Flue Shots for Houses: energy tips to save money this winter

In the Midwest and Northeast United States, homeowners are anticipating increased fuel oil costs this coming winter. Here in California, we don’t face their kind of extreme weather (in my freshman year at Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana, I woke up one morning in January to -25°F weather with the prospect of a one mile walk to a math class--it took me several months to thaw) but heating costs are still a significant part of our budgets, especially for low-income families. And electricity costs are still at an all-time high across the country and are expected to keep rising.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (www.aceee.org) recently came out with a list of energy saving measures to help us prepare for winter.

1. Seal air leaks in ceilings/attic floors, at baseboards and electric outlets in exterior walls, and around exterior windows and doors.

2. Seal leaky air ducts at joints, starting at the furnace air handler, and insulate ducts that run through unheated basements or attics.

3. Hire a professional to tune up existing heating equipment, including changing air filters.


4. Turn off lights, and home office and entertainment equipment when not in use.

5. Install an ENERGY STAR-rated thermostat and program it to set back temperatures when you are asleep or away.

6. Insulate hot water pipes leading from your water heater, and install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.

7. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

8. Consider replacing an old refrigerator, clothes washer, or water heater.

9. Check your attic insulation and consider improving the R-value to R-38.

10. Invest in energy-efficient, right-sized heating equipment with the help of a good contractor.

Another great resource is the Home Energy Saver Web site (http://hes.lbl.gov), provided by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Home Energy Magazine's host organization. At the site, you can input your zip code, plus some information about your house, and get back practical suggestions for things you can do to save water, energy, and money. Your local hardware store or big box home store will have all the tools and materials you need to do it yourself.

Also, I can suggest some Bay Area home performance contractors who will be able to do an energy audit of your home, make recommendations for upgrades, and contract with you to do the work you choose. The list is not exhaustive, but these contractors have been featured or will be featured in Home Energy, and they all do high quality work.

1. Advanced Home Energy (www.advancedhomeenergy.com)
2. Applied Home Performance (www.appliedhomeperformance.com)
3. Building Solutions (www.buildingsolutions.com)
4. Sustainable Spaces (www.sustainablespaces.com)

Hope this helps!

Jim Gunshinan is Managing Editor of Home Energy Magazine. He holds an M.S. in Bioengineering from Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, and a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from University of Notre Dame.