Beat the cold weather and REDUCE your energy bill this winter
Would you leave your front door open all winter? Not preparing your house for the cold or winter season can be the equivalent of doing just that! Utility bills are only increasing! A quick “Google” search shows this by bringing up an article from September 2nd, 2014 titled, “Electricity prices rise at fastest pace in years”. Preparing for the cold weather can lower your energy bills, offsetting those price increases, and at the same time improve the comfort of your home. This article is written for those willing to make a small time and money investment to make the home more energy efficient. The following activities suggested by Smart Energy Today — some finished in only a few minutes — will not only lower your heating bills but may also help prevent damage to your home.
Cold Weather Tip #1 – Insulate attic and crawl space
The attic and crawl space of a home are not very desirable places to go or spend time! Insulation deteriorates and becomes less effective over time. Attic and crawl space insulation often get neglected because they are out of sight. It may not seem sexy, but adding insulation is one of the best ways to save energy, reduce your utility bill and increase comfort in the home. Go a step further and add a radiant barrier or reflective insulation. These provide benefit year round. Dr. David Yarbrough Phd, the worlds leading expert on radiant barriers and reflective insulation says:
“The science association with reflective products is well established. Consensus methods for establishing performance have been developed. Reflective technology has an important place in reducing utility bills in residential and commercial buildings.”
Source – “It’s About Saving Energy” by Dr. David Yarbrough
There are three kinds of heat transfer. Conductive, convective and radiant. Traditional insulation resist conductive and convective heat transfer but does nothing against radiant heat transfer. Because of the reflective nature of radiant barriers & reflective insulation they stop 50-70% of radiant heat trying to escape your home!
Cold Weather Tip #2 – Use caulk and weatherstripping
Did you know the average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall? This is according to EarthWorks Group. Drafts from leaks can give the thermostat false readings. Small leaks add up and sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Sealing up those leaks will make you feel comfortable and keep more money in your pocket.
Find the leaks you might not be able to see in your home by using an incense stick (avoiding drapes and other flammables). Move the lit incense stick along walls and go to the most common drafty areas or take a close look at places where two different building materials meet. Where the smoke wavers, you have a leak which means you are losing hot or cold air.
Another method for windows or door specifically, will take two people. One person on the outside of the window with a hair dryer will flow around the frame of the window with another person inside holding a lit candle. If the candle flickers or goes out, then you need to caulk or weather strip around the frame. Now that you know where the leaks are click here to see a video from a utility provider on 5 quick ways to stop air leaks.
Cold Weather Tip #3 – Install storm doors and windows
Windows – Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows. If you don’t have storm windows, there are other effective measures you can take. For just a few dollars, you can pick up a window insulation kit from your local hardware store which will involve putting caulk in and around the frame of the window and then covering the whole frame, not just the glass, with plastic. Though you will lose some visibility, the thicker the plastic the better. It’s temporary and it’s not pretty, but it’s inexpensive and it’s extremely effective.
Doors – A storm door can increase energy efficiency by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Don’t have a storm door? That’s ok – adopt an old method – the draft snake. You can easily make this yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or get creative and make a more attractive one using an old tie or scraps of fabric (filled with sand or kitty litter). You can really have some fun by adding googly eyes and felt tongue to the “snake”. Check out this Pinterest board for creative ideas.
Cold Weather Tip #4 – Manage the thermostat with an ugly sweater
For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1-3% on your heating bill. Get the whole family involved and make lowering the thermostat fun! Put those old sweaters you never wear anymore to use and have your own household ugly sweater contest.
Make saving energy easier with a programmable thermostat; they are widely available and inexpensive. Go a step further and ask if your local utility if smart meters are available. Smart meters allow you to see very detailed information online about your energy use in hourly increments allowing you to make wiser decisions about the way you use energy the home.
Cold Weather Tip #5 – Use an energy monitor
A smart meter will allow you to know when you are using energy, but what about what is using energy? Use an energy monitor to find out how much energy each appliance uses This device indicates electrical usage in real time and projects your monthly bill. Research has found that using a tool such as this leads consumers to reduce their electricity consumption significantly by seeing exactly how much each appliance or activity costs allowing you to identify ways to cut waste.
Cold Weather Tip #6 – Insulate pipes and water heater
Pay less for hot water by insulating pipes. Are your pipes or hot water heater warm to the touch? If the answer is yes, then they are good candidates for insulation. Wrap exposed water pipes with insulation tubes at least a half-inch thick. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Also, wrap cold water pipes to prevent freezing and don’t forget to unwrap the cold pipes in the spring to avert corrosion from condensation. During a deep freeze let the kitchen and bathroom faucets drip.
If pipes do freeze, get a heating pad and wrap the pipe to resume water movement. Click here for more tips from the American Red Cross on thawing frozen pipes.
Wrap older water heater tanks with an insulation rated R-10 or more. And while you are working on the water heater check the temperature. While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees F, most households don’t need water that hot. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees F (or lower) can reduce your water heating costs up to $436 a year according to the US Department of Energy. Lowering the temperature also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes
Cold Weather Tip #7 – Maximize the furnace
First, have the furnace inspected annually and before the first use of the season. Many utility companies will provide this service free of charge and some furnace manufacturers and dealers offer them free or at a discounted price – but call as soon as possible before they get backed up. They will do things like check to see if the heat exchanger is cracked or if there’s an improper mixture of air and fuel.
Don’t forget to change or clean furnace filters at the beginning of the heating season and then monthly during the heating season. In extreme cases – old filters can be a fire hazard. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. If you don’t have a permanent filter, consider changing to one as they will reduce waste and hassle. Electrostatic filters are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen that cause illness and irritation.
If your furnace is old consider purchasing a new one. It will save you a lot of money (You could save 50% or more compared with many old furnaces still in operation) in the long run and increase the value of your home right away. If you use natural gas to run your furnace then you definitely want to check out this article from the U.S. Energy Information Administration titled “Gas furnace efficiency has large implications for residential natural gas use”.
Cold Weather Tip #8 – Seal those ducts
Ducts are used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Ducts deliver and remove air. There is a great Energy Star publication called “A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling” that will serve as a good resource when looking to improve efficiency in this area. It states that “In typical houses, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.” Also, consider the heat loss that occurs when the air travels through unheated spaces.
Look for places where the pipes are pinched. This impedes the flow of air. Look for gaps and fix them with metal-back tape. Duct tape isn’t sufficient for this kind of fix! Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems. This means it could pay to hire a professional technician to come out and test your duct system, fix any problems, and vacuum.
Properly sealing and maintaining ducts can save a little money plus, you’ll have better protection against mold and dust. Also, many utilities offer incentive programs for duct improvement.
Cold Weather Tip #9 – The chimney
If you have stopped using your fireplace you should have the chimney flue plugged and sealed. Cover unused fireplaces with a foam board. While you’re at it, make sure the seals in and around the fireplace are tight. Still using the fireplace? Keep in mind that wood stoves manufactured before 1990 burn wood inefficiently wasting firewood, polluting the air and adds more dust to the air inside the home. Don’t use the fireplace all the time? Keep hot or cold air out by always keeping the door to the fireplace shut and making sure the chimney damper is closed.
If the fireplace doesn’t already have one, install a heat-air exchange system that blows warm air from the fireplace into the room. Is your chimney insulated? An insulated chimney will improve the efficiency of the fireplace and protect the masonry from buildup of corrosive byproducts.
If you are unsure about your seals mentioned above, if your chimney is insulated, or know it’s time to have it inspected contact a professional to insure all the elements of your fireplace and chimney are functioning efficiently and safely. For more information about chimney’s safety check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The website has simple educational videos that anyone can view.
Cold Weather Tip #10 – The ceiling fan works two ways
This one might be the easiest of all and doesn’t cost a dime! We all know heat rises! Switch ceiling fans to “reverse” so that warm air pooled near the ceiling is pushed back down into the living space. It’s kind of like recycling! Watch the thermostat and adjust as necessary. It’s simple and you will save energy this way!
The cold weather is here. Everyone can use energy wisely. Taking a whole house approach that addresses the places where heat loss occurs like windows, doors, ducts, attic, crawl space, and fireplace are some of the most effective ways to lower your energy bills. The 10 tips above, in most cases, are easy, effective, affordable and in some cases free. There are local, state and federal credits, rebates, discounts etc., to incentivize making changes to improve your energy efficiency and lower your energy bills. No matter where you live, there is one resource you can use to check for local, state and federal credits, rebates, discounts, etc., it’s called DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. Unsure what improvement to start with? Contact Smart Energy Today, Inc. for a free in home energy analysis. Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our Blog for more energy saving tips.
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Smart Energy Today hopes you have found these 10 tips to save energy during cold weather and lower your energy bills this winter helpful. Smart Energy Today, Inc.™ is a company that provides homeowners and businesses with a range of energy efficient products and services including photovoltaic solar system design, installation and maintenance. The company also features a popular product that uses NASA inspired technology called Sol-Blanket Insulation™.
Smart Energy Today, Inc.™ delivers high quality and competitively priced products that will decrease energy consumption, lower the cost of energy bills and improve the comfort level in customers’ homes and businesses. Smart Energy Today maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau by staying committed to excellence, integrity and longevity in all aspects of operations and in professional business conduct. If you are looking to improve the comfort and efficiency of your home or business, lower utility costs and become more energy independent then call Smart Energy Today, Inc. today at (888) 405-8689 or visit us online at www.SmartEnergyToday.net.