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Harvest Fall Energy Savings

By Tom Tate

Seems just like yesterday we were discussing actions you can take to get your home ready for summer, actions that save money and increase comfort. Well, it’s time to turn that discussion to prepping for winter. The good news is that most of the actions you took in the spring are going to pay dividends in the winter. If your schedule did not allow you to get to everything a few months back, here’s your chance to catch up.

First, schedule a check-up for your heating system. Clean/replace the filters, check out the burners, clean duct-work, flues, chimneys and so forth. If you use a heat pump as your primary heating system, be sure the refrigerant level is up to par and clear any vegetation back from the outside unit.

Next, check your home’s exterior for leaks. If you did any of this in the spring, skip this step, relax and enjoy the fine fall air.

Look for daylight around doors and install or replace weather stripping.

  • Check around windows for gaps and seal with caulk before the temperatures drop.

Check storm windows for proper fit and repair any broken panes. If you have single pane windows and no storm windows or have older, drafty windows, consider using some stretch window film inside to seal them. I am blessed with a couple of these. I put on the film, used a hair dryer to shrink it tight and you cannot tell it’s there. It works so well, it is now a permanent feature.

Inspect your insulation in the attic. Is it time to add more? Why not ask your co-op to help you calculate the benefit of adding more?

Floor joists resting on the basement walls create little rectangular spaces that are huge energy wasters. The best solution there is spray foam. Bat insulation also works only if placed full thickness into the space. Stuffing it in practically eliminates any insulation value.

Next, check for drafts around outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Nice little foam gaskets are available to seal these up.

Caulk around utility entrances into the home and around water pipes under sinks. This will help keep Mother Nature’s brood outside where they belong. If you have a zero clearance flue on a furnace, these often have gaps that allow mice and other denizens access to your home. I have firsthand experience with this phenomenon. The most effective way to keep mice and their kindred from using these gaps is to fill them with steel wool (the gaps, not the mice). It is the only material the little darlings won’t chew through. It will rust so apply it carefully to avoid future rust stains on the side of the house.

Naturally, you’ll be working in the yard, cleaning gutters, putting up storms windows, digging in new trees or bushes, pruning and generally getting the homestead ready for a long winter’s nap. Be sure to look up for co-op power lines before extending a ladder or using a pole pruner. If your neighborhood has underground utilities of any type, call for a free location service (usually by dialing 811). It takes a couple of days to schedule and is worth it. They will mark out the general position of underground utilities so you don’t dig into them. It is always a good idea to practice safety when working around power lines.

Last but not least, set your ceiling fans to blow upwards (or clockwise) and double check the programming on your thermostat to be sure it will maximize your cold-weather savings. A setting of 68⁰F is recommended. Old Man Winter is coming and now you won’t be haunted with high energy bills.