PARKERSBURG - With cold weather approaching, there are tips and suggestions area homeowners can follow if they want to improve energy efficiency and winterize their homes.
Tim Hanlon, owner of Grogg's Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. in Lubeck, said this is a busy time of the year, as is any time there is a change of season and corresponding changes in temperatures.
Grogg's and similar businesses keep busy doing preventive maintenance, repair work and new installations.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Tim Hanlon, owner of Grogg’s Heating and Air Conditioning, demonstrates how homeowners can check the filters on their furnaces at the start of the cold weather season. A dirty filter can reduce the heater’s efficiency, causing it to work harder and cost more to run.
"The phone tends to ring a lot this time of year," he said. Most of the calls involve service and installation questions and requests.
Hanlon has tips for this time of the year to prepare a home for winter weather. The first tip is to have the home's heating system professionally checked, to make sure it is operating efficiently and that it is operating safely.
His second tip, which homeowners can usually do themselves, is to check the furnace filter and replace it if dirty.
"A dirty filter can cause your furnace to use more energy," he said, making it work harder to put out the same amount of heat into the home.
As a third tip, Hanlon said if a home's heating system or furnace is 12-15 years old or more, he recommends replacing it. A homeowner can cut energy costs up to 40 percent with newer systems in comparison to some older heating systems, which will pay for itself in reduced energy costs, he said.
Hanlon suggests installing a programmable thermostat. It can set it to maintain a comfortable temperature during the day and then let that drop a bit to a programmed lower temperature during the night when people are in bed and covered up.
Local contractor Chip Pickering had tips for preparing a home for winter.
One of the first things homeowners with fireplaces and chimneys should do is have those things checked, Pickering said, especially if they haven't been used in months. It can be an important step for heating purposes and for safety.
He recommended checking windows, especially older single-pane windows, because "windows are very energy-inefficient," Pickering said. There are a variety of methods which can be used, either temporarily or permanently, to "wrap" windows to better insulate them.
In an old-fashioned- but still effective- test, Pickering suggested lighting a candle and holding it around the edges of windows and trim while watching the tip of the flame. If there is movement, that can indicate the presence of a draft, or air intrusion, where cold air may be coming in and warm air is escaping.
Pickering said wall receptacles can be checked in a similar way to see if they are permitting air to come and go through gaps in the drywall around them.
Pickering recommended insulating water pipes in the home, especially those which run near exterior walls or under floors that are exposed to colder temperatures. Insulating those pipes can help prevent freezing and cracking in freezing temperatures.
It can help with energy efficiency, especially for hot-water pipes, by helping to maintain the heat of the water running through the pipes. Pickering said insulating cold-water pipes can also be helpful by helping prevent condensation on and around the pipes that might attract mold and mildew.
He recommended reversing the direction of ceiling fans and running them at a slow speed to draw hot air and circulate it around the room.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American spends around $2,000 per household on energy costs each year and about 45 percent of those costs are heating-related.
The Energy Department has launched Saving Money by Saving Energy (also on Facebook), a national campaign dedicated to educating citizens on energy usage and ways to save on utility bills.
Among the tips available at www.energysavers.gov are:
* Look for the ENERGY STAR label on home appliances and products.
* Upgrade traditional light bulbs for your home. Upgrading 15 light bulbs could save you about $50 per year.
* Turn off your computer and monitor when they're not in use and plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips that can easily be turned off when the equipment is not in use.
* Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F.
* Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
* Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed to ensure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
* Identify air leaks in your home and seal them with weatherstripping.