Thursday, October 9, 2008

Winter '08 - prepare your home now

Duke Energy has a request for a 6% increase in utility rates and the Energy Information Administration is predicting 15% average increases in “space heating fuels” this winter (UPDATE: as of Oct. 27th, agreements were reached setting a 2% increase in Duke electricity generation rates from 2009 - 20011.)

Unless you heat with wood or solar energy, you are likely to be impacted to some extent by cost increases. If you’ve seen a recent Lowe’s or Home Depot flyer, you can see they are trying to tap this concern by promoting energy fix ups to your home before heating season begins. While I recommend a whole house energy audit to identify the most cost-effective improvements, here’s some basic things to check before the cold gets here:

  • Have your furnace inspected and cleaned. Furnace filters should be cleaned or replaced each month.
  • Check for gaps around windows, doors, pipes, etc. around your home. Seal with caulk, foam, and weatherstripping as appropriate. You may need to cover drafty windows with plastic sheeting.
  • Determine if there are good opportunities for adding insulation. According to Energy Star research, you could potentially save up 20% on your heating and cooling bills by fixing air leaks and adding insulation. See more in the insulation Do-it-yourself guide. Unfinished basements with no insulation can be a significant source of heat loss and are good candidates for energy savings, but there’s some debate on the proper method of installation. Check the Department of Energy’s consumer guide for more information.
  • Swap out your window screens with glass replacements if you have them.
  • Prepare for emergency power outages. The standard litany of items is always good to have on hand: matches, candles, bottled water, non-perishable foods, etc. An open masonry fireplace generally isn’t an efficient heating source, but could fill in during an outage.

If your windows are in good shape, take advantage of heat from the sun by opening shades on south-facing windows during the day and closing them in the evening. A side note, there are now products available to put in your windows that will act as a heat trap in winter / reflector in summer. I’ll discuss these in a future article.

For more energy saving tips, check out

No comments: