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Gloucester County Woman - The Women of Gloucester County New Jersey (NJ)

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Save Money This Winter
Freebie & Low-cost Fixes
by Burnett Lacy

heat lossEven though we are on the downhill side of winter, there are still many cold days ahead of us. Cold, winter days mean heating our homes and spending dollars to keep them warm. The Department of Energy forecasts that the average household heating fuel costs this winter will be approximately $928 per household. Warm, heated air leaking out of your home during the winter can waste a lot of of those energy dollars.

Here are some simple steps you can take to slash your home’s heating bill. Six steps cost nothing...that’s right, I said nothing! The rest cost under $100. Combine them, and you can often expect to save up to 20% on your home heating bill this winter.

Freebie Fixes:

  • Turn down the thermostat. The rule of thumb is that you can save about 3% on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat. Turn down the thermostat 10 degrees when you go to work, and again when you go to bed -- a total of 16 hours a day -- and you can save about 14% on your heating bill.

  • Use fans wisely. In just one hour, a bathroom or kitchen fan can expel a houseful of warm air, according to the Department of Energy. Turn them off as soon as they’ve done their job.

  • Keep the fireplace damper closed. Heat rises, and an open damper is like a hole in the roof. Also, limit use of the fireplace, since fires actually suck heat from a room. Close off seldom-used rooms. And shut the vents inside.

  • Turn down the water heater. Lowering the temperature of water in the water heater to 115-120 degrees reduces power use often without a noticeable difference to the user. For each 10 degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs.

  • Keep heating vents clear. Vents blocked by rugs and furniture prevent heated air from circulating efficiently. Use curtains. Opening curtains and shades on south-facing windows during the day allows solar radiation to warm a living space; closing all curtains at night helps retard the escape of that heat.

Now that you’ve put the easiest, and free, ideas to work you can really make a dent in that heating bill with one cheap trip to a hardware store (Home Depot, for example, has all of the items below) and a few hours of work.

Low-cost Fixes:save money

  • Block that leak! Plugging them can save you up to 10% on that heating bill, and the materials will pay for themselves within a year.

  • First, find the leaks: On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick to the most common  drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, and electrical outlets.

  • Buy door sweeps ($3-$10) to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk ($2-$5 per roll, plus a $10 caulk gun) to block those drafty spots around window frames. Apply weather-stripping ($3-$6 for up to 17 feet) to movable joints. Outlet gaskets ($10 for 10) can easily be installed in electrical outlets in a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.

  • Wrap water heater and pipes. Covering your water heater with an insulated "jacket" ($17-$20) will keep costs down, especially if your heater is in an unheated place like a garage. Also, wrap water pipes ($1-$5 per 5-foot section) when possible, especially when they run through uninsulated areas.

  • Buy a smart thermostat. If you’re the kind of person who forgets to turn the temperature down at night and before work, but who doesn’t mind programming things like the TV remote control, a "smart" thermostat ($50-$100) can be set to change the temperature for you.

  • Keep your furnace in shape. It’s amazing how many problems you can avoid by replacing the air filter ($4-$16) monthly or according to manufacturer’s directions because your heating system will operate more efficiently. Oil-fired boilers should be cleaned and tuned annually, and gas systems, every two years($100-$125). By maintaining your heating unit, you can save between 3% and 10% on heating bills.

* For more information on saving energy check the following:

burnett lacyBurnett Lacy has been a Building Superintendent and Maintenance Repairer for the Housing Authority of Gloucester County ince 1987.

He is currently managing two high-rise apartment complexes, previously managed a third and performed maintenance on 63 single family homes located throughout the county.

His job duties include
site maintenance, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, masonry and HVAC repairs.


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