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Don’t let falling temps cramp your budget

Written by Donna Stuckert. Posted in Home & Garden

Published on September 28, 2011 with No Comments

Falling temperatures as we enter autumn is a reminder to everyone that buttoning up the house for winter is just around the corner.

At the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County, our motto of “Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” plays a great part in preparing your home for cold weather, as it’s time to rethink our behavior and habits in order to reduce energy consumption, ultimately making energy bills more bearable.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for winter:

Furnace

Get your heating system checked by a HVAC professional every fall, so your furnace is running as efficiently as possible to save energy and maintain safety. A professional will be able to check furnace connections, burners, ignition system, combustion chamber and fans. Remember, carbon monoxide is odorless, so regular maintenance increases safety.

Stock up on furnace filters and clean/change them monthly. Take a pen to your calendar and mark dates around the same time each month to serve as a reminder to replace/clean the filters.

Dirty air filters block airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency, as it has to consume more power to run harder and longer to meet temperature demands. A clean filter can save up to five percent on your heating cost, and you’ll even have a healthier living environment, which is very important.

Programmable thermostats

Save approximately 10 percent on heating bills by using programmable thermostats that give homeowners the flexibility to adjust the temperature settings automatically several times a day. For example, homeowners that work during the week between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. can program the thermostats to lower the temperature while they are away during the day and again upon bedtime.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting thermostats at 68 degrees Fahrenheit while homeowners are awake and lowering it while they are asleep or away from home, down 10 and 15 degrees. The Department says it’s possible to realize a savings of as much as one percent for each degree if the setback period is at least eight hours long. If that temperature reduction seems drastic, consider lowering the temperature just a couple of degrees from your normal. Something is better than nothing, and you will realize savings. It’s also easy to throw on a sweater or another layer to stay warm, which doesn’t cost you a thing.

The Department of Energy states that a common misconception associated with programmable thermostats is that the furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature, resulting in little or no savings. The fact of the matter is that the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save.

Free warmth

Homeowners can take advantage of some free warmth in their dwellings by keeping the blinds and curtains open on southern exposure windows to take advantage of the free warmth from any winter sunshine.  You may not want to do this for security reasons, if you don’t return home until dark.

Weatherproof your home

Replace broken window panes and caulk, seal and weather-strip around windows, outside doors and where plumbing, duct work and electrical wiring penetrate exterior walls, floors and ceilings. It’s possible to save up to 30 percent off your heating costs, and weatherproofing keeps your system from working overtime.

Fireplaces, while used to keep houses warm, can be major sources of heat loss. Remember to keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use and consider installing a glass door to the fireplace.

Hot water heater

Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For every 10 degrees the temperature is reduced, homeowners can reduce energy bills between three and five percent.

Lights

Since it will get dark earlier and you’ll be using your lights longer, change your incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use two-thirds less energy, provide the same amount of light and last up to 10 times longer.

Remember fluorescent tube lights and CFL bulbs contain a tiny amount of mercury and require proper disposal. Please don’t throw these in your trash where they can ultimately contaminate soil and water! Both the Valparaiso and Boone Grove compost sites accept spent fluorescent tubes and CFL bulbs for recycling. Visit the District website, www.ItMeansTheWorld.org, or call, 465-3694, for additional information.

I hope these tips will help prepare you for the energy challenges resulting from the dark and cold weather months ahead.

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About Donna Stuckert

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Donna Stuckert is the Community Education Coordinator for the Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County. She is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience who enjoys working for the greater good and inspiring others on making a difference. For more information or to reach Stuckert, e-mail DStuckert@ItMeansTheWorld.org.

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