November 4, 2012

Lower your energy costs this winter

Rising fuel and electricity prices have become increasingly burdensome, a dilemma that poor and middle class Americans are faced with nationwide. We’ve watched the cost of home heating fuel (oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas, even firewood) and electricity double, triple, even quadruple. And it certainly appears that the price is going to continue to redouble as worldwide demand increases.

Most of the folks I talk with are worried that their income will not be enough to assure that they will be able to make ends meet. Some say it’s their number-one concern.

People ask, “What can I do about it?” While it’s true there may be little we can do about the rising cost of energy, there are actually several low-cost and no-cost measures we can take. I’m not talking about sacrificing comfort. I’m talking about becoming more efficient; choosing to make reasonable and lasting reductions in consumption.

Start by taking a walk around your home, inside and out. Note where warm air is being lost through unsealed openings in the walls and ceilings and around windows and doors. Then plug any holes, gaps or cracks you find with caulk, weather stripping or insulating spray foam. Be sure, too, that any existing caulk or weather stripping is not cracked or deteriorated.

Tightly cover windows with plastic, especially if you don’t have storm or thermal windows. Hang drapes or blinds and keep them closed at night and on cold days.

Remove air conditioners whenever possible. If removal is not possible, tightly cover them to reduce drafts and minimize leakage. Reduce energy consumption even more by installing foam draft sealers behind exterior wall electrical switch and outlet faceplates.

Make sure that your home is adequately insulated. Replacing or upgrading your attic insulation to R-30 or more could be the single most important thing you do to reduce heating costs. In homes with crawl spaces, upgrade floor insulation to R-19 and be sure that a vapor barrier is installed to lock humidity and moisture out.

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