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5 Home Energy Improvements Ahead of Winter

Set aside an afternoon, a day, or a weekend to make some home energy improvements ahead of winter – you’ll save money and your family will be more comfortable.
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person wearing gloves rolling out insulation

Old Man Winter is bearing down on New England, and we never know what he has in store for us. Fall is a great time to make some of the home energy improvements you may have been putting off – small changes that will not only save you money on your energy bill, but also improve the comfort of your home.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 10% on your energy bill just by turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day.

 

Stop the Draft

Doors and windows can be a significant source of heat loss, but sealing the gaps is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to keep the heat in. As a general rule of thumb, weatherstripping should be used around anything that moves, such as doors and windows. Acrylic latex caulk can be applied to stationary objects, like door and window frames and mouldings; larger gaps can be filled with expanding foam sealant.

Windows, particularly in older homes, can be a big source of heat loss and drafts. Consider sealing your windows with heat-shrink plastic sheets – they’re inexpensive, easy to apply, and can be removed easily in the spring. Insulated drapes can help as well.

 

Light Up the Holidays

LED lights are the most energy-efficient lighting option available, using up to 90% less energy than standard incandescents. The initial investment is higher, but LEDs last up to 25% longer and you’ll have the lights for years to come. BONUS: Because they use so little energy, you can connect as many as 25 LED light strings end to end without overloading a standard electrical circuit.

If you haven’t already replaced the bulbs in your overhead, table, and floor lamps with LEDs, stock up so that you’ll have them on hand to replace incandescent bulbs as they burn out. Hardware and big-box stores offer a wide variety of task lighting and decorative bulbs.

 

Smart Thermostats

If you’ve ever left the house for a weekend away, only to discover upon your return that you forgot to turn the heat down, this tip is for you. Wi-Fi enabled thermostats can learn your habits and adjust the temperature in your home accordingly. You also have the ability to make adjustments on the fly with a smartphone, in the event your flight is delayed, for example.

Be sure to check out any rebates or incentives before you buy – Unitil customers in the Massachusetts service area can take advantage of exclusive Black Friday deals on our Mass Save® website, but they’re only available for a limited time. Rebates of up to $100 on programmable or wireless thermostats are available to New Hampshire customers on our NHSaves website.

 

An Ounce of Prevention

Don’t risk having your heat go out with a houseful of holiday guests – now is the time to schedule a tune-up and inspection of your furnace or boiler. Removing any dust or debris will ensure your heating system is operating at peak efficiency, and reduces the likelihood of an emergency service call and unexpected repairs.

There are steps you can take as a homeowner to keep your heating system in tip-top shape as well. If you have a furnace, stock up on filters and set a calendar reminder so you remember to change them at the recommended intervals (typically every 30 to 90 days).

Beat the rush and call ahead to have your gas service reinstated – by mid September if possible. Familiarize yourself with the location of your gas meter, and be sure to keep it free of debris, snow, and ice to avoid damage.

 

Insulation

If the insulation in your attic is more than 20 years old, you could see significant savings by replacing it or adding an additional layer. Heat rises, and without effective insulation, your home will lose much of that energy through the ceilings and roof. In the summer months, proper insulation prevents superheated attic air from entering your home.

The “chimney effect” occurs when hot air escapes quickly through the attic, creating a vacuum that draws in cold air through air leaks in the basement and ground floor. The result? A heating system that works hard around the clock but can’t seem to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

If your budget allows, consider investing in spray foam or blown-in insulation. Start with a whole-house energy efficiency audit, which will conclude with a detailed report that you can use to make an informed decision about upgrades. A note to DIYers: If you encounter signs of water damage or mold in your attic, it’s best to enlist the services of a professional remediation service for the health and safety of your family.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Home energy improvements ahead of winter run the gamut from a couple of dollars for a tube of caulk to thousands of dollars for spray foam or blown-in insulation.
  • A professional energy home energy audit will provide details on the upgrades that will yield the biggest return on your investment.
  • Keeping your heating system well maintained will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family will be comfortable on even the coldest winter nights.