Warm for the Winter: How to Heat Your Home While Saving Energy and Money

Do you get chills just thinking about your utility bills during wintertime? If your answer to a drafty home is to simply crank up the furnace, you’ll not only pay for it, but you could also be wasting energy and depleting more natural resources in the process. Instead of making your heater work overtime, here are ways you can reduce your energy consumption and still keep your home warm and toasty this winter.

  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating accounts for 45% of energy use in homes and pumps out 292 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. The more CO2 we release into the atmosphere, the more we hinder the earth’s ability to maintain balance, which has a variety of negative implications. That’s why, the less energy you use to heat your home, the better it is for Mother Nature (and your wallet!).

 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

Seal Drafty Areas

Air leaks are the primary culprit for excess energy consumption. If air is able to escape out or in, your furnace will just keep pumping out heat relentlessly. Get to the root of the problem by sealing these areas.

  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, including your attic, basement, and garage access doors.

  • Caulk openings around plumbing, ductwork, and electrical wiring.

  • Apply foam sealant on larger gaps around windows and baseboards, and place foam gaskets behind outlet covers.

  • Add baffles around recessed lights if yours are not airtight.

  • Install double-pane windows or cover single-pane windows with storm windows. For a cheaper option, purchase a plastic film insulation kit.

  • Seal gaps around the fireplace with sheet metal/sheetrock and a high-temperature silicone caulk. Also, ensure your flue is closed when  not in use.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends getting a professional blower door test to detect the source of air leaks, but in the interest of saving money, they also provide tips on how to identify air leaks yourself.

  

 

Check Your Insulation

 

According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), 90% of U.S. homes are under-insulated. This is especially true for older homes, but it can even apply to newer ones. The EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks and adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. VisitEnergyStar.gov to learn how to perform a DIY insulation check for your walls and attic and to find out which insulation levels are recommended for your region and climate. If you’re not comfortable with the DIY route, hire a professional to assess your insulation needs.

  

 

Let the Light In

 

Using the sun’s natural light is an easy, environmentally conscious (and completely free!) way to heat up your house. As the sun beams down on your windows, it produces a greenhouse effect that traps heat inside. This works in your favor during the winter months, so be sure to open your curtains each morning to let the sun work its magic. On the flip side, remember to close your curtains at night (consider thermal drapes) to keep the warmth in.

 

 

Turn Down the Thermostat

 

As you begin implementing the energy-saving tips provided above, your home should start to warm up and retain heat more efficiently. That means you shouldn’t need to keep your thermostat set super high. During the cooler months, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68°F while you’re at home and awake, and setting it lower when you’re asleep or away. By turning your thermostat back by 7°-10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day, you can save around 10% per year on heating and cooling costs.

 

 

Program Your Thermostat

 

In addition to choosing the right temperature, a smart or programmable thermostat can make a big impact on your home’s energy efficiency. You can program your thermostat for time-of-day usage, so you don’t have to remember to turn the temperature down when you’re gone or up when you get home from work. More advanced heating systems may even be configured to only heat rooms that you use, or to kick on or off when you enter or leave a room.

 

 

 

Decreasing your energy consumption is an important first step in minimizing the impact that heating has on the environment, and in reducing your energy costs. But we shouldn’t stop there. Rather than relying on fossil fuels (like natural gas) to heat our homes, adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and biomass technologies can even further reduce your home’s environmental footprint. While they may not entirely replace your current heating methods, these technologies can easily integrate with your existing system and supplement its heat production.

 

 Learn more about renewable heating options and their costs at EPA.gov.

By taking steps to reduce the amount of energy you use this winter and adopting renewable heating alternatives, you’ll save money, improve the comfort of your home, and make a positive impact on the planet. Those benefits alone are enough to make you feel warm on the inside, as well as the outside!

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6 Expenses to Include in Your Homebuying Budget

First-time homebuyers are sometimes caught off guard by overlooked expenses, which can create an uncomfortable financial pinch. Be sure you consider these one-time and ongoing expenses.
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1. Home Inspection
For a few hundred dollars, an inspection can uncover potential trouble such as structural problems or asbestos.

2. Home Maintenance
Experts recommend setting aside 1 to 3%* of the home’s purchase price for annual maintenance. For example, you may need to buy lawn care equipment or replace the roof, furnace, or water heater.

3. Taxes And Insurance
Property taxes and homeowners insurance aren’t always included in mortgage payment calculators.

4. Extra Cash At Closing
Your lender should give you a detailed estimate of closing costs. But beyond those, you may have to pay additional expenses, such as a prorated portion of property taxes or homeowners association fees that the seller has already paid.

5. The Move
Whether you hire professional movers for a few thousand dollars or rent a truck, buy boxes and recruit friends to help, moving costs money.

6. Settling In
You may have to pay utility connection fees when you move in, plus utility costs may be higher than you were used to as a renter. Other costs include lock replacements and decorating expenses.

Your Guide To January

Here’s what’s happening in January. 

 

 

National Take the Stairs Day

Take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle by ditching the elevator and taking the stairs instead.

  

Houseplant Appreciation Day

Big or small, sun- or shade-loving, these green powerhouses do wonders for making a house a home. Show ’em some love!

 

  

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

 A national day of service to honor and commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

  

 Data Privacy Day

 An international effort to help people develop smart, safe privacy and security practices. Get involved atstaysafeonline.org.

 

 

National Plan for Vacation Day

 A reminder to use up those vacation days and devote some time to exploring, relaxing, and enjoying some time off!

  

 

 Inspire Your Heart With Art Day

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” — Pablo Picasso

 

 

 

 

 

40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and of those resolutions, 80% of them fail by the second week of February. (But experts say they’re still worth making, so don’t quit before you start!)

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The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces: one looking forward, and one looking back.

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On January 1, 1892, Ellis Island officially opened as an immigration station. 

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January is the birth month of Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, Joan of Arc, and Bessie Coleman.

Fall Maintenance

Exterior Fixes
• Regularly clean gutters and downspouts. Make sure all drainage areas are unblocked by leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier.

• Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Use caulk to fill the holes or completely replace the wood.

• Inspect your roof, or hire a licensed professional to examine your roof for wear and tear. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it’s time to replace the entire roof. Also, check the flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys. If you have any leaks or gaps, heavy snow and ice will find its way in.

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The change in temperature and humidity and normal wear and tear can cause window seals to crack and shrink. Check your windows and doors inside and out for leaks and drafts. Caulk cracks or install weather stripping around windows and doors, including the garage door. Replace screens with storm windows and clean them if needed

• To prevent exterior water pipes from bursting when the weather gets below freezing, turn off the valves to the exterior hose bibs. Run the water until the pipes are empty. Make sure all the water is drained from the pipes, if not; the water can freeze up and damage the pipes.

• Wrap water pipes that run along exterior walls with heating tape. It will save energy and prevent them from freezing.

 

 

System Maintenance
• Clean and replace filters in your furnace or heating system. Contact a licensed heating contractor to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Check the attic to make sure the insulation is installed properly. The vapor barrier on insulation should face down toward the living space. If it is installed incorrectly (with the vapor barrier facing up) then the insulation will trap moisture causing possible water problems. Cut slits in the vapor barrier to allow moisture to escape.

Fall Garden Maintenance
• Fall is the perfect time to divide or move perennials. Remove dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials. Annuals typically die when temperatures drop below freezing. But perennials often appear as though they too have bitten the bullet. That’s because their top growth dies back, although in most cases the root ball is hardy enough to survive even extreme temperatures, especially if it’s covered with a layer of mulch.

• Trim dead branches out the trees to prevent them from coming down and causing damage in a winter storm.

• Rake up the thick layers of leaves that settle on lawn surfaces. Large leaves in particular, especially when they get wet, can compact to the point where they suffocate the grass below and lead to all kinds of insect and disease problems. So it’s a good idea to routinely rake or blow them off the lawn or, better yet, use a mulching mower to shred them into fine pieces.

• Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn; it will allow moisture and nutrients to get into the roots. When you’re done, spread fertilizer then grass seed.

• This will be the ideal time to sow cool-season grasses such as fescue and rye – it will give them the opportunity to germinate and develop a good root system before freezing temperatures arrive. It’s also the right time to fertilize turf grasses, preferably with slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. When given adequate nutrients, turf grasses have the ability to store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter months. That will mean a better-looking lawn come spring.

 

Check For Pests
• Pests love attics because they are full of nice warm insulation for nesting, and they offer easy access to the rest of the house. With gable vents that lead into the attic it is a good idea to install a screen behind them to keep those critters out.

• Even after closing off those entryways, pests can still find a way in. The first place to check for any unwanted guests is under the kitchen cupboards and appliances.

 

Safety Checks
• Each fall, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and put in fresh batteries. These are very important detectors to have in a home. A smoke alarm can save lives in a house fire. A carbon monoxide detector can also save lives if a home has oil or gas-burning appliances, like a furnace or water heater. 

• Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless byproduct of burning oil or natural gas, and it can be deadly. For just a few dollars, a carbon monoxide detector will sound an alarm if the levels get too high.

• Always install carbon monoxide detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions. Generally they should be installed near each potential source of carbon monoxide, and within ear shot of the living and sleeping areas.

• Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected, cleaned and repaired to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Your Guide to October

 

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
— L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

   

 

 World Teachers’ Day

 

Celebrates teachers all over the world and recognizes the unique issues they face each day.

  

 

 

Columbus Day

 

Commemorates the voyage and landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in the New World in 1492.

 

 

 

 

 Leif Erikson Day

 

Honors Norwegian explorer Leif Erikson, believed to be the first European to come to North America.

 

 

  

National Dessert Day

 

The sweetest day of the year!

 

 

 

 

World Food Day

 

Events in over 150 countries honor the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. #ZeroHunger

 

 

 

National Fossil Day

 

Held during Earth Science Week (Oct 14-20), this day underscores the importance of fossils in relation to our understanding of our world.

 

 

 

National Get Smart About Credit Day

 

Every October, volunteer bankers visit local classrooms to teach students about credit and finances.

 

 

Halloween

 

“Darkness falls across the land/ The midnight hour is close at hand/ Creatures crawl in search of blood/ To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood”

 

— Rob Temperton, “Thriller”

 

  

 

 

 

More U.S. presidents have been born in October than any other month.

Oktoberfest (officially held in Munich, Germany) isn’t just about beer and pretzels. It originated as a wedding reception for Bavarian royalty in 1810 and has since evolved into one of the largest annual festivals in the world.

Though it’s the 10th month of the year, the name October comes from the Latin word octo, which means “eight.” It was originally the eighth month on the Roman calendar. 

The World Series, which kicked off in 1903, is usually played in October.

Halloween has its roots in an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, and many of today’s Halloween traditions, like dressing in costumes, can be traced back to the Celts.

 

 

Have a wonderful October!

Gutter Cleaning

What
Gutters need to be cleared of leaves and debris that may have accumulated in order to function properly.
Why
Clogged gutters can wreak havoc on your roof, siding, and foundation. These repairs can be extremely expensive.
How
Many homeowners opt into a service contract with a gutter cleaning company that schedules twice a year. We recommend these plans because they are typically affordable and there is potential danger involved with accessing the gutters on many homes. Generally these specialists will get up on a ladder and check & clear the gutters & downspouts of debris. Clearing them can often be challenging due to baked on foliage (spring) or frozen leaves (winter) attached to the insides of the channels, so if you are doing this yourself, make sure you have a good ladder and a spotter helping you out. Water is generally run through the system after the channels are cleared. Make sure that all of your downspouts are extended away from the foundation at the ground level. Often, it may be necessary to regrade your soil in some spots so that all water is directed away from your home.

Your Guide to August

 

It’s hard to believe summer is drawing to a close! Soon the kids will be back to school (whew!) and your vacation will be just a memory (aww). But while we’ve still got a bit of summer left, be sure to enjoy it to the fullest with these great upcoming events!

 

August 9 — National Book Lovers Day

Are you always looking for an excuse to drop everything and curl up in a comfy chair with a good book? Then this day is for you! Bookworms across the country, get ready to stock up on reading material, turn off your cell phone, and settle down for a full day of page-turning indulgence!

 Want to support child literacy in America? The Reading Is Fundamental charitable organization has been around since 1966. Learn more and contribute at rif.org.

 

 

August 18 — National Honey Bee Day 


Bees are more than just chubby striped bugs that might sting you. In fact, the health of the entire planet may be affected by the recent drop in the bee population. One-third of the world’s food production depends on bee pollination, and the population of bees in a given area is a strong indicator of that area’s overall environmental health. Here are a few ways you can help save the honey bees:

 

  • Plant flora that bees like. Clover, flowering trees, and blue, purple, and yellow flowers are favorites.

  • Stop using pesticides. A survey of 800 independent scientific studies concluded that the recent alarming bee die-offs were caused, in part, by the use of chemical pesticides.

  • Donate to the Pollinator Partnership. This nonprofit is dedicated to protecting and supporting pollinators around the world.

 

 

 

August 19 — World Humanitarian Day

Every day, humanitarian aid workers help ease the suffering of millions of people around the world. The United Nations created this day to honor the humanitarian workers striving to make the world a better place and to remember those who have lost their lives in conflict.

 

 

 

August 26 — Women’s Equality Day

Sufferin’ suffragettes! Did you know there was a time when women could not own property, sign contracts, or even cast a vote to help shape the country they lived in? Thanks to the suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, prohibiting voter discrimination on the basis of sex and giving women the right to vote.

 

 

 

August 27-September 9 — 50th U.S. Open

Tennis, anyone? With a new logo and a new stadium, the U.S. Open is celebrating its 50th birthday in a big way! We’re all set to watch the game we love, and it’s not our fault we couldn’t get tickets. Check out this year’s schedule so you don’t miss any of the action.