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Wed, Nov 22, 2017 06:54 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue

Small changes that can add up to big savings


ARH
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11/28/2007 - By the time the first winter chill hits the air, most people have already dusted off their winter coats and prepared themselves for the brisk months ahead. For homeowners, however, readying for the winter involves more than just unpacking the cold weather clothes.

Each year, homeowners overspend on winter utilities because they fail to make several small, but energy efficient, moderations to their home for the winter. Winterizing a home is quick, easy and inexpensive and can help homeowners trim a substantial amount off their wintertime bills. That could be especially important this winter, when the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA) estimates that homeowners nationwide will pay a record amount to heat their homes. For those who use oil heat, NEADA predicts a 28 percent increase from a year ago, pushing the average bill to more than $1,800. While the expected increase is significantly less for natural gas users, an increase is still on the horizon, further emphasizing the importance of winterizing your home before the first cold spell hits.

Inspect and repair all insulation. Most homeowners are fully aware that hot air rises. Still, in spite of that knowledge, most homes that have attics also feature poor insulation in those attics. Even if you spend little time in your attic, it needs to be well insulated to keep your heating costs down. A properly insulated attic could save homeowners a few hundred dollars over the course of a single winter season. A poorly insulated attic, however, will have the adverse effect.

Don't let cold air in. Turning up the thermostat is not the most efficient way to keep your home comfortable. Chances are, if past winters have found you routinely turning up the heat, you have cracks, gaps, or holes throughout your house that are letting cold air in. Cracks around windows and doors are often the culprit when cold air enters a home. Fixing these cracks is inexpensive, and you won't find yourself constantly overcompensating with the heating system. If your windows are on the older side, consider replacing them. While new windows can be a costly expense, in the long run the better insulation they provide will make them more than worth it, particularly in regions where winter lasts for months upon months.

Don't let warm air out. While cracks and holes around windows and doors let cold air in, there are other spots where warm air also escapes a home. This is especially true of areas around electrical outlets on exterior walls. If these outlets are insecure, warm air will escape through them. Such areas are easily fixed with inexpensive caulking or simply by installing new outlet plates and making sure they are snug to the wall.

Inspect and moderate your heating system before winter hits full swing. Homeowners often fail to have their heating systems inspected, and the result can be higher heating bills thanks to dirty heating ducts and old filters. Once these items are cleaned and replaced, homeowners realize results almost immediately.

Another way to save money with your heating system is to use a setback thermometer. A setback thermometer can be set so you can heat the home while you're there, but lower the temperature during the hours when there is usually no one home (such as during school hours or the work day). The cost of heating the home back up when you arrive home at night is far less than the cost of keeping the home heated throughout the day when no one is around.

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