rubber caulks are inexpensive and can be used inside. Expanding foam caulks in spray cans are excellent for filling voids and large gaps.
Interior caulking can be very effective at stopping air leaks. Joints around window and door trims and along floorboards and molding can be caulked with clear or paintable sealant.
The cost of caulking is small compared with the benefits in energy savings. Don’t worry about getting your home too tight. Most homes simply can’t be tightened to the point where indoor air quality becomes a problem.
Weatherstripping slows air leaks between the fixed and moving parts of the skin of your home. Doors, windows, and attic access panels are typical locations for weatherstripping.
Felt strips, foam tape, rubber extrusions, folder metal and vinyl strips, and door thresholds and sweeps are some of the more common weatherstripping.
Select only the higher quality materials for weatherstripping doors because they receive the most wear of any part of your home.
You might be surprised at how much air can leak through and around a wall outlet or switch in an exterior wall of your home. Fortunately, this leak is easy and inexpensive to plug. Foam gaskets can be installed behind the cover plate to seal the opening effectively.
Page 2 of 3 - Water heater set point
If you have a typical family, 15 to 30 percent of your family energy budget goes to heating water for domestic purposes. The common temperature setting for most water heaters, 130 to 160 degrees, is higher than is needed in most residential uses.
With the exception of automatic dishwashers and some laundry requirements, a setting of 120 degrees is usually adequate.
A higher setting results in more heat lost through the tank and pipes and hot water going down the drain. Most gas-fired water heaters have temperature with warm, medium and hot settings. Since an actual temperature indicators probably won’t be there, you will have to measure water temperature at a tap with a candy thermometer.
Run the water for a minute before you measure the temperature. After adjusting the dial, wait several hours before measuring the temperature again.
If turning the dial down to the lowest setting still meets your needs, then it costs you nothing and saves you money. It will also extend the life of your water heater.
Water heater insulation
After you have turned the thermostat down, you can save even more by increasing the insulation on the tank. Kits for both gas and electric heaters are available and usually cost less than $10. Water-heater wraps reduce heat loss from hot water in the tank.
Water flow restrictors
The average person uses 15 to 25 gallons of hot water each day. You can save water-heating costs simply by using less hot water.
An easy way to reduce hot water use is to install flow restrictors in showerheads and sink faucets. Some flow restrictors simply are inserted inside the faucet head and can be install with a pair of pliers, using a rag to protect the faucet finish. Replacement shower heads usually can be installed the same way.
Furnace filter replacement
Forced-air heating systems do a good job of stirring the air in your house. The entire volume in your house is circulated through the furnace three to four times in a single hour of operation.
Your furnace filter traps airborne lint and dirt, preventing it from coating the fan blades and furnace heat exchanger. Dirt accumulation inside the furnace not only reduces efficiency, but also is difficult to remove.
Filters should be checked and, if necessary, replaced every four to six weeks during the heating season. It’s a good idea to buy a season’s supply in the fall and keep them on hand.
Clock thermostat timer
No one thing affects your heating (and cooling) costs more than the temperature setting on your thermostat. For every degree you lower the setting during the winter, you save as much as three percent on your heating costs.
Page 3 of 3 - Setting back the thermostat eight hours a day or at night will save one percent for every degree reduction.
Adjusting your thermostat costs nothing if someone is at home and remembers to make the changes. Another way to ensure the same results and savings is to have the thermostat controlled automatically. Automatic thermostats can cost from $40 to $400.
Thermostat setback in not appropriate for every kind of heating system, but most gas and propane furnaces and boilers can be operated more economically with a setback of four or more hours. Special thermostats are available for heat pumps.
Interior plastic storm window
Windows make up 5 to 25 percent of the exterior wall area of your home. With a typical R-value of one for single-glazed windows and two for double glazed windows, the amount of heat lost through windows can be significant.
The advantage of an interior storm window is that it covers all the cracks and joints in the existing window and reduces infiltration and heat loss. Kits of clear plastic, which will cover one to five windows, are available.
Window insulation shutter
Another low-cost way to reduce heat lost through windows even more effectively is to use a nightly or seasonal insulating window shutter. The shutter pressure fits inside the window casing or trim and is typically installed at night and taken down in the morning.
While saving energy isn’t always glamorous, it does make good economic sense. There is some grant money available to those that would like to weatherize and needs financial assistance. I have more information on the grant program for weatherization at the Extension Office.