Button up home for winter

By Marjorie Isaacson 

The imminent arrival of cold weather and increases in heating-fuel prices mean that making your home more energy-efficient is more important than ever. Surprisingly, much of the energy used to heat and cool houses is wasted. The average home can easily save 30% on their energy use.

In addition to saving money, using energy efficiently will make your home more comfortable and reduce your impact on the environment. And while some improvements like a new furnace require investments, you can make many improvements at no or little cost:

  • Find and seal holes. Each individual opening may seem tiny, but together they add up and result in significant exposure to the elements. Caulk leaky windows, add weatherstripping to doors, and insulate any openings, such as around air conditioner window units.

  • Don’t heat unused space. Close doors to rooms you’re not using.

  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Cover it with an insulating blanket.

  • Consider covering your windows with heavy drapery and plastic coverings.

  • Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it at 68 degrees for the day and 62 degrees at bedtime. In most homes, you can save about 2 percent of your heating bill for each degree that you lower the thermostat.

  • Replace your furnace or boiler with a high-efficiency model. If it's older than 20 years, chances are it is a good investment. It’s essential to use a reputable and qualified heating contractor; heating systems are often oversized. It’s a good idea to begin researching this topic before it’s an emergency and your heater breaks down.

  • Don't forget the rest of the heating system. You may need to improve your house’s insulation and air-tightness, repair or insulate ductwork, or tune up your system.

  • Do an energy audit. If you’re serious about reducing your energy use, the audit will help you systematically evaluate what needs to be done. There are “do it yourself” versions, or you can hire a professional energy auditor. See the Residential Energy Services Network website.

For more information: Energy Star, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Citizens Utility Board.
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