Energy conservation: Preparing for cooler weather

By Caroline Ward: 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron

As we approach the winter months, we should begin preparing our homes and offices for colder temperatures. Un-insulated pipes and improperly maintained heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems caused Cannon Air Force Base more than $400,000 in damages during the last freeze in February 2011.

In this article, we will discuss simple measures you can take to protect your home. In addition, with energy prices on the rise, heating costs will consume an increasingly larger portion of your household’s energy budget. Completing even just a few of the following tips can help to ensure your heating dollars aren’t being wasted.

  • Control costs by controlling temperature. Set your temperature no higher than 68 degrees. Use a programmable thermostat with set-backs at night and unoccupied times.
  • Weather stripping and caulking — this is one of the least expensive, simplest and most effective ways to cut energy costs. Check around doors, windows and plumbing vents for leaks and drafts; weather strip and caulk can save 5-30 percent on heating costs.
  • Insulate your home. Insulate your water heater and hot-water piping. Check insulation in the attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors and crawl space. Add insulation to meet the guidelines listed at: www.eere.energy.gov. Often hot water pipes are the first to freeze; if you have running water but no hot water, wrap a heating pad around the pipe until thawed, then remove and turn off the heating pad.
  • Improve your windows. Consider installing double pane insulated windows, or at a minimum add plastic sheeting. Installing efficient windows can lower your heating/cooling costs by 30 percent. Energy Star rated window can reduce heating bills by 25-50 percent over single pane windows.
  • Check ducts for leaks. Over time your duct junctions can separate, get torn, crushed or flattened without you knowing it. The result is heated air spilling into your attic or under your house. Repairing these leaks can save up to 10 percent.
  • Check electric wall plugs and switches. Purchase simple pre-cut foam gaskets that install behind the plate to effectively stop leaks.
  • Have your heating system inspected for proper operation. If it is more than 15 years old consider installing a new high efficiency system. Older system efficiency can be as low as 50-70 percent, you can purchase new units with an efficiency rating as high as 97percent. Depending on your current system, you could save as much as 27-47 percent on heating costs.
  • Check your vents. It takes 25 percent more energy to pump air into a room if the vents are blocked by items such as plants, furniture, and newspapers.
  • Let the sun shine in. Open your drapes and let the sun heat your house for free. Close them at night to help insulate your windows.
  • As cold weather approaches, completing just a couple of the initiatives above can make your home more comfortable and help keep those escalating energy bills at bay.

While Energy Awareness Month may be coming to a close, this doesn’t mean your efforts to reduce your energy usage should. Please hold yourself and your peers accountable to all energy used to give everyone the best opportunity for energy savings success.