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It’s time to be preparing your home for cold weather

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Early fall is the perfect time to start preparing your home for cold weather. There are several no cost or lost cost improvements that you can make to your home to reduce your winter bills.

According to the United States Department of Energy, 46 percent of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling your home.  To reduce your heating costs, adjust your thermostat to as high or as low as is comfortable in the winter.  You may also want to consider a programmable thermostat. 

A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically set your thermostat to turn up and down the heat or air when you are not home.  By turning back the temperature during the day while you are at work, the Department of Energy estimates you can save about $180 per year in energy costs.

To maximize your savings from using a programmable thermostat, it is important to have the thermostat set to its “energy-saving” temperature for a minimum of eight hours.

Consider not only cutting back the thermostat during the day while you are at work, but also at night. If you are going to be away for several days, adjust the settings to an energy-saving temperature for the entire time you are away.  This way you are not wasting energy by heating the house when no one is home.  If you do not have a programmable thermostat, you can still save by manually adjusting the temperature.  In general, for every degree you lower your thermostat, you save 1 to 3 percent on your heating bill.  If you adjust your thermostat from 74 degrees to 72 degrees, you could save up to 6 cents for every $1 in heating costs.  If your home heating bill costs $100 per month, you could save up to $6 each month.

To extend the life of your furnace replace furnace filters on a monthly basis. If you have pets in your home, you may want to check your filters more often. To help prevent drafts, caulk between your window/door frames and walls, weather-strip between doors and frames, and add storm windows or use plastic film kits to cover single-pane windows. Also, do not underestimate the value of natural sunlight. During cold weather, keep the window coverings on south facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to warm the house, but remember to close drapes and shades in the evening. 

In addition to making a few low cost home improvements, you can also reduce energy expenses by adapting no-cost, energy conscious behaviors.  Simple behaviors which help save energy include: turning off lights and electronics when not in use, using cold water for laundry, and only doing full loads in the dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer.  Check the temperature setting on your hot water tank, if it is currently set on high or 140 degrees F lower it to the medium setting or 120 degrees F.  This can cut the cost of heating your hot water by 6 to 10 percent or up to 10 cents off every dollar you spend on water heating costs. 

Finally, if you are thinking about the purchase of a large durable appliance, consider Energy Star qualified products.  Energy efficient appliances include high-efficiency furnaces, air conditioners, or heat pumps, clothes dryer with moisture sensors, and clothes washers and dishwashers which save water. 

Source: Jennifer Hunter, Extension Specialist for Family Financial Management, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.