Raise your home’s efficiency to lower your heating bills

If AccuWeather is right, the Lehigh Valley is in for a colder, snowier winter this year than last. And even though winter didn’t officially begin until Dec. 21, we’re already well into our heating season. To help you lower your energy bills, LCA has put together a list of quick fixes, most of which can be done in a weekend or less. 

  1.  If you have forced-air heat, check the ductwork for leaks. Even one leaky duct can translate into hefty heating bills. You can use regular duct tape, but you’ll have better results with metal-backed tape and mastic tape.
  2.  Caulk around windows; seal cracks in the foundation; and seal areas where pipes or exhaust ducts exit or enter the building. Caulking is one of the cheapest fixes you can make, and the results can be felt immediately. Add a can of spray foam insulation to seal larger cracks and watch the savings add up. To find areas where air is leaking in, light a stick of incense, and then hold it near windowsills or areas where you suspect there’s a leak. If the smoke gets sucked toward the wall, or starts getting blown around, you’ve identified an area that needs to be sealed.
  3.   Another cheap fix is an often-overlooked one: air filters. A furnace or air conditioning system relies on good airflow. Dirty filters block that flow and make the system work harder – and less efficiently. Eventually, the wear and tear on the system can result in a large repair bill. Filters should be changed at least every three months (more frequently in dusty environments) for best results.
  4.   Add insulation. Start in the attic, which is often the easiest area to access and provides the biggest savings payoff. In most cases, you can just add an extra blanket on top of what’s already in place. If you’re taking out old insulation and starting fresh, be sure to use spray foam insulation to seal up any cracks or holes you find, and seal any areas where wires or pipes go through the ceiling or to the outside.
  5.   Install programmable thermostats, and set them to lower the temperature when you’re away and raise it when you’re home. If you have electric radiant heat, you can usually program each room. Bedrooms can be set to warm up shortly before bedtime, and then cool down later in the evening when you’re snug under the covers. To really see some savings, don’t set the temp too high: 68 degrees F is usually plenty warm enough for comfort; if not, you can always wear warmer clothes. Let the thermostat drop to 60 or lower when you’re away. And don’t fall for the urban legend that it’s cheaper to keep a room at a constant temperature and harder to warm it up after the thermostat has been set back. That’s actually a far bigger drain on the wallet.
  6.  Do the water heater wrap. You can purchase an insulated jacket to do the job, but some leftover insulation can do the trick just as well. Before you start, set the thermostat (some have two) to 120 degrees F. or lower. You’ll not only save energy, you’ll also prevent accidental burns at the sink and in the shower.
  7. Let the sunshine in. During the day, open curtains on south-facing windows for some free solar heat; at night, close them. Insulated panel curtains work best.