Stay warm, $ave money

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No-cost, low-cost tips save energy in winter

By Greg Summers

Although winter doesn’t start until Dec. 21, there are some no-cost and low-cost steps that can be taken to reduce household energy consumption and costs on a daily basis.

Take advantage of heat from the sun

– Open curtains on your south-facing windows during daylight hours to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home. Close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Cover drafty windows

– Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your windows during cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.

– Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

Adjust the temperature

– When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.

– When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees. This will save about 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set the temperature back.

Find and seal leaks

– Seal air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (plumbing penetrations), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.

– Add caulk or weather-stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

Maintain your heating system

– Schedule a service for your heating system. Find out what kind of maintenance is needed to keep it operating efficiently.

– Replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed.

Reduce heat loss from the fireplace

– Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.

– When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly (about 1 inch) and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50 and 55 degrees.

– If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.

– Consider installing tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system  that blows warmed air back into the room.

– Buy a fireplace grate made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.

– Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.

Lower your water heating costs

– Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees). Water heating can account for 14 percent to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Turning it down not only saves energy, it also prevents scalding.

– U.S. Department of Energy