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Written by Lindsay Crowder   
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Friday, 23 October 2009

Winter Homes

A Guide to Winterizing Your Home!

As the days become shorter and the nights become colder, we know that winter is near. Depending on what part of the country you live, the winter months may also be the most expensive time of year. Heating and cooling systems account for almost half of the total annual cost of home utility bills, and during the colder months, a large percentage of that energy is wasted. By properly “winterizing” your home before the cold arrives, you can significantly reduce your home energy use and costs while also reducing your overall impact on the environment.

BENEFITS for You: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical American household spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills.1 Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted through leaky windows, doors, cracks, and drafty fireplaces. By creating a thorough whole-house energy efficiency plan, you can begin to save from 20-50 percent on utility bills. Not only will you save money, but your home will also feel far less drafty and much more warm and cozy.

BENEFITS for the Environment: An inefficient home during the winter months can take a large toll on the environment. Heating systems require the use of fossil fuels that, when burned, release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, the more heat that is required in your home, the more resources are used and the more emissions are released into the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Energy states that, “heating and cooling systems in the United States together emit 150 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, adding to global climate change. They also generate about 12% of the nation's sulfur dioxide and 4% of the nitrogen oxides, the chief ingredients in acid rain.”2 By creating a more energy efficient home in the winter, you will also be minimizing your footprint on the environment.

Cost: Depending on how far you want to take the “winterizing” process, the cost varies. There are many no-cost to low-cost steps you can take to significantly increase energy savings and reduce emissions. However, if you are looking for long-term energy investments and savings, purchasing new energy-efficient products and upgrades can cost a lot up front but save you money in years to come.

Time & Effort: Again, if you are looking for no to low-cost savings with your pre-existing products, the time and effort is minimal to moderate. Some of the steps are as simple as quickly lowering your thermostat. But if you are looking for long-term savings, it will take some extra time and effort to develop and execute a whole-house energy efficiency plan.

Getting Started: You should begin “winterizing” your home early in the fall season before the temperatures drop too low. If you are considering turning on your heat, you should have already started taking steps to prepare your house for winter. Also, you may want to begin by getting an energy audit in your home—an evaluation performed on homes to determine areas where energy can be used more efficiently. This can be done professionally or you can do it yourself. For more resources, check out Greeniacs Guide, “Get A Home Energy Audit”. Next, you can start using some of the no to low-cost tips on a daily basis and decide if you want to invest in a long-term energy savings plan.

No-Cost and Low-Cost Tips3
• Maximize Natural Sunlight: Open south-facing curtains during the day to allow the heat from the sun to enter your home. At night, keep the curtains closed to maintain heat.
• Cover Windows: Drafty windows can be fixed by applying a heavy-duty clear plastic sheet on each pane. Pre-sized window plastic can be found at most hardware or home improvement stores. You could go further and install insulating drapes or shades to increase energy efficiency. Check out some recommended window treatments and coverings.
• Adjust Your Thermostat: When at home, set your thermostat as low as possibly comfortable and focus on wearing layers or warmer clothes at home. When sleeping, turn your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. For 8 hours at a lower temperature, you can save 10% on your heating bills.
• Find and Repair Leaks: Find the leaks by walking around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets. When the smoke stirs, you have a leak. Then buy or make your own door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to the drafty spots. For a heavier seal, add caulk or weather-stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
• Maintain Heating Systems: Make sure to schedule service for your heating system. If you use a furnace, replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed. For wood or pellet burning heaters, clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of it with a wire brush regularly to maximize efficiency.
• Reduce Heat Loss from Fireplace: Always keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue. When a fire is going, lower your thermostat down to 50F degrees and you could purchase C-shaped metal tubes to circulate cool room air into the fireplace and warm fireplace air back into the room.
• Turn Down your Water Heater: Water heating can account for up to 25% of the energy consumed in your home and it is usually set unnecessarily high. Turn your water heater down to 120F degrees and you will prevent excess energy consumption. To learn how to monitor your water heater, check out this Greeniacs Guide.
• Run Ceiling Fans in Reverse: According to, “Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it seem warmer by making an updraft that sends the warmer air pooled near the ceiling back into the living space. This can cut your heating costs as much as 10 percent.”4
Long Term Energy Saving Investments
In order to receive maximum energy savings and reduce your footprint on the environment, you will need to make long-term investments. When deciding to go this route, it will be important to receive a home energy audit first. This will ensure that you are investing in the right places. Then you will need to make a whole-house energy efficiency plan (for ideas, click here). When you are ready to begin your investment, consider the following:
• Install a Programmable Thermostat
• Add Insulation
• Upgrade your Heating System
• Install Efficient Doors and Windows
• Use Passive Solar Design to Keep Your Home Comfortable
• Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances
• Consider Renewable Technologies
• Landscape for Energy Efficiency
For an extended guide to Long Term Investments, follow up at the U.S. Department of Energy’s site.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 22 August 2011 )