From Matt Wilson on October 24, 2013 in Tools and Tips
To make a significant dent in your winter energy bills, you first need to identify your home’s biggest energy consumption culprits. Heating costs likely take the largest chunk out of your budget. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), space heating accounts for more than 40 percent of the energy used in the average American home. Simple improvements that make your home easier to heat offer you substantial savings. They’ll help control your cooling costs when summer rolls around again too.
Repair Drafty Windows and Doors
Any gap in a home’s structural shell lets cold air inside and allows household heat to escape outdoors. When it comes to air infiltration, a 1/8-inch gap under your front door is equivalent to having a gaping 2.4-inch hole in an exterior wall, according the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Weather-stripping windows and doors is an economical way to eliminate leaks. Caulking a window’s exterior and interior casing helps stop leaks as well.
If you have an older home with single-pane windows, you may wish to consider window replacements. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that drafty, outdated windows can account for as much as 25 percent of your heating bill. Adding storm windows is another option. When combined with weather-stripping, the EPA reports that a quality storm window can achieve the same energy savings as a new dual-pane window.
Address Other Sources of Air Infiltration
Even something as ordinary as a gap around an outdoor water faucet can break a building envelope’s seal. Armed with a can of expanding foam insulation and silicone caulk, take a tour of your home and exam every electrical, plumbing or gas conduit installed in exterior walls and ceilings. Look for gaps around the chimney and the foundation too. One of the most commonly overlooked sources of air leakage are the cans that hold recessed lighting fixtures. Air-tight trim kits are available that will seal up the leaks.
Inspect Air Ducts
For homes with central heating systems, the branching network of air ducts that delivers heat to your living spaces will likely benefit from sealing and insulation. A study conducted by the EPA found that up to 20 percent of the air that passes through ductwork in the average home is lost to leaky ducts. Because efficient performance depends upon maintaining the careful balance between supply and return channels, however, the EPA recommends leaving duct repairs in the hands of qualified professionals.
Take Advantage of No-Cost Strategies
The sun dips lower on the southern horizon during the winter, and unobstructed south-facing windows can contribute to solar heat gain. Trim back outdoor shrubs and trees to let the sunlight help warm your home. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day and close them up tightly at night to hold in the heat. An open fireplace damper can increase your heating costs by as much as 10 percent. Keep the damper closed when not in use.
Finally, consider scheduling a home energy audit. Professional auditors use specialized equipment like blower doors and thermographic scans to identify a structure’s biggest energy wasters. The report delivered at the end of the assessments offers a list of prioritized improvements that will let you see at a glance which improvements will deliver the biggest bang for your buck.
By taking advantage of these tips, you will be well on your way to saving money on your heating costs this winter. Calfinder has a wealth of information to help you not only save money on space heating, but contractors available to assist you with your home improvements.