By: Brittney Gordon-Williams
Fall is by far my favorite time of year. After the sweltering heat of a DC summer, no season makes me happier than the crisp mornings that come with September. It brings back memories of returning to school as a kid and all of the excitement that came with a fresh start to the school year. These days, fall means yummy seasonal flavors at the coffee shop and the chance to bundle up once again in my favorite jeans and sweaters. But, as I slowly start to feel the chill creeping into my home, I am reminded once again that fall is prime time to make sure that my house is prepared for the upcoming wintery months.
Did you know that the average family spends more than $2,100 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that going to heating and cooling? Properly maintaining your home in the cooler months can save you money and will also protect the climate from harmful greenhouse gas emissions. So, what are the most important things that you should be doing to get your home ready?
1.) Maintain your heating equipment: The number one cause for heating system failure is the neglect of your equipment. If your system is more than 10 years old, this is the time to schedule a pre-season check up with a licensed contractor. A contractor can let you know if your system is operating at peak performance. You should also check your system’s air filter every month, and when it is dirty, change it. At minimum, change your filter every three months.
2.) Use a programmable thermostat: The best way to control your home’s temperature is to use a programmable thermostat. By using the pre-programmed settings, you could save about $180 every year in energy costs.
3.) Seal air leaks in your home. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Sealing air leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a significant impact on improving your comfort and reducing energy bills. If you are adding insulation to your home, seal air leaks first to ensure you get the best performance from your insulation. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape, and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
4.) Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products. Whether you are replacing light bulbs or appliances in your home, ENERGY STAR qualified products can help you save energy and reduce energy bills. The label can be found on more than 65 types of products ranging from heating and cooling equipment to ENERGY STAR certified lighting.
ENERGY STAR’s website has everything you need to get your home ready for fall. From tools to help you compare your energy use to similar homes across the country, to recommendations from EPA’s Home Energy Advisor, energystar.gov is your one-stop shop for all things energy efficient. Starting this weekend, I am going to use these tips to make sure my energy bills don’t rise with the falling temperatures.
Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR program’s communications team. She came to EPA in 2010 after a career in broadcast journalism.