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Energy-saving tips can help lower bills
MISSISSIPPI STATE – With the heat of the summer a memory and the chilly days of winter arriving soon, autumn is a perfect time to prepare homes with cost- and energy-saving strategies.
“Do your fall cleaning and home improvements while the weather is good,” said Bobbie Shaffett, family resource management specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Clean the gutters, blow leaves off the roof and weatherize your home.”
Heating and cooling account for about 56 percent of energy use in a typical home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. One of the least expensive ways to cut down on energy waste in the winter is blocking air leaks with weather stripping and caulk, Shaffett said.
“Check around doors and windows for drafts and leaks,” she said. “Look at walls, ceilings and floors for places where pipes, vents or electrical conduits result in holes, such as under kitchen and bathroom sinks and near the outdoor air conditioning unit. By blocking holes, you will not only cut down on heat leaking out of your house, but also reduce openings for rodents and pests to enter your home.”
James Wooten, MSU Extension associate in the Department Agriculture and Biological Engineering, is an engineering energy specialist.
“A big problem in Southern homes is moisture accumulation,” he said. “High humidity can cause condensation, which translates to water inside the building, and the water grows mold. This is less of a problem in the winter than in the summer because winter air usually has a lower moisture content, and heaters reduce humidity. Create a vapor barrier now by caulking windows and installing weather stripping around doors to cut down on energy waste in both winter and summer.”
Proper insulation is another way to create a barrier between warm air inside the house and cold air outside, Wooten said.
“Both attic and wall insulation are important,” he said. “If you have really thick insulation in your attic but none in your walls, you haven’t accomplished a lot. Don’t forget other forms of insulation, such as storm windows, newer double-pane glass windows and an insulated storm door.”
Shaffett said homeowners should check heating ducts for leaks and apply mastic or other duct sealant, not duct tape, to prevent heated air from escaping into attic spaces or under the house.
“Another tip is to close the damper on an unused fireplace,” she said. “Your chimney is basically a large open window that draws warm air out of the room and creates a draft. If you’re not burning a fire, close the damper and save money on your energy bill at no cost to you.”
Replace or clean heater air filters once a month to avoid restricting air flow and increase energy efficiency.
“People are getting more accustomed to buying energy-efficient appliances, but there are several other ways to reduce energy consumption,” Shaffett said. “Cutting back on energy use is like putting money in your pocket.”
Shaffett recommends fast and free strategies that include turning down the thermostat and bundling up; rearranging furniture so seating areas are adjacent to interior walls rather than exterior walls; washing clothes in cold water; opening drapes on sunny days to allow heat in; heating only rooms that are used and shutting doors to unused rooms to preserve heat; and taking shorter showers.
A programmable thermostat can help regulate temperatures. Some electronics and appliances can be unplugged or put on a power strip to be turned off when not in use.
The U.S. Department of Energy has information on saving energy in a variety of areas, including weatherization, heating and cooling, landscaping and more at http://www.energysavers.gov/.