Hey, friends! Happy Friday! Today we’ve got a guest post from our friend, Ruben. Bio: Ruben Keogh is a retired plumber and sprinklerfitter, landscaper and lawn-saver who found his true calling after progressing from apprentice to journeyman blogger. When he acquires enough experience, wit and insight to become a master blogger, he’ll let you know. He hikes, fishes and gardens with his wife whenever possible.
If the gift-giving portion of the holiday season is defined by a celebration of generosity, togetherness and goodwill, the New Year observance is a celebration of change. There are resolutions to improve one’s habits and behavior in the coming year, anticipation for new and exciting changes to come, etc. However, for those of us that live in more northerly climes, there is one constant: when the New Year rolls around, it’s gonna be cold.
Thanks to the wonders of the modern technology developed over so many New Years, though, we have the means to stay warm. The real trick to maintaining that warmth and comfort is doing so with the expenditure of as little fuel and energy as possible. Happily, saving fuel and energy also means saving money. So here are a few cheap and easy hacks for making those savings happen- think of it as a win-win New Years Resolution.
Sealing the Breach
Even the most efficient and efficacious home heating setup is going to burn through energy and your pocketbook if the heat being produced is slipping through a house’s gaps. In fact, every year the average household loses around $350, a full third of their heating and cooling bill, to leaks or gaps through which air enters or exits a house.
Not surprisingly, the chief home heat-loss offenders are the places where breaks in the structure’s construction: windows, doors, pipes coming in and out, etc.
Windows and Doors
The most cost- and labor-intensive step homeowners can take to optimize window heat security is the installation of double-paned windows. If that’s not an option (or if it is, really), more basic but very effective fixes should be implemented. First off, be sure that windows fit well in their frames. Badly-fitting window allow for substantial heat loss. Check around the window, windowpanes, setting and molding for gaps, breaks, cracks, etc. Seal those off with caulk.
Then, if those nicely-fitted and sealed windows aren’t equipped with weather stripping, remedy that. It’s inexpensive and really effective. Also really effective and relatively inexpensive are cellular or “honeycomb” shades. Pretty much all of the same applies to doors as well (with the exception of double panes and shades). Weather stripping on doors is supposed to be checked and/or replaced every two years. If there’s a gap beneath the door too wide for weather stripping, invest in an “under door” draft guard or draft stopped.
Pipes, Studs, Chimneys and Lights
Doing a home energy audit should cover both indoors and out, focusing on the earlier-mentioned places where there are breaks in a home’s construction. Look for gaps or breaks around pipes, faucets, stud cavities, under sinks and the like and then fill those with insulation, caulk or expanding foam insulating foams.
Don’t neglect to consider less obvious weak spots. Some of the biggies include open chimneys and flues (not to mention any breaks or gaps around those chimneys and flues). Another often overlooked troublemaker is the recessed light. Recessed lights generally are at the bottom of vents that open into the attic. As will be soon established, attics are notorious heat-thieves. Having an un-insulated tube leading up to the attic is an abetting of that heat thief, and a costly one.
Basements and Attics
Heat rises and in many of our homes it rises right up to the attic where it escapes. (On a quick tangent- don’t forget about your ceiling fan. Reversing the default direction of that fan recirculates that risen heat through a room, warming it.) Attics, in fact, are responsible for the great majority of home heat loss. Failing to insulate attics or doors (or trap doors, access panel, etc.) is arguably the most energy-efficiency-destroying oversight one can make. If the roof and attic are a house’s head, that head needs a warm hat.
In basements, check around windows, doors and the rest of the aforementioned wall-breaks. They’re often overlooked and, as such, often lead to considerable heat loss.
Your Heating System
Once you’ve cozied-up your abode, trapping its warm air and keeping out the cold, look to your heating apparatus. Becoming familiar with the type of heat-creation enjoyed by your home is the big first step. Is it hydronic, forced air, radiant, steam, geothermal? Become familiar with possible shortcomings and failures attendant to those systems- leaks and rust with hydronic and steam or clogged furnace filters for instance.
Find out what you can do personally to ensure it’s running at its best. Checking and changing that furnace filter is a good example. For everything you don’t feel comfortable dealing with, become familiar (and friendly, if possible) with a good technician and have that technician give your heating system a good once over.
Finally, making the (reasonably-priced) investment in a programmable or “smart” thermostat will pay for itself many, many times over. Proper use of a programmable thermostat saves the average household hundreds of dollars a year. And, as mentioned earlier- making a resolution to do your part in making the world a healthier place by using less energy, while you save money, is a great resolution by any standard.