Here are several tips from the housing experts at HouseMaster to help keep homeowners warm and heating expenses down during the cold winter months:

  • Make sure attic insulation meets locally recommended levels (check with the building official or utility company). In most areas, the minimum insulation level is 6-10 inches, or a thermal resistance rating of R-19 to R-30.
  • Insulate garages containing heating units and water heaters (but make sure adequate combustion air is still provided).
  • Fully weatherstrip all home entry doors.
  • Install a storm door with an automatic closer at uninsulated entry doors.
  • Install separate storm panes at windows that are not the multi-glaze, insulated type, including picture windows.
  • Fill and caulk cracks around windows, doors, and other wall penetrations to reduce air leakage and moisture infiltration.
  • Clear leaves and dirt from around the outdoor coils for heat pump units.
  • Limit the use of exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms, except when needed to remove excessive moisture or maintain indoor air quality.
  • Insulate hot water pipes and heating ducts in unheated crawlspaces or attics to prevent heat loss; also insulate cold water pipes to prevent burst pipes.
  • Clean or change the filter on your furnace regularly so that it will run more efficiently. Dirty filters can increase operating costs and affect the life and efficiency of heating and air conditioning equipment.
  • Install a programmable thermostat that can be set to automatically turn heat on and off (lowering the temperature at night or while you're at school/work and returning it to the desired setting before you wake or arrive home).
  • Have your heating system serviced annually by a qualified heating serviceperson before each heating season to keep it functioning efficiently and properly.
  • Remove or cover window or thru-the-wall air conditioning units.
  • Keep vents open in unconditioned areas, such as unfinished attics or crawlspaces, all year round. While closing these vents in the winter may help reduce heat loss, doing so in many cases will contribute to moisture buildup and condensation concerns. Keeping the vents open helps ensure adequate outdoor air circulates. The "cold roof" conditions also help to reduce ice dams and associated leakage problems in areas subject to snow.

To continue to save energy during the warm summer months:

  • Avoid opening windows and exterior doors when the air conditioning system is running, unless needed to remove excess humidity or strong cooking odors.
  • Check caulking around windows and door cracks to reduce air and moisture leakage.
  • Clear leaves, dust and grass clippings from around the outdoor air conditioning unit.
  • Change replaceable air filters and clean usable filters every month.
  • When installing new air conditioning or heating equipment, make sure it is not oversized. An improperly sized unit uses more energy than necessary and may not provide a comfortable indoor environment.
  • Avoid using heat-producing appliances such as the oven, dishwasher, and clothes dryers during the day since heat from those appliances typically increases the demands of air conditioning.
  • Use exhaust fans sparingly when the air conditioning system is in use.
  • Turn off all electrical appliances, including lamps and TVs when not in use. Even computers and monitors can contribute to house heat.

Have your cooling system professionally checked and serviced annually to keep it functioning properly and efficiently. While many of these items can be accomplished by the typical homeowner at a relatively low cost, some projects may require the services of a qualified professional and significant cost. Any expected energy savings from a particular improvement must be weighed against the cost to implement it; however, consideration should also be given to the improved comfort level within your home that may be attained.

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