By Vern Hee
Winter is just around the corner. We will soon put away shorts and sunscreen and break out our favorite sweaters and coats.
We also have to prepare our homes for the cool-down.
Valley Electric Association’s vast service area receives varying amounts of snow, but the air can have a bite everywhere with the mercury dropping well below freezing. It gets cold enough that people spend a lot of money staying warm.
Here are some tips from experts at VEA, the Department of Energy and our friends at Touchstone Energy Cooperative to help shave costs off the power bill and assist in preparing your home for the change in season.
Service your heater
VEA recommends you service your heater annually. Heater malfunctions can cost big bucks. Check your settings. VEA meter technicians find that some residents set heaters to “Emergency Heat” and forget to return it to its normal settings. This oversight can double your heating bill.
Update the thermostat
Now is the time to not only program new temperatures into your thermostat but also make sure it is working properly. The Department of Energy recommends 68 degrees while you are awake during the winter months. Cooler during the sleeping hours.
Replace your old thermostat
Programmable thermostats can help save you money by allowing setback temperatures to be programmed, according to Touchstone Energy Cooperative. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, maybe this is the time to make the change.
Setback temperatures, according to the Department of Energy, are 7-10 degrees lower than your normal temperature setting. According to the DOE, this can save you 10 percent on your heating bill.
Drapes and blinds
In the summer, we let the blinds stay down to keep the home cool. According to Touchstone Energy, keep the blinds open during the fall and winter. Allow sunlight to flood the house to warm it up, especially on the south side, which gets most of the sun. When the sun goes down, close the blinds to trap as much of that heat as possible in your home.
Doors and windows
The doors and windows should be checked. Inspect the seals on all exterior doors and windows. Feel for drafts, and seal them. The DOE says any drafts can severely affect your heating bill. Cold air will enter from any holes or gaps found in the door seals or window seals. Use foam, weather stripping, and window caulking to reduce the amount of air coming in. It’s also a good time to inspect hard-to-get places for air leakage in the house. If you have one window that is drafty, at least make sure it has a heavy curtain.
Timer for water heater
VEA recommends that members check into buying a timer for their water heater. The timer allows you to use the heater only when needed. Install a timer that turns off your electric water heater at night or during other times when you know you won’t need it.
Blanket for water heater
VEA recommends an insulation blanket for your water heater. The insulation keeps the heat in the water heater. A $20 blanket goes a long way and will save money in the long run. For those that have a water heater on the garage floor, elevate the heater onto a platform. If it’s touching the floor, it’s losing heat.
Wrap ducts and change filters
This is a great time to check your HVAC ducts for leaks, according to the DOE. Leaks can cost you up to 30 percent. Replace air filters, which can increase air flow and help with comfort in the home. The DOE recommends changing filters monthly.
The DOE says the change in season is a good time to do maintenance on the fireplace, check the chimney and flue for cracks in the seal in the damper. Make sure the fireplace damper is closed during the winter when not in use. The damper is like a window, allowing heat to escape up the chimney.
While using the fireplace to heat the home, crack the nearest window slightly, about one inch and close the doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to 50 degrees and 55 degrees while the fireplace is in use.
For more information on winterizing your home VEA recommends visiting the Department of Energy link on Home weatherization:
Another helpful link is the home efficiency Analysis Tool by Touchstone Energy Cooperative: http://homeefficiency.touchstoneenergy.com/.