With this fall’s spike in oil and natural gas prices and the further impact Hurricane Katrina will have on this winter’s heating oil supplies, it’s become more important than ever to make sure our homes are as energy-efficient as possible.
Luckily, there are a number of easy, inexpensive ways to button up your home for winter. Numerous cost-efficient products on the market for your windows and doors will go a long way toward preserving the heat you generate with your heating system.
Make sure your windows and doors are tight. Self-stick foam weather-stripping at the tops and bottom of windows, as well as across the separation between the top and bottom halves of the window, will block out drafts. Additionally, clear plastic, secured to the window frame with double-sided sticky tape, will also block out drafts and create an air barrier between the window and you.
Additional weather-stripping around all four edges of doors will also help to block out the cold. Also, don’t forget your water heater You can buy inexpensive padding to wrap around the unit itself, and sturdy foam insulation for all the pipes.
The way you furnish your home can add to your level of comfort this winter. Thick, insulated drapes will cut back on drafts from windows; wall to wall carpeting will cut back on drafts from cold air coming in from gaps between walls and floors; both wall to wall carpeting and thick area rugs will retain heat and add to your comfort.
Believe it or not, you can lose heat through the switch plates and wall plugs in your outer walls. Another inexpensive product will solve that problem; for three or four dollars you can buy insulated pads to install behind the plates. Simply remove the switch plate, pop in the appropriate padding, and screw the switch plate back on. A single package contains insulated pads suitable for single and double on-off switch plates and two-plug outlets.
Experiment with the way you dress and see if you can turn the thermostat down and still be comfortable. Wear warm fleece; keep your feet warm with thick socks and shoes or fuzzy slippers; even consider wearing a hat indoors. You should be able to turn the thermostat down to at least 68 degrees and still be comfortable. If you have an alternate source of heat – a wood, corn or pellet buring stove – consider using it as a primary source of heat.
If you have thermostats in each room, you may want to consider shutting off the heat in unused rooms, or at least lowering the thermostat in those rooms to 55 degrees. If this is an option, be sure to put weather-stripping around the doors to the unheated rooms.
If you’re really strapped for funds, don’t hesitate to call your local human services agencies to find out if you can qualify for home heating assistance. As a taxpayer, you’ve undoubtedly been supporting all kinds of social programs for years, or even decades; don’t let embarrassment prevent you from getting help when you need it. Adequate heating isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
If you take careful stock of the heating problems in your home and take a few simple measures to solve those problems, you should be able to minimize the impact rising fuel prices will have on your winter heating budget. Keep warm