A well-sealed and well-insulated home will keep you warmer and will require less work from your heating system. You'll save money and be more comfortable.
Air leaks are the most common culprits in home heat loss. All cracks under doors and windows require weather-stripping or caulking to ensure a good seal.
Installing foam electric outlet gaskets and sealing holes around plumbing will further reduce air penetration into your home. Fireplace dampers need to be closed and sealed well when not in use.
Sealing off your home completely, however, can cause other problems.
"You don't want it so air-tight that moisture is going to build up on the windows," said Betty English, University of Georgia Family and Consumer Science agent for the Richmond County Extension Service office. "It should be insulated correctly, not air-tight."
Insulation is the first line of defense against cold air. An R-value rates insulation according to its ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value rating, the more insulating ability the product has. It can be bought in batts, loose, foam or boards. Be sure to compare prices according to the R-rating, not the thickness of the insulation, because different materials have a variety of ratings and thicknesses.
Georgia Power Co.'s Good Cents program recommends a rating of at least R-30 for attic insulation, R-13 for floor insulation and R-13 insulation in walls, especially exterior walls.
"Attic insulation is probably the No. 1 thing that can be done," said Jeff Slagle, Georgia Power sales representative. "It will save the most money over time and will probably get you a payback fairly quick, usually within a couple of years."
Heating and cooling consume approximately 52 percent of your monthly energy bill. Anything that keeps your heating unit running less will save money.
The easiest way to save money on heat costs is to keep the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Each degree warmer adds about 5 percent to the bill.
You can save even more by reducing the setting by 5 degrees at night. Don't change the setting more than twice a day, morning and night.
So how do you keep warm? Dress in layers. According to Ms. English, wool is the best insulator. Dressing in layers will help keep that thermostat setting comfortable while you save money.
Closing off vents or doors to unused rooms can run the heating bill up instead of down. The closed-off room will get colder, but your heating unit draws in air from everywhere, including the cold room. It takes much more energy to heat up cold air that it does warm air.
Open doors to promote good air circulation so that your home will be an even temperature.
Water-heating makes up another 19 percent of your energy bill each month. If your water heater is in an unheated area such as the garage, basement or crawl space, wrap it and the pipes in insulation to help keep water warmer longer.
Double-glazed windows and insulated foam-core exterior doors will provide a buffer layer of air between the interior and cold exterior,reducing the heat loss. Opening blinds in sunny areas of the house will allow the sun to help heat that room.
Heating units should be serviced before the cold season every year to check for leaks and keep them running smoothly and efficiently. The filters should be checked or changed every active month. Vent grills should be cleaned regularly and not be obstructed by drapes, rugs or furniture that can obstruct the flow of warm air.
Want some more tips, or a customized energy profile?
Georgia Power performs energy audits free of charge. For more information, contact Jeff Slagle at (706) 650-5222.
Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 823-3351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.