November 2004
Reduce Your Winter Energy Bill

Is your home ready for cold weather? Perform a winter home check-up. It's easy and can save you money. A home check-up evaluates the home's appliances, structure and the habits of each occupant.

Linda Brock, an energy specialist for Walton EMC, says that it doesn't matter how conservative you might be. "If your appliances are old or poorly maintained, your energy bill can still be high."

How well do your appliances work? Check the efficiency, condition and size of all your appliances. And also consider the number of appliances your household uses. Could you eliminate any unnecessary appliances?

Next, call a licensed heating and air contractor for a tune-up and inspection on your home's heating and cooling system at least once a year. If the system is old, consider upgrading. Replace or clean the system's air filter once a month, depending on the type of filter.

"Dirty filters cause the system to work harder for a continuous airflow," Brock says. "Avoid blocking inside vents with furniture or rugs."

Check the home's ductwork for leaks. Leaks can waste up to one-third or more of the heated air your system produces. This means you're paying for that extra one-third heat produced.

"Small adjustments can make a big difference in energy use," Brock says, "like sealing and insulating ductwork." Wrap all seams and joints. Seal joints with mastic compound or use a good quality duct tape (U.L. standard 181). Wrap ducts with R-value 6 duct insulation.

According to the American Gas Association, reducing air leaks could save an average household as much as 10 percent on a monthly energy bill. Air can also move through cracks around windows and doors. You might consider upgrading the caulking and weather-stripping around windows and doors. Don't forget to check the garage and basement.

Avoid unwanted air exchange with the attic by using an insulated cover over the access door. Is the attic's insulation and ventilation adequate? For more information on saving energy in the attic, read the article "Saving Energy in the Attic" in the August newsletter at www.waltonemcgas.com.

Install a programmable thermostat so you can better manage your home's temperature while you're at home or away.

"It's recommended that you keep your thermostat set at 68 degrees during the winter," Brock says. "But at night or when you're away, turn the thermostat down. Instead of monitoring the thermostat 24 hours a day, a programmable thermostat will save your settings and automatically make adjustments for you."

This winter, avoid comparing your energy bill with your neighbor's bill. Every home is different, including the home's construction, appliances and also the habits of its occupants.

And remember when you get your gas bill, you're actually being billed for the gas you used a few weeks ago. The weather today isn't the same as six weeks ago – it may have been colder or even warmer.

Fight the cold weather this winter. Reduce your energy bill and keep your home's appliances and the heating system working efficiently.