Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall Energy-Savings Tips

5 places to keep the heat in.

Soon enough we’ll have to break down and turn the heat back on. But just because you’ll soon be paying that bill again doesn’t mean that the cost has to be the same. Make use of these easy-to-do ideas and you can keep warm knowing that your energy budget won’t bust the bank.

Your heating:
Heating and cooling comprise about 50 percent of the energy use in the average home. Since this is probably your largest energy expense, here’s where you want to make changes. Keep your radiators, floor registers and baseboard heaters clean. Dust, dirt and pet hair clog your system, making it less efficient. Also, change or clean your filters once a month during the heating season to keep your furnace running at its optimal level. Before the weather turns too cold, have your heating system serviced. You should do this once a year.

Your thermostat:
The setting makes a difference. Don’t turn it higher than 68 degrees when you are home. Lower the temperature even further when you go to bed or when you leave the house. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat so you won’t even have to think about it. Choose models with weekday (for when you’re out of the house) and weekend (when you’re home) settings. You can cut your annual heating bill by up to 10 percent if you lower your thermostat by 10 percent to 15 percent for eight hours a day.

Your insulation:
Inadequate insulation or no insulation just invites the cold air in. Make sure you have enough in your attic, basement and outside walls. For example, if you live in the South, you need R30 to R60 in your attic. If you live in the North, Mid-Atlantic or Midwest, buy R38 to R60. Measure to make sure your insulation is at least 6 inches thick. Be careful! Remember to stay on the joists if you’re walking around an unfinished attic, otherwise you could step through the drywall and create a nice hole in your ceiling. Also, check for air leaks around windows and in plumbing and electrical outlets. Reducing air leaks may cut 10 percent from your monthly energy bill.

Your water:
This is another chunk of your energy bill. Water heating can be the third-largest expense you have, typically accounting for about 12 percent of your utility bill. But there are easy steps you can take to save money. For starters, turn your water heater down to 120 degrees F. Check your model's factory preset to be sure it's set where you want it. Not only does turning down your water heater save cash, but it also can save your children from potentially serious scalding. You can also install water-flow restrictors in showerheads and faucets so that you use less water while bathing or washing dishes.

Your furniture:
Keep clear by making sure your furniture is pulled away from radiators and vents and draperies are not hanging over heating elements. Not only does keeping everything clear help heat circulation, it also prevents fire hazards. Don’t block windows either. In the winter, you want to take advantage of the light during the day, so keep furniture and drapes away. You can make particular use of solar heating on your home’s south side by opening shades and curtains to let the sunlight in. Close them at night to retain heat and to bounce the light from your lamps back into the room.

For more energy-savings tips

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