Monday, November 26, 2012

9 Easy Home Winterization Projects

9 Easy Home Winterization Projects

As we near the end of November, we all are starting to sense that the infamous Chicago winter is right around the corner. While winter can be a beautiful time in Evanston with its charming downtown gleaming with holiday lights and cheer, having energy bills go through the roof is something that seems to weigh heavily on everyone’s mind.
To ensure your Evanston home is as energy efficient as possible this winter, we’ve gathered ten projects that you can do this weekend. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll be promoting eco-friendly living at the same time, which is something we can all appreciate! Make your Evanston home feel warmer without turning up the heat this winter. With these winterization tips, you'll save energy without spending much money

1. Dodge the Draft(s)
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture – the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or make a more attractive DIY draft snake with googly eyes, felt tongues and the like. You can use any scraps of fabric -- even neckties -- and fill with sand or kitty litter for heft. Make sure drafts aren't giving your thermostat a false reading too, and read on for more advanced solutions.

2. Change Furnace Filters
Yes it's easy to forget, but it's important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Here's a worry-saving tip: mark a monthly check on your calendar.
Better, consider switching to a permanent filter, which will reduce waste and hassle. Did you know that disposable fiberglass filters trap a measly 10 to 40% of debris? Electrostatic filters trap around 88%, and are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen that cause illness and irritation. They cost $50 to $1,000 or more. Another good choice is a genuine HEPA filter (like the one pictured), which can remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles. HEPA filters are based on Department of Energy standards. But avoid "HEPA-like" filters, which can be vastly less effective. If your entire furnace is in need of replacement, it will cost a lot more -- but replacing an inefficient burner for a modern machine will save you every month through the heating season.

3. Run Fans in Reverse
Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it warmer: air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space - cutting your heating costs as much as 10%!

4. Turn Down Your Water Heater
While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees F by installers, most households don't need that much steam, and end up paying for it -- in dollars and the occasional scalding burn. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees F (or lower) would reduce your water heating costs by 6% to 10%. If you start to wonder why you need a tank at all, then you may be ready for a tankless water heater, or to go solar.

5. Mind That Thermostat
It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave your home, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses? For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. Make it easier with a programmable thermostat; they are widely available for as little as $50, and the average family will save $180 a year with one. Go a step further and ask your local utility if it's making smart meters available in your area, as part of recent federal smart grid investments.

6. Put Up Some Plastic
For just a few dollars, pick up a window insulation kit at your local hardware or discount store. Don't worry -- properly installed, window plastic is essentially invisible. Adding a buffer against drafts and extra still air space can give a nice boost to your home's ability to hold heat. Save even more by hiring a pro to install a high-tech “low-e film” directly to the window glass. If your windows are old, consider investing in a set of efficient windows.

7. Use Caulking and Weatherstripping
Simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weatherstripping.
Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit and along the foundation. Use the incense test: carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammables) move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in. And heating or cooling sneaking out.
In another method, have someone on the outside blow a hair dryer around each window while you hold a lighted candle inside. If the candle flickers or goes out, you need to caulk or weather strip around the frame.

8. Put on a Sweater

Make like Jimmy Carter and dress warmer for winter, even inside. Gone are the days (for most of us at least) when we can afford to lounge around in our underwear while it's frosty outside. Remember what we said about each degree on the thermostat costing you money? Roughly speaking, a light long-sleeved sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth, while a heavy sweater (even the ugliest of ugly sweaters) adds about 4 degrees. So cozy up and start saving.

9. Upgrade to an Efficient Furnace
Thankfully it's not something you have to do every year (or even every decade), but if your furnace is old you could save a lot of money in the long run (and improve your home's value) by upgrading to a new unit.
Make it an Energy Star-certified furnace and you'll save 15% to 20% versus standard new models. You could save 50% or more compared with many old furnaces still in operation. Photo Credit: Energy Star

Whether you decide to do a few, or all of these projects, you’ll find that the energy savings and eco-friendly choices will be well worth the effort this winter. Our goal is to not only help you buy or sell your home in Evanston, but to be Evanston Real Estate agents that have a holistic approach to the Evanston Real Estate market and lifestyle.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about buying or selling in Evanston. We’re here to help and look forward to talking with you!

The Thomas Team
@ Properties
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage
Chicago & North Shore Real Estate
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