Thursday, September 25, 2008

12 Ways to Cut Your Heating Bill and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Whether your home is heated by gas, oil, or electricity, your hard-earned money and the earth’s precious natural resources could literally be going out the window. How? Your windows, chimney, and even your air conditioning window unit could be sucking the heat (or cold) right out of your house all year around. Roughly two-thirds of your energy bill goes into heating spaces and half of that energy is wasted. The following are 12 environmentally-friendly tips to help you lower your heating bill and conserve energy—from the basement to the attic.
1.Insulate your basement, attic and integral garage. Put insulation above unheated spaces. This means that if your basement is unheated, you’ll add insulation to the ceiling, which will keep the floors of your home a little warmer. In the attic, insulate the rafters or unventilated crawl spaces.

2.Insulate old water heaters and exposed hot water pipes. Heat could be escaping from older water heaters. As hot water runs through uninsulated pipes, it can cool. Buy insulation wrap and reduce your electric bill by as much as 20 dollars a year. (And, once that old hot water heater breaks, replace it with a more energy-efficient model.)

3.Turn the water heater down. Keep your hot water heating under a comfortable 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

4.Turn down the thermostat. Lowering the setting by 1 Celsius degree during the winter can save about 10 percent in energy use. Likewise, if you have air conditioning, raising the temperature by just a few degrees can reduce energy in the summer.

5.Install a programmable thermostat. You can set it to automatically control the temperature. If you aren’t home during the day, why keep your house warm and toasty?

6.Change furnace air filters every few months. A dirty filter can block warm air. If you have an old furnace, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient model. This will save you money in the long run.

7.Take advantage of natural heat and light. During the day, leave the blinds open to let the warmth of the sun in. Use less electric lighting and instead work with natural light.

8. Close your window coverings at night. This will keep the heat in. If you have curtains or drapes, line them to keep the cold out.

9.Seal drafty windows. If you have single-pane windows, hang storm windows or seal them with plastic to keep the heat in. Double-pane windows are best for energy conservation, so if it is time to replace your windows, choose these. Additionally, caulk or weatherstrip any other openings.

10.Seal doors and close other openings. Feel a draft coming from your door? If you’ve already caulked and weatherstripped, consider putting a rolled up rug or towel in front of your door to stop the draft. Also, remember to seal the hatch to your attic, close your fireplace damper, and remove window air conditioning units. Heat could escape your house from there.

11.Use a humidifier. During the winter months, the air is very dry. Adding a humidifier to your home will cause cooler temperatures to feel warmer.

12.Turn on the ceiling fan. In the winter, reversing your ceiling fan will push warm air down.

Green to the extreme? Consider a different heating method.

*Under-floor heating is one of the most energy-efficient traditional methods. It has one of the highest Energy Star ratings.

*If you are willing to break away from traditional methods, look into solar water heating.

*Consider supplementing your traditional heating system with wood or pellet stoves. Though they are a blast from the past, they have a smaller carbon footprint than other kinds of heating systems. Before installing any wood or pellet burning stoves, check local regulations.

by Julie Young

1 comment:

batticdoor said...

How To Stop Drafts and Save On Energy Bills

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding pull-down attic stair, a whole house fan, a fireplace or clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

Drafts from these often overlooked holes waste energy and cost you big in the form of higher energy bills.

Drafts are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Drafts occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits that caulk and weather-stripping provide to minimize energy loss and drafts.

But what can you do about drafts from the four largest “holes” in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Attic Stairs
When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the attic door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do you see any light coming through? If you do, heated and air-conditioned air is leaking out of these large gaps in your home 24-hours a day. This is like leaving a window or skylight open all year ‘round.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an insulated attic stair cover. An attic stair cover seals the stairs, stopping drafts and energy loss. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

Whole House Fans and Air Conditioning Vents
Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only the drafty ceiling shutter between you and the outdoors.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan shutter seal. Made from white textured flexible insulation, the shutter seal is installed over the ceiling shutter, secured with Velcro, and trimmed to fit. The shutter seal can also be used to seal and insulate air conditioning vents, and is easily removed when desired.

Sixty-five percent, or over 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home, especially during the winter heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the drafts and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

Why does a home with a fireplace have higher energy bills? Your chimney is an opening that leads directly outdoors -- just like an open window. Even if the damper is shut, it is not air-tight. Glass doors don’t stop the drafts either. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking your expensive heated or air-conditioned air right out of your house!

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a Fireplace Plug to your fireplace. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, the Fireplace Plug is an inflatable pillow that seals the fireplace damper, eliminating drafts, odors, and noise. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts
In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold drafts in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.

Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce these drafts. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the drafts. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted drafts, and also keeps out pests, bees and rodents. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

For more information on Battic Door’s energy conservation solutions and products for your home, visit or, to request a free catalog, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.
Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover and an attic access door, and is the US distributor of the fireplace plug. To learn more visit