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10 Smart Energy-Saving Strategies

Energy bills soaring this winter? Fortunately, you can do something about them. By following some or all of these simple strategies, you can keep a cap on energy usage, while keeping your family comfortable.

1. Add a layer to your attic insulation, especially if your home was built before 1980. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs, according to the Department of Energy. As a general rule, if you have less than 12 inches of insulation in your attic, you probably need more.

2. Turn on the humidifier. By adding moisture to your living space during cooler months, you’ll increase the “heat index” inside your home, and make 68 degrees feel more like 76 degrees. Make sure the relative humidity in the home is between 20 and 40 percent. As the outside temperature falls, lower the percentage to prevent condensation from forming on windows.

3. Install a programmable thermostat. By programming your thermostat to lower your home’s air temperature when no one is home this winter (say, from 72 degrees to 65 degrees during the day), you can save as much as 10 percent on your heating costs. Programmable thermostats are priced from about $30, which you should be able to recoup in the first year of use.

4. Change furnace filters frequently, and clean air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed. By changing filters monthly, you can save as much as 10 percent on heating costs.

5. Close vents to guest rooms. By closing the vents to just one spare bedroom, you’ll probably see a difference in your heating bills. You can open the vents when guests stay over.

6. Let the sun shine in. On cold, sunny days, raise the shades and open the blinds on windows on the south and west sides of your home. This will help heat your home passively. And if you (like half of all homeowners) have single-pane windows in your home, consider replacing them with double-pane windows that include a special coating on the glass to reflect heat back into the room during winter months.

7. Seal the windows. If you can't afford to replace single-pane windows, be sure storm windows are in place. Also, you can block the flow of cold air into your home by installing a clear plastic film across the inside of your windows and frames. Then heat the plastic with a blow dryer until it becomes nearly invisible. The trapped pocket of air between the plastic film and the window acts as an effective insulator, which can help reduce heat loss through the window by 25 to 50 percent. Best of all, it costs only about $4 to $6 per window.

8. Seal the ducts. More than likely, thanks to leaky ductwork, you're heating your attic and basement and wasting energy. That's because small cracks or holes in the ducts leak warm, conditioned air into the unheated spaces through which the ducts travel. So check your ducts for leaks, and use duct mastic (preferable) or duct tape (acceptable) to seal the leaky spots. If you're installing ductwork in an addition or new home, consider installing the ducts in conditioned spaces, or make sure the ducts are well-insulated.

9. Plug the drafts. Caulk, seal and weather-strip around all seams, cracks and openings in your home's exterior, especially around penetrations for cable wires, plumbing pipes, electrical boxes and so forth. Also, pay attention to those spots around windows and where siding or bricks and wood trim meet.

10. Finally, insulate the water heater and pipes. If you haven't insulated your water heater, you may be losing heat into the surrounding area, which in turn will make the water heater work overtime to keep the water hot. Consult your water heater directions or a qualified water heater professional to determine whether your water heater is properly insulated. Also, insulate your pipes to keep the hot water in the pipes warmer longer. Insulating materials for pipes and water heaters are available at hardware and home improvement stores.

Source: Owens Corning.