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Dec. 11, 2014 Volume 36, No. 15

Save money this winter on home heating bills

MU expert offers 10 tips to beating the cold


iStock photo

As the thermometer drops this winter, keeping a drafty home warm can be a challenge. Michael Goldschmidt, assistant teaching professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences and state housing and environmental design specialist at MU Extension, offers 10 tips to keeping homes cozy during the cold months.

1. Seal cracks around your windows and doors. Use a caulking gun or premolded rope tape to seal frames of windows and doors to keep heat from escaping. And add felt or rubber weather stripping to the perimeters of doors and windows.

2. If you have older windows, install plastic window-insulation film. Seal the precut plastic film with double-sided sticky tape, and use a hair dryer to shrink the film.

3. Heat yourself instead of your house. Add an extra layer of clothing when you are at home, and turn the thermostat down a few degrees. “A few degrees won’t be that noticeable, but you’ll see a tremendous savings in your utility bill,” Goldschmidt said. Also, try using a space heater for lived-in areas.

4. Fireplaces might add warmth and beauty to your home, but they generally are an inefficient heat source. “Put a plywood panel over the front of the fireplace when it is not in use. Insert a chimney balloon to stop cold drafts, save heat and block odors from chimney creosote,” Goldschmidt said. Just remember to remove the balloon when you are using the fireplace.

5. Check your attic insulation to make sure it meets current recommendations. Energy experts now recommend R-49 insulation, a 3-inch increase in insulation inches from the old standard, R-38. You should have about 15 inches of insulation in the attic, Goldschmidt said. As a safety precaution, he said, homeowners should not insulate “knob and tube” wiring because this could start a fire. Though extra insulation is an expensive option, it provides the most cost savings over the longest time, he said.

6. Cover window air conditioners and other window-mounted items with heavy plastic to prevent cold air from coming inside your home. Seal the heavy plastic.

7. Add rigid insulation over any ceiling-mounted openings such as attic fans.

8. Have your furnace inspected and tuned annually by a professional. “A well-kept furnace is an energy-efficient furnace,” Goldschmidt said.

9. Put an old-fashioned draft dodger snugly against the bottom of doors or on windowsills to keep cold air from entering your home. For instructions on making these weighted fabric tubes, and for other energy-saving tips, go here.

10. Schedule an energy audit with your local utility provider. Many municipalities, utility companies and community action coalitions offer free audits.

— Linda Geist