Simple Steps to Save

Through the Seasons
Beginner

Inside this Article

Extra insulation for the attic
Insulation upgrades, especially in attics and basements, can help you save on home heating and cooling bills through the seasons.
tube of calk for sealing leaks
A tube of calk for sealing air leaks in construction joints and cracks
Spray foam for insulating and sealing gaps
Spray foam for adding insulation to gaps around windows and wherever you find them.
Electric water heater timer
For $30 to $60, electric water heater timers offer an easy, automatic way to save.
Water heater thermostat
Turning down your water heater’s thermostat 10°F can shave up to 13% from your water heating costs.
Space heater thermostat
A programmable thermostat can save 10% or more on heating bills.
Extra insulation for the attic
tube of calk for sealing leaks
Spray foam for insulating and sealing gaps
Electric water heater timer
Water heater thermostat
Space heater thermostat

Before you turn up the thermostat to ward off the winter chill that’s creeping into your house, take these simple, inexpensive steps to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient.

If you’re like most folks, the majority of your energy dollars go toward heating and cooling your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the average U.S. family spends about US$1,500 per year on home energy, a figure that will probably rise beyond US$2,000 this year due to increasing natural gas and electricity prices. The good news is that because heating and cooling is the biggest chunk of energy usage, is it also the place where you can make the biggest impact. Think of it as an insurance policy against continually rising fuel prices. As prices continue to escalate, your savings become more and more significant.

When addressing home energy use, most people go for the most visible and dramatic improvements, like replacing old furnaces and windows. But investments such as these are often not the most cost-effective places to start. In many cases, the less obvious (and less expensive) fixes like weatherstripping and insulating offer considerable upfront savings—in money and energy.

Stop the Leaks

Heating and cooling costs are largely influenced by two factors—infiltration (air movement into and out of the house) and insulation. Controlling infiltration is really the first step to improve the energy efficiency of your home. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, the average U.S. home has enough holes, cracks, and crevices in it to make up the equivalent of a 16-square-foot hole in the wall. 

Air leakage accounts for 25 to 40 percent (or more) of heating and cooling bills, so you can save big by doing a thorough job of buttoning up your home. Once air leakage is controlled, insulation can help to further reduce your bills.

Air Sealing Priorities. People are often quick to notice minor air leaks in their home, such as those around doors and windows, or through fireplaces and chimneys. But these easy-to-spot leaks are not always the worst offenders in terms of energy efficiency or indoor air quality issues. Air also can enter your home from other, often unheated, parts of the house, such as attics, basements, or crawl spaces. Besides allowing outside air in, these areas can foster moisture development in wall cavities as air travels from cooler to warmer areas.

These less-obvious leaks are driven by the “stack effect”—the tendency for warm air to rise and cool air to fall. Since you only need to stop an air leak at one end, the attic is often the best place to start with your air-sealing activities. Before you add insulation, seal openings around: 

• Plumbing vent stacks and pipes

• Electrical, plumbing, and chimney chases

• Open tops of interior wall partitions

• Attic hatches

• Gaps around penetrations for any mechanical equipment (ductwork, air handlers, etc.)

• Recessed lighting. Most recessed lights are designed to be cooled by air movement, so they cannot be sealed or come into contact with insulation without potentially overheating. Replace them with IC-rated (insulation-contact) fixtures. If that is not possible, seal the lights between the fixtures and the ceiling openings.

• Bath fans. These often pump more warm air into the attic than to the outdoors. This can lead to major moisture problems in the attic or ice damming along the eaves, which can force moisture up under the shingles, causing water leaks.

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