With guest writer Chris Cherniak
As the leaves turn and fall to the ground it’s time to start thinking about tucking things up for winter. Part of that process involves buttoning up the home to insure comfort, health and cost savings. According to the EPA heating accounts for 34% of all utility usage. One of the most cost effective ways to save is to seal and insulate the “envelope” of your home.
If you prefer professional help, you can hire a BPI certified energy rater to conduct an energy audit. An audit is the best way to identify energy losses in the form of air leaks and missing insulation in your home. Energy efficiency expert David Johnson of What’s Working in Boulder Colorado says, “Air leaks can account for 25% of an average energy bill, and this is one of the most profound steps that you can make for the betterment of your home’s comfort and reducing the amount of your monthly bill.” If a professional audit is not in your budget you could consider purchasing an infrared thermometer to help you measure surface temperatures and pin point problem areas on your own.
Here is a checklist of a few low-cost, activities you can perform to button up your home and in most cases you will not need to rely on a professional for help:
Around the House
- Caulk & weather strip doors and windows that leak air.
- Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
- Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
- If you can access your attic, look for dirty spots in your insulation. This may be a sign of an air leak. Seal these leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose.
- Use foam sealant on larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where warm air may leak out and cold air leak in.
- Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
- Keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use. In older homes, this can be a major source of cold air into the home.
- Check your dryer vent to be sure it is not blocked. This will not only save energy, but may prevent a fire.
- Check and tune up your heating system
- Install a Smart thermostat: optimize your home’s energy-efficiency by setting pre-programmed temperatures for different situations, seasons and times.
- Swap out summer curtains for heavier drapes.
Outside the House
- Trim back bushes & trees to take advantage of the sun’s heat, and remove screens on your sun-facing windows. Screens can absorb 30-40% of solar energy, which translates to 3-10% of total fuel.
- If you have north facing windows that don’t get winter sun, leave the bushes untrimmed, they might warm the outer walls by a few degrees.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services offers a Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to homeowners and renters that qualify. WAP helps low-income individuals and families reduce energy costs and improve the safety of their homes.
Residents of Summit County can go to: housinguc.org/weatherization-assistance/weatherization/ to learn more about the program and if they qualify for WAP.