It’s Time To Batten Down the Hatches and Make Sure Your Home is Ready for Winter
Even here in the South, we still need to worry about the winter cold. Fortunately, the same steps we take to keep out the winter chill can also help to stave off the worst of the summer scorch! Read on for more details.
Courtesy of Time.com
Last year, most of us in the colder states got lucky with one of the warmest winters on record. We didn’t have to crank the heat and cheaper fuel prices staved off high utility bills. But we might not be so lucky this year. Although no one can never truly predict the exact weather months in advance, The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting “exceptionally cold” weather for most areas of the U.S. and some pundits are predicting increased utility costs as a result.
According to the laws of physics, if it’s colder outside, heat will always leave your house without a proper barrier to block its departure, and “experts estimate that 40 million single-family homes in the U.S. need more insulation,” according to Black Hills Energy, which provides gas and utilities to some of the colder states, such as Wyoming, where January temperatures can hover around -5 degrees.
Insulate just about everywhere. Things like improperly installed ceiling fans, chimneys and improperly insulated ducts can whisk heat away and cost you up to 30% of your house’s heating (or cooling) energy, and a whopping 30% of your energy costs could be saved by better insulating your attic or top floor, according to Black Hills Energy. They also state that another 20% of energy can be contained by insulating your exterior walls. And insulating the floor areas over crawl spaces, basements and garages can save another 8% if you insulate properly.
Some insulation jobs might need a professional, and if you’re choosing an insulation contractor, get a few estimates. Once you decide, make sure the contract includes the job specification, cost, method of payment and warranty information provided by the insulation material manufacturer, according to the Insulator Contractors of America. Keep in mind that some types of insulation are better for different areas of the house, and make sure that your contract lists the type of insulation to be used and where it will be used, and that each type of insulation is listed by R-value (which indicates resistance to the passage of heat).
Take a look at your windows, as well. Heat escapes through a single pane of glass almost 14 times faster than through a well-insulated wall, according to Black Hills Energy.
If boosting your home’s energy efficiency seems like too much of a financial hurdle, the Department of Energy has a Weatherization Assistance Program which, according to its website, “provides funding to states, territories and tribal governments to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families, persons with disabilities and senior citizens.” It’s also wise to check with your utility provider since programs are also offered through many utility companies and there may be state programs to assist you as well.
When buying appliances, seek Energy Star labels that indicate lower energy usage, and make sure your lint trap and exhaust trap are cleaned to prevent fire hazards and keep the dryer from working so hard.
Reducing your water heater down to 120 degrees, or turning it off when it’s not needed, can save you more than 20% on energy, according the U.S. Department of Energy. And some appliances and electronics still draw electricity when they’re not in use. Unplugging them or confining them to a power strip that you can flip on and off can help you to lower your utility bill. Also turn off lights when leaving a room, use timers on holiday lights and switch out old, fluorescent bulbs, recommended Rovito.
8. Put Weather Stripping Around Doors
If you can see daylight around your doorframe, or can feel a draft around a gap, get some weather stripping from the hardware store. “A half-inch gap around your door would be the same as a softball-sized hole in your door to let that cold air in,” Morgenstern said.
Residents in some states spend more on their utilities than others, and, if you’re new to an area, or considering a new house and mortgage, it helps to know what an average utility bill will be for your source of fuel so that you can budget ahead. (You can check out our housing cost tool here for more budget planning.) It also helps to know your credit history, because some utility companies will charge you a larger down payment if your credit isn’t stellar. (You can get a snapshot of your credit report for free every 14 days on Credit.com.)
There is a free option that many utility companies offer that levels out your bills so that you don’t have to go into debt, overburden your credit card or become a holiday spending scrooge when you face a large utility bill. It works by mashing up your utility bills over the last year and averaging them into one consistent amount for each month.
For more details and the full article, click here: http://time.com/money/4542472/winter-home-costs-utility-bill/