As a homeowner, there are several things you can do to help you, and your pocketbook get through the cold, blustery winter months in Georgia. Try a few of these cost saving tips, and keep you home running in tip top shape.
This time of year, the winds are brisk, and are just another reminder that winter is right around the corner. Now is the time to ask yourself…Is your home plumbing ready for the sudden change in temperature? If you’re not sure, now is the time to take necessary steps avoid a messy, and undoubtedly costly plumbing issue.
Protect/Wrap your pipes from freezing. If water has the opportunity to freeze inside your pipes, the expanding water creates added pressure and can cause your pipes to burst, flooding your home and ruining your belongings. You should protect the un-insulated pipes on outside walls of your home, by wrapping these pipes in foam tubes. This is a simple and inexpensive way to minimize exposure on the extra chilly days & nights. You can find this pipe insulation at your local home improvement store.
Fix water leaks asap. Complete a comprehensive check of all the faucets in your bathrooms, kitchen, and utility room. Look for any drips or puddles. If you have a leak, you can purchase repair kits from your home improvement store, or it may be a “good time” to replace your faucets. (It’s never really a good time, but you know what we mean!)
Bring in your outdoor hoses. Leaving garden hoses connected outside in the cold can cause the water inside the hose to freeze, expand, and ultimately freeze your faucets and connecting pipes as well. Disconnecting the hose from the spigot can help keep any damage limited to the hose, but it’s best to bring them inside.
Close and your drain your home’s shut-off valves that lead outside. Water that remains inside the lines and freezes can lead to major plumbing damage. Close the shut-off valve, then open the spigot to let out any remaining water, and relieve any pressure. Another good option is to purchase outdoor spigot covers. These help insulate the spigot from the cold, and can keep them from freezing.
If your home has functional windows (windows that open and close), it often makes more financial sense to improve the windows, rather than replace them with energy-efficient windows. First make sure all the latches are indeed closed tightly for the season. Next, inspect the windows to see where the cold air is coming in, or the warm air is going out. Use a high quality caulk to close any gaps and cracks around window frames. Be sure that windows are fully shut before you start, and clean up any mistakes sooner rather than later. Install interior window plastic, that provides an extra layer of dead air. These do-it-yourself kits are available at most hardware stores. Also, for drafty doors, install weather-stripping and door sweeps.
Turn down the thermostat
Homeowners can often save about 2-3% in energy costs for every degree you lower your thermostat around the clock. Lowering the heat from 72º to 65º for eight hours per day can save you as much as 10% on annual heating costs. Try lowering the heat as everyone leaves for the day and just before going to bed. Or use a programmable thermostat; it will automatically turn the heat down, and then have the house warm for you when you need it. There are new thermostats that learn your living patterns an dial in the right temperature accordingly, and several that can be controlled by your smart phone.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Change the rotation direction of your ceiling fan to clockwise! Doing so produces an updraft, pushing heat downwards from the ceiling (remember: hot air always rises). You may be able to reduce your thermostat’s temperature by a degree or two, which saves you money in the long run. This combined with the numerous programmable thermostats, can cut the cost of heating or cooling your home by as much as 33%.
Keep Your Furnace or Boiler In Shape
Oil-fired systems need annual maintenance. Gas systems and heat pumps typically need a checkup every two years or so. Spending a little on a new filter will go a long way toward maintaining the efficiency of your furnace and decreasing your energy bills. if you don't like the throw-away variety, look for a brand that you can clean... and keep like new throughout the year.
Let The Heat Reach You
Dust or vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters, and furnace duct openings often and keep them free of obstructions like furniture, carpets, and drapes. You can have the ducts cleaned by a professional, in the event you feel your ducts are particularly dirty.
Close Your Fireplace Dampers
An open fireplace damper pulls warm air (air you've paid to heat) from the house, and sends it outside, wasting energy and money...even when there is no fire. Remember to only close dampers after the ashes have gone cold.
Keep the Warmth In and Cold Air Out
A typical house has many places where air can move between living spaces and the attic, and between the basement and outdoors. The result is colder rooms and higher heating bills. The solution is to seal gaps and then put in sufficient, well-installed insulation. The most effective, energy-saving solution is to hire a professional.
Replace your incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use up to 75% less energy. Also, be aware that many kinds of home electronics and office equipment use power even when off. You can control this ongoing energy waste by plugging devices into a power strip and just turning it off when you're not using the equipment. Also, ask an associate at your hardware store about a new, advanced power strip that automatically shuts off power to any idle equipment.
Update Your Appliances
You can save up to 30% on your energy bills and improve your comfort by working with a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractor. These specially trained Georgia contractors can perform an energy audit of your home and make recommended improvements, such as air sealing and insulation. Take advantage of incentives from your local energy provider, when you complete energy efficiency improvements through a certified Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractor.