Autumn is officially here on Sept. 23, and with it comes the dread of higher heating bills. Whether you rent or own your home, there are several easy and inexpensive ways to cut down on winter heating costs.
Renters can discuss these options with landlords to see what they (landlord) will allow to be done to their property. They might allow you to do it, hire someone else, or do it themselves but be sure to ask before purchasing any materials.
Here are some ways to get your home ready for Old Man Winter:
• Clean out your gutters. Removal of leaves and other debris can help prevent the formation of icicles/ice dams later than can cause damage to the gutters, windows, siding and other areas of your home.
• Flush the water heater to get rid of particles and sediment that can hinder the unit’s heating efficiency. Be sure to turn the gas or electric power off while doing this as a safety precaution and to avoid possible damage to heating elements. Turn off the cold water supply and open up a hot water faucet to drain as much water as you can before flushing. Completer instructions can be found online or by asking a plumbing professional.
• If you have ceiling fans, make sure the switch (usually located on the side of the housing/motor area of the fan) is set so that the blades will turn in a clockwise rotation. This forces the warm air that rises to the ceiling back down to the floors and living areas.
• Use draft guards under doors to help save heat loss that occurs will ill-fitting doors. If you don’t want to purchase them, a rolled up towel will do the same thing.
• Weatherstrip tape can be placed around the edges of doors and windows to ensure a tighter seal and reduce drafts and air leaks.
• Insulate the entire window, including frame, with plastic film insulation kits found at most hardware and home improvement stores. These products can reduce up to 70 percent of heat from leaking out windows. There are also window insulation products that stick directly to the glass pane of your window and do not require any tape or adhesive to install them.
• Get your heating system checked/cleaned to make sure it is working properly. Replace filter(s) to improve the efficiency and longevity of the unit. This can also reduce the costs of heating your home.
• Consider installing a programmable thermostat. The US Department of Energy states that for every degree the thermostat is lowered it can result in a 1 percent cost savings (i.e. 1 degree = 1 percent; 1 percent on a $450 bill = $4.50; 5 degrees = 5 percent ($450 bill) = $22.50). Programmable thermostats allow you to lower the temperature at night or when you are away from home for several hours/days.
• Install fiberglass insulation around basement doors, windows in unused rooms and window air-conditioners. Adequate insulation in attic floors can block warm air from the living area from escaping. Check with the home improvement or hardware store to know how much insulation you need in your attic floor. If you install fiberglass insulation yourself, be careful and wear gloves. Find out more about installing fiberglass at http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/DIY_Guide_May_2008.pdf.
• Caulking around windows, doors, and siding can close those gaps that remain after the items mentioned above have been completed. Pull off moldings inside and fill any gaps that cannot be filled with insulation.
• Unused fireplaces can let cold air in and warm air out. Make sure the damper is closed. If the damper is missing or broken you can get it replaced or you might consider getting a chimney balloon (cost approx. $55). Both these items can usually be found at a home improvement or hardware store.
For more tips on home winterization, contact Jeannie Mullins at the Lee County Extension Office, 276-346-1522 or your local Extension office at http://www.ext.vt.edu/offices/.
Jeannie Mullins is the Lee County extension agent for family and consumer sciences, and unit coordinator.