Stop fireplace heat loss
Wood-burning fireplaces can warm
up a room, but more often, they rob
a house of heat by letting it escape
up the chimney. If you have a modern
fireplace with a cold air intake
from outside, make sure you equip
it with an airtight door. If you have
an older fireplace that uses room
air for combustion, equip it with a
door that has operable vents. And
only keep those vents open when
you have a fire in the fireplace.
Otherwise, heat will constantly be
sucked out of the house.
Airtight doors have gaskets that
seal the doors to stop air leaks.
Prices are more expensive than regular doors, but they’ll pay for themselves in energy savings.
Enter “fireplace doors” in a search
engine to find local retailers. Also consider a chimney-top
damper, which stops heat loss.
Install quilted curtains to block drafts
If you're turning up the heat in the house to compensate for drafty windows, consider quilted curtains, which can increase your comfort and let you keep the temp down. The curtains are available in various colors, patterns and sizes. Enter "quilted curtain" in a search engine to find retailers. A curtain can be installed in less than 10 minutes on your existing
Turn down the heat and still be comfortable
We all know the mantra by now—
turn down the thermostat during
the winter months and you’ll save
money. And it’s true. According to
the Department of Energy, for
every degree you lower the thermostat,
you’ll save 1 percent on
your energy bill. But turning down
the heat has a big drawback—you
have to wear extra clothes to stay
warm. The solution? Use a space
heater to stay comfortable in the
room where family members gather,
like the living room. Fireplaces
and fireplace inserts can provide
space heating, but electric heaters
are the easiest way to warm up a
Baseboard, fan-forced air and
oil-filled electric heaters all have
roughly the same energy efficiency,
although oil-filled units are the
quietest (but are also larger and
heavier). You’ll have to turn down
the heat enough (usually 5 degrees
F or more) to offset the cost of the
electricity used by the space heater
and still pocket a savings. Space
heaters range from basic budget models to expensive, depending on
benefits like remote control, a programmable
thermostat and safety
features. You can buy them at
home centers, discount stores and
A towel warmer
can act like a small space heater
for your bathroom and provide
you with a toasty towel after
bathing. There are freestanding
units and units that mount to the
wall and are plugged in or hardwired.
Towel warmers are available
at online retailers. Towel
warmers don’t save energy, but
they can keep you warm in the
bathroom when the house thermostat is turned down.
Make your windows work for you
Keep open the blinds or drapes on windows with direct sun exposure (usually on the south side of the house) to let the sunlight heat the room. Heating doesn't get any cheaper than this! At night, close the blinds or drapes to cover the cold glass.
Dispelling Energy Saving Myths
Some energy-saving myths have
been repeated so many times that
people believe they’re true. We’re
here to set the record straight.
Myth 1: Replacing windows is a good investment
New windows can increase security
and comfort, but they’ll take 20 to
30 years to pay for themselves.
Replacing single-pane windows
with double-pane low-e windows
will save energy and money, according to
the Energy Star program Web site, but In a house with 20
windows, it’ll take you almost 24
years to recoup the cost of the new
Myth 2: Exterior caulking is the best way to seal leaks
Done correctly, exterior caulking
keeps out water. But if you want to
make your house more energy efficient,
work inside, not outside. Seal
attic air leaks and spray expanding foam in
basement leaks, such as around
cables coming into the house.
Myth 3: Closing registers saves energy
Most heating duct systems have so
many leaks that closing a register
won’t force more warm air into
other rooms—it will force more air
out of the leaks.
In addition, forced-air heating
systems are designed to operate
with all of the registers open. The
fixed-speed blower won’t perform
as well with registers closed and
can create a whistling in the ducts.
If in the winter you want to close
off a portion of your house, like the
upstairs, talk to a rep from your furnace
company or a heating specialist
to determine the best way to save energy with your furnace.
Cut heat loss with storm windows
Storm windows aren’t new, but they’re definitely
improved: New ones open and close and can be left
on year-round. Some offer low-emissivity coatings to
further cut heat loss. You can use low-e versions
even if your windows already have a low-e coating.
According to the Department of Energy, almost half of U.S.
homes have single-pane
Windows are major
sources of heat loss,
but low-e storm windows
can reduce that
heat loss by more
than 50 percent.
You’ll see the biggest payback when they’re used
over single-pane windows. But don’t use storm windows
over aluminum windows—heat buildup
between the two windows can damage the aluminum,
and drilling holes for installation can cause leaks.
You can buy or special-order storm windows at
home centers, but you may have trouble finding low-e
models and may need to search online. Storm windows are much less expensive than replacement windows. Measure the height
and width of the window (from
the outside) before ordering.
Do-it-yourself installation takes about 30 minutes per window.
Seal basement air leaks
Sill plates and rim joists are usually poorly insulated
(if at all) and very leaky. So if you have an unfinished
basement, grab some silicone or acrylic latex caulk to
seal the sill plate. If you simply have fiberglass insulation
stuffed against the rim joist, pull it out. Run a
bead of caulk between the edge of the sill plate and
the top of the foundation wall. Use expanding spray
foam anywhere there are gaps larger than 1/4 in.
between the sill and the foundation. For hollow-block
foundations, stuff fiberglass insulation in the
holes, then seal it with expanding foam.
Caulk along the top and bottom of the rim joists
and use expanding foam to seal around holes for electric,
water and gas lines. Then cut rigid foam insulation
to size and place it against the rim joist. Caulk around all four sides of the foam insulation.
Use an infrared thermometer to find drafts
If your home is drafty, check it with a thermal leak detector or infrared thermometer. The battery-operated hand-held tool uses infrared sensors to identify spots that are warmer or colder than the surrounding area, signifying an air leak or poor insulation. Of course, you have to do some detective work to figure
out the problem and how to fix it. The detectors are available at some home centers and online.
Add attic insulation
In most homes, but especially
in older homes,
adding insulation in the
attic will cut heat loss.
At a minimum, homes
should have attic insulation
between R-22 and
R-49 (6 to 13 in. of loose
fill or 7 to 19 in. of fiberglass
batts). Check with
the local building department or look online
to find the recommended
level for your
Stick your head through the attic access door and
measure how much insulation you have. If your insulation
is at or below the minimum, adding some will
lower your heating bills.
If you need to add more, go
with loose-fill insulation rather
than fiberglass batts even if you
already have fiberglass. Loose
fill is usually composed of cellulose
or fiberglass and lets you
cover joists and get into
crevices. You can
rent a blower and do the job yourself for
less than half that cost of a pro, but it’s a messy job and you
have to watch your step so you don’t go through the drywall “floor” in the attic.
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Get an energy audit
A surefire way to find air leaks and identify insulation
problems is to have an energy audit. The audit, which
takes two to three hours, uses a blower door test and
an infrared camera to pinpoint leaks and identifies
ways to improve energy efficiency. Schedule the audit through your utility company and ask about rebates.
An energy audit is worth the investment because it’s
almost impossible to find most sources of energy loss on
your own. You’ll get a detailed report listing upgrades you can make to cut heat loss and use less energy.