Now’s the time to conserve resources and dollars by winterizing your home. “If you put some time, money, and effort into energy efficiency, you’ll stop shivering not only on a cold winter’s night but also when you pay your utility bills,” says Paul Kriescher, a certified energy rater with Lightly Treading Energy and Design in Denver. He offers the following tips for weatherproofing your home.
TIP 1 >>> Replace single-pane windows, especially those with metal frames. “Every insulating material has an R-value that represents how well the material insulates,” says Kriescher. “The higher the rating, the better the material’s insulating power. Single-pane windows usually have an R-value of 1, practically the lowest possible rating.” According to Kriescher, a typical home can lose 10 percent to 30 percent of its heat through poorly insulated windows and doors. He notes that the metal-framed windows installed in many older homes are particularly inefficient because the metal conducts unwanted cold and heat into your house. Replacement options include wood, fiberglass, or vinyl-framed double- or even triple-pane windows. Or you could consider adding less expensive interior storm windows to your existing windows. If you own a historic home and want to maintain its look, a certified energy rater (see Tip 6) can recommend a window restorer who custom-builds exterior storm windows.
TIP 2 >>> Install quilted insulating shades or Silhouette blinds (made of two pieces of fabric with an air space in between), which is less expensive than replacing windows but may have similar effects. “High-quality insulated window coverings can be even better than new high-performance windows,” says Kriescher. “A typical homeowner could save $50 to $100 a year on heating bills, and they’ll be more comfortable as well.” For maximum benefit, Kriescher advises opening blinds on sunny winter mornings, then closing them when the sun goes down. The trapped solar heat reduces the need to run your furnace at night. Look for window coverings with at least an R-3 value, and make sure coverings reach all the way to the windowsill for maximum heat-trapping efficiency.
TIP 3 >>> Wrap your water heater in a fiberglass blanket (available from any home improvement center) with at least an R-6 value. You’ll spend less than $15 and save up to $25 a year—a simple fix that pays for itself quickly. To save an additional $5 a year, Kriescher says, “Invest another $5 in R-2 foam pipe wrap and wrap the first few feet of the hot and cold water pipes coming off your water heater.”
TIP 4 >>> Use a programmable thermostat to set your heat back by about 6 degrees when you’re asleep or out of the house, and you’ll save 10 percent or more a year, says Kriescher. For example, notch it down from 70 degrees to 64 degrees. Although you can do this manually as well, the programmable thermostat never needs reminding. You can also use it to efficiently “preheat” the house before you get up or come home from work.
TIP 5 >>> Apply caulk or weather stripping anywhere you feel a draft or see daylight around a door, window, bath fan, electrical outlet, or recessed light, advises Kriescher. Look for latex caulk, which is much lower than other caulk types in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that can pollute indoor air.
TIP 6 >>> Schedule a home energy audit by an independent energy rater to pinpoint where your home is losing heat and target improvements that fit your budget. To find a certified energy rater in your area (along with other energy-saving tips) visit www.energystar.gov. “An independent energy audit is like a physical exam for your house, and the objective isn’t to sell something but to help get your house in better health,” says Kriescher. Audits start at about $150, and many energy raters will apply the cost of the audit to any work they do on your home.