Saving Energy at Home

Paying the bills is a draw off the paycheck each and every month. During the colder months of the year it is even more difficult to bare the heavy load of heating and energy costs.

The good news is that it is possible to keep some of those costs a little more under control whether you rent or own your home.

According to American Electric Power's (AEP) Web site, there are several steps for keeping heat and electric costs down.

Tip No. 1: Keep the thermostat set at 68 degrees in winter. Combine this with keeping the air-conditioner set at 78 degrees in the summer and the electric bill could be cut as much as 8 percent. Electronic thermostats can also help cut costs because they can be set to lower at night and be raised in the morning.

Tip No. 2: Keep your water heater set at 140 degrees or as low as can be tolerated and you will still have plenty of hot water. Use hot water sparingly. It is also a good idea to wrap the water heater in an insulation jacket.

Water heater efficiency is also based on whether individuals have electric or gas power. A gas water heater costs a little more to buy than an electric one, but the cost of running the gas unit is half of what the electric one will cost over the course of a year.

Tip No. 3: Fireplace dampers should be kept closed during the winter (when not in use), and installing a glass fireplace screen will prevent air from going up the chimney.

Tip No. 4: Good insulation is the most important step in heat savings and it will help pay for its own cost after a few years . To decide which insulation to buy it is important to check the "R-value." The higher the R-value, the better your insulation will work, but there is a proper grade for walls, floors, ceilings and attics. Check the packaging for usage

instructions.

"The whole key to insulation is dead air space," said Tim Turner, a millwork specialist at the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, 4401 N. Clara Lane. "Some people think that since the standard thickness of insulation in an attic is 14 inches, then 20 inches will be better, but that's not how it works."

Dead air space is created because there are small pockets of air in the insulation and this is how heat gets trapped in the winter, and hot air out in the summer.

Depending on the air quality where you live, changing the furnace filter one a month can help alleviate strain on heating systems. The duct system should be checked for air leaks and it should have plenty of insulation. Try to find homes and apartments with forced air furnaces instead of baseboard heat, because forced air helps keep condensation levels down.

It is also important to make sure homes are sealed against air leaks. Caulking and weather stripping should be used to seal around doors, windows, outlets, switch plates and plumbing outlets.

"Window insulation is the best way to seal air leaks around windows (if you can't replace them)," Turner said. "A window insulation kit is available that costs about $4 per window. In some cases you can pop the trim off the

window and stuff insulation around it."

Open your curtains and blinds on the sunny days to allow the sun to warm up and then close them at night to keep the heat in.

-á-á-á "You can get replacement windows at an average cost of $150 per window," Turner said. "A replacement window is dual- paned and is easier (and cheaper) than replacing the whole window."-á-á-á


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