Thursday, October 4, 2012
Bluegrass Pride: If you have $20 and a free afternoon, spend it on winterizing your house
By Elizabeth Mortenson
Fall weather is on its way. This means bright, clear skies, crunchy leaves and warm drinks. While I’m happy to have an excuse to pull cozy sweaters out of storage and leave windows open all day without air conditioning, I know that the pleasant weather is going to give way to another chilly winter all too soon. This also means that energy use and utility bills will be on the rise.
Before that winter weather hits, I’ll need to go through my house and do some weatherizing. I don’t expect to wear shorts and tees all winter in my house, but I don’t want to rely on inefficient space heaters or have to wear a jacket inside either. So, here are some of the steps I plan to take to keep my energy use low, bills affordable and me comfortable.
(Photo from Bluegrass PRIDE)
• I’ll take a tube of caulking and line the inside and outside edges of window frames. This will help to seal small gaps that would allow cold air to seep into the house.
• Around doors I’ll put foam weather-stripping on the top and sides, and I’ll screw a sweep onto the bottom. Anyplace where warm air meets cold air, you can see water condense, which can lead to mold growth. So I want to stop the air exchange as much as I can.
• Leaky ductwork not only doesn’t deliver the heated air to living spaces, but it also allows allergens, fungi, mold and all the dust in the system to circulate without being caught in a filter. I’ll go through my house, top to bottom, and make sure that the ducts are connected and sealed with mastic tape, and I’ll replace the HVAC filter with a fresh one for the winter.
• I’ll also call my utility company to schedule an HVAC system check-up too. I’d hate to count on the heat on the first really cold night and have it clunk out.
• I’ll also take off the switch plates and electrical socket covers to check on the little foam insulation inserts I put in place last fall. If there are any that need to be replaced, I know that I can easily buy a multi-outlet pack and take 10 minutes to do the whole house.
• Window air conditioners can either be pulled out of the windows or can be covered with little insulation blankets…. I guess this will depend on how much space I can find in the basement for storage.
• While I’m in the basement, I’ll also check on the water heater blanket, to be sure that water I pay to heat stays warm longer.
• In my house access to the basement and attic is only from the outside, so I don’t have to worry about covering and sealing pull-down stairs. However, in the middle of the house is the exposed brick of an old coal-fired furnace chimney. While I like the way it looks, it creates a conduit between both of the unconditioned spaces (basement and attic). I need to go under the floor and above the ceiling to seal up the space between the house frame and the brick as much as possible, so that my heated air stays where I want it.
Utility costs are expected to rise by 18 percent in the next few years, so I want to do all of the cheap, easy fixes I can. All of the steps I mentioned can be done in one Saturday afternoon for about $20. I don’t know how much it will save me in dollars, but I know it will help to keep the house more comfortable and healthier.
Elizabeth Mortenson began work for Bluegrass PRIDE as a program manager in January 2012. She works on litter abatement, recycling, water and Community Energy Advisor programs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Louisville and a master’s in environmental science and a master’s of public administration in sustainable development from Indiana University.