By Gene And Katie Hamilton
According to the U. S. Department of Energy, the typical family spends almost $1,300 a year on their home's utility bill. You can lower your energy bill by 10% to 50% with simple and inexpensive improvements that button up your house to keep cold air out and warm air inside.
First, try these no cost improvements. Rearrange furniture so it doesn't cover the cold air returns in the floor so heated air can flow freely. In sunny side rooms open draperies and raise shades to let Mother Nature heat the space and close them at night. Use a heavy window shade or drapery to keep cold air out in north-facing rooms. And when you're not using a fireplace, close the damper. Feel cold air coming from electrical outlets or receptacles on exterior walls? Remove the plate covers and insert an inexpensive foam switch and wallplate sealer that cuts down the draft.
Inspect the condition of weatherstripping and replace material if it's old and worn. Look at exterior doors, windows, on a door or access panel to an unheated attic, crawl space or attached garage. Follow this link to learn what's involved and how much it costs to Weatherproof a Door.
Look at the thresholds of all exterior doors. The gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold should be tightly sealed with a gasket in the threshold or on the bottom of the door. If you can see light or feel a draft replace the gasket. Here's a link about what's involved and how much it costs to Replace a Door Threshold.
At the first sign of cold weather install storm windows or replace screens with storm panels in combination storm doors and windows. Here are links to what's involved and how much it costs to Install a Storm Door and Install a Storm Window.
To seal a drafty old window try this quick-fix. Get an inexpensive interior storm window kit, which has enough plastic sheeting and double-faced tape to cover the average size window. Apply the tape around the window, press the plastic film in place and use a hair dryer to shrink the film for a clear, tight fit. Follow this link to learn how easy it is and how much it costs to Weatherproof a Window.
If the loose fill insulation in your attic isn't 12 inches deep add rolls of poly-wrapped fiberglass insulation. Cut the rolls to size with a heavy scissors and lay the pieces on top of the existing insulation. Click here to learn what's involved and how much it costs to Insulate an Attic with Fiberglass Batts.
Use a foam sealant to fill the gaps and cracks around joints in the siding, electrical outlets and water spigots on the exterior of you house. And replace old caulk around window frames with a cartridge of good quality caulk. Follow this link for how much it costs to Caulk Windows.
The Alliance to Save Energy says you can expect to save about 3 percent on your winter heating bill for each degree you lower your thermostat. Install a Programmable Thermostat and set it to automatically lower the heat at night and when no one is home and raise it in the morning or before the family returns home.
Have an annual tune up by a heating professional for an oil fired unit and at least every other year for a gas fired unit. Remember to clean or replace air filters in a forced air system once a month so it runs efficiently. And if you plan to replace windows, a furnace, heat pump or appliances look for the Energy Star label on the product to assure you it meets energy efficiency standards.