Reducing Home Heating and Cooling Costs
can significantly reduce their utility bills by making simple,
low-cost home improvements, as described below. For more tips,
visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Savers Web site at
Out the Elements:
- Caulk and
weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
- Caulk and
seal air leaks where ducting, plumbing, light fixtures or electrical
wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors and ceilings.
rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
- As a less
costly and less permanent alternative, you can use a heavy-duty,
clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to
the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months.
Remember, the plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to
help reduce infiltration.
cold-weather months, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing
windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your
home. Keep these draperies and shades closed at night to reduce
the chill you may feel from cold windows. In warm-weather months,
keep the window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar
Prior to reducing the air infiltration of a home, all gas burning
appliances need to be checked for proper burner operation and
the furnace heat exchanger needs to be tested for leaks. Failure
to do so may cause elevated carbon monoxide levels in the home.
Sources of Air Leaks in Your Home:
and Furnace Flues
Electrical outlets and switches
Plumbing and utilities access
an easy, energy-saving project you can do yourself. It is relatively
inexpensive - and very effective. In fact, it will usually pay
for itself in energy savings within one year. Caulk is a compound
used for filling cracks, holes, crevices and joints on both the
inside and outside of your home. You will need only a few simple
tools and a minimum of skill to caulk these areas. Start at the
back of your house and work toward the front so that your skill
level is improved by the time you caulk places that are visible.
Try to choose
a mild day to tackle this project. The outside temperature
should be above 40°F for the caulk to be applied correctly.
So, plan to caulk during the spring, summer or fall for best
results. Old, cracked caulk should be removed before new is applied.
Check your home repair center for a "puttying tool"
that will make the job easier and provide a more professional
Where to Caulk
As a general
rule, caulk should be applied wherever two different building
materials meet on the interior or exterior of your home. Different
building materials expand and contract at various rates. Through
the years, with temperature extremes and caulk drying out, cracks
develop between materials. Because these cracks allow air infiltration,
the cracks need to be caulked.
On the interior
of your home, you can check for air leakage by moving your hand
around the windows and doors on a windy day. If you can feel air
movement, you need to caulk and/or weatherstrip. You will probably
be surprised to find how many spots are "air leakers!"
are areas that should be checked:
door and window frames - inside and out; check window pane putty.
where brick and wood siding meet.
between the chimney and siding.
the foundation and walls.
electrical and gas service entrances, cable T.V. and phone lines,
and outdoor water faucets.
dryer vents pass through walls.
in bricks, siding, stucco and foundation.
vents and fans.
two different materials meet.
The material used in sealing air leaks depends on the size of
the gaps and where they are located. Caulk is best for cracks
and gaps less than 1/4" wide. Expanding foam sealant is good
for sealing larger cracks and holes that are protected from sunlight
and moisture. Rigid foam insulation may be used for sealing very
large openings such as plumbing chases and attic hatch covers.
Fiberglass insulation can also be used for sealing large holes,
but it needs to be wrapped in plastic or stuffed in plastic bags
because air can leak through fiberglass.
Types of Caulking Compounds
to apply, water clean-up, paintable.
to apply, solvent clean-up, high moisture resistance.
clean-up, excellent elasticity,
to high adheres well to most surfaces.
also available in clear.
Ventilation and Air Conditioning:
- For gas
appliances, look for blue flames; yellow flames indicate the
gas is burning inefficiently and an adjustment may be needed.
Consult your manufacturer or your local utility.
or clean furnace air filter(s) once a month. Have your furnace
serviced before each heating season to ensure it is operating
safely and efficiently.
turn your thermostat down to the lowest comfortable setting.
Lower your thermostat from 72 degrees to 65 degrees for eight
hours a day to save up to 10% on your heating bill. Use thermostat
setback strategies when the home is unoccupied or when occupants
are sleeping. (Setback may not be appropriate with heat pumps.
Check with the equipment supplier or your service company).
- Clean warm-air
registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make
sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
- Use kitchen,
bath and other ventilating fans wisely; in just 1 hour, these
fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans
off as soon as they have done the job.
- Keep your
fireplace damper closed tightly when not in use.
leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water
in a short period.
water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators.
- Lower the
thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees.
- Wrap your
water heater with an insulated jacket. On electric water heaters,
be careful not to cover the thermostat. On gas water heaters,
be careful not to cover the water heater's top, bottom, thermostat,
or burner compartment; when in doubt, get professional help.
Hot Water Savings
- Fix any
hot water leaks promptly.
high-efficiency showerheads. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandates
that any showerhead manufactured after January 1, 1994, must
not be more than a 2.5 gallon-per-minute (gpm) flow (at 80 psi).
Some showerheads have valves that allow water shut-off at the
shower head without losing temperature mix.
faucet aerators for the kitchen are covered in the same legislation.
They reduce flow to 2.5 gpm.
- Take short
- Use your
dishwasher wisely instead of washing dishes by hand.
- Set washer
cycles for the lowest temperature and water amount that will
get clothes clean.
rinse on cold water setting.
- Set water
heater temperature at 120°F - 130°F.
family's indoor water usage is about 50 gallons of water per person
per day. If your family's water usage is more than that amount,
you need to look at your water use habits. Flushing the toilet
accounts for about 42 percent of the total, bathing is 32 percent,
and laundry is 14 percent. The amount of water that is used for
drinking or cooking is probably less than 4 percent of the total.
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 has maximum water-use standards
for plumbing fixtures. Toilets manufactured after January 1, 1994,
have a 1.46 gallon per flush flow (as opposed to 3.5 or 5 gallons
per flush for older units), and showerheads will have a maximum
flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. Replacing a showerhead or
an older-model toilet is a good investment.
Water Usage Efficiency Hints
- Fix all
let the water run while shaving or brushing your teeth.
- Use low-flow
showerheads and faucet aerators.
- Take short
showers and don't overfill the bathtub.
- Use your
dishwasher wisely instead of washing dishes by hand.
- If you
wash dishes by hand, don't let the water run for rinsing.
- Use full
loads in your dishwasher and in the washing machine.
- Turn off
the lights in any room you're not using.
compact fluorescent bulbs in place of existing incandescent
bulbs where practical and when operation is more than two hours
- Use task
lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus
the light where you need it.
- Move your
refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils
once a year. Your refrigerator will run for shorter periods
with clean coils.
- Don't keep
your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures
are 37° to 40°F for the fresh food compartment of the
refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer section. If you have
a separate freezer for long-term storage, it should be kept
- When not
in use, turn off televisions, stereos and computers. ENERGY
STAR ®-labeled computers come with power management features
that "power down" after a user-specified period of
and shrubs around your home will help reduce your heating and
cooling costs. How much it reduces costs depends on the choice
of plants, where you locate them, the location of your home and
shrubs also reduce noise and air pollution and make your home
more attractive and more valuable.
money spent on landscaping your home is a good investment.
home loses much more heat on a cold, windy day than on an equally
cold, still day. Well-located trees and shrubs can intercept the
wind and cut your heat loss. Studies of windbreaks show they can
reduce winter fuel consumption by 10 percent or more. Trees and
shrubs planted close to a building reduce wind currents that otherwise
would chill the outside surfaces. Foundation plantings create
a "dead air" space which slows the escape of heat from
plantings also help reduce air infiltration losses around the
foundation of the
house. Closely planted evergreens are suggested for this area.
trees lose their leaves in the fall and allow the winter sun to
enter the windows and warm the inside space. In the summer, their
leaf cover provides cool shade which reduces your home's need
for mechanical air conditioning.
air-conditioning need in Missouri is usually in late July and
early August, and most electrical power for air conditioning will
be used in the late afternoon hours. With this in mind, landscape
plantings should include trees and tall shrubs to shade west-facing
walls, windows, and the southwest corner of the home during the
hottest summer afternoons. Quick-growing vines may be planted
on trellises to provide summer shade screens while trees are growing.
If there is no roof overhang to significantly reduce the effects
of the sun on south walls, deciduous trees and shrubs should also
be planted to shade south walls and windows.
trees, choose the site carefully. Plant tall growing trees such
as hickory, walnut, oak, pecan, sweetgum and pine well away from
any power lines so branches do not tangle in the wires. Avoid
planting trees over underground utility lines.
More Information Contact:
of Natural Resources
Division of Energy
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102
1-800-361-4827 or (573) 751-3443
Web site: http://www.dnr.mo.gov/energy/
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