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Use Less Gas
Saving money on natural gas isn't just about adjusting your thermostat. Weather-proofing your home can have a significant impact on your energy usage—and your savings!
Take this test: If a playing card fits the crevice of an outside door or window, you need more weather stripping. Caulk and weather-strip to stop air leaks around windows, doors, exhaust fans, and any other place where wires or pipes pass through walls. Replace any caulk that has cracks or is no longer soft.
You can install storm and/or replacement windows, but they may not be the best use of your energy improvement dollars because of their high cost and long payback. A low-cost alternative is 6-mil plastic, which you can use to "make" storm windows. Be sure to stretch it as tightly as you can. If you use these homemade storm windows on the inside of your regular windows and attach them carefully, they can last through several seasons. You can also find homemade kits at home improvement stores.
Keep out winter air by covering your window air conditioners tightly on the inside with thick plastic or special air conditioner covers. Weather-strip around the units to block drafts.
Cover bare ground beneath your home with a vapor barrier to keep moisture from getting into your home. Polyethylene sheets work well. Since a third of your air conditioner's energy is spent removing moisture, vapor barriers can make a noticeable dent in your energy bills.
If you have a crawlspace, open your foundation vents each spring and close them each fall.
Planning to replace your roof? Consider roofing materials with reflective coatings and/or choose light-colored roofing to greatly reduce heat absorption.
Carefully plan your landscaping to help to reduce your energy costs and increase indoor comfort.
Plant deciduous trees like oak, maple, gum, ash and dogwood. They lose their leaves in the winter, letting the sun through to warm your home. In summer, their leaves shade your home. Plant shade trees to the south, since that side gets the most sun.
Evergreens are effective for blocking wind. Plant them in a staggered or double line to the northwest of your home.
Smaller foundation plants can minimize the loss of cool air away from the house in summer and, in winter, provide additional wind protection.
These are low and no-cost measures, but you should consider other important adjustments that you can make to your heating and cooling systems. For instance, changing your thermostat setting costs nothing, takes only minutes to change, and can save as much on fuel bills as insulation, storm windows, or weatherstripping. Maintaining your heating/cooling system regularly is as important as maintaining your car. Just as a tuned-up car will last longer and get more miles for every gallon of fuel, your heating system will give you longer service and more heat for every unit of fuel. A more efficient heating system saves you money, because you need to use less fuel to get the same amount of heat.
Save Money: Maintain Your Appliances
Save money on your household electrical bill by using less electricity and by using your lights and appliances more efficiently. Here are some tips to help you reduce your energy bill for appliances and keep them in top working order.
- Test the fit of your refrigerator or freezer door by closing the door over a piece of paper so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper out easily, the latch may need to be adjusted or the gasket replaced.
- Keep the fan coils clean on refrigerators, space heaters, and air conditioners.
- Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are located in a cool spot; direct sunlight or heat from an adjacent appliance can place a harmful and expensive strain on cooling appliances.
If you are planning to replace or add new home appliances, buy only those that offer maximum energy efficiency for your dollar. Look for the Federal Trade Commission “Energy Star” label to guide your choice of appliances. These labels are pasted on refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, freezers, clothes washers, water heaters, and room air conditioners, and they will help direct you towards the most energy-efficient options.
As much as 80 percent of air leakage gets in through areas other than windows and doors:
- Where the wooden sill of the house meets the foundation
- Where dryer vents and fan covers pass through the wall
- Where plumbing pipes and telephone wires enter the house
- Where any two different outside materials meet
- Where the fireplace chimney meets the siding
Fill these cracks in the interior and exterior of your house with caulk. Use only caulking compounds which are flexible over large temperature ranges and that will last for many years. These include acrylic-latex, acrylic-terpolymer, phenolic, latex, monomer, butyl and silicone caulks. They may cost a little more, but are worth it.
The pipes or ducts which deliver heating, cooling, and hot water throughout your home should be kept in good condition. This will not only save money on fuel bills, but also guard against costly repairs or disruption of service. Here are some tips on how to take care of them:
- Seal Leaky Pipes. Tighten or plug leaking joints in hot water or steam pipes. A leaking joint or faucet can lose 1 to 10 gallons of hot water a day! Also, repair or replace leaking valves. You may be able to repair these kinds of problems if you have the proper tools. Otherwise, have your plumber fix them.
- Seal Leaky Ducts. On hot air heating system ducts, leaky joints will send hot air where it may not be needed. You can easily fix duct leaks yourself using duct tape, available at most hardware stores.
- Guard Against Freezing Pipes. It often makes more sense to keep water pipes warm with insulation and “heat tape” rather than to heat the space around the pipes. “Heat tape” is a tape-like piece of plastic which turns on when the temperature falls below a preset level. It is available at most hardware stores with installation instructions. For best results, fiberglass pipe insulation must be installed over the heat tape.