Winterize your home to save energy and expense

2014-01-03T00:00:00Z 2014-01-03T23:52:06Z Winterize your home to save energy and expenseBy Christine Bryant Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 03, 2014 12:00 am  • 

If you haven't already winterized your home, it's not too late.

Doing so can not only save you money, but prevent damage to your home and unnecessary cold nights inside.

"The largest energy users in most homes are your heating and cooling systems," said Kathleen Szot, external communications manager for NIPSCO. "In a typical home, they account for approximately 60 percent of the energy consumed, so insulation and sealing can have an impact on your bill year round."

Here are some tips from experts about what you can do to get your home ready for the remaining months of winter.

Time to change

One of the first things you should do is make sure the batteries in the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are replaced, said Allen Kent, owner of Kent Heating and Air Conditioning.

Many replace the batteries during fall's time change, but if you haven't done so yet, now is the time.

An estimated 15,000 people visit the emergency room each year for unintentional carbon monoxide exposure, with another 500 dying from the exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Szot also recommends changing the furnace filter regularly.

"A dirty filter blocks the flow of air, making your furnace work harder," she said.

Check for air leakage

Basements and crawl spaces are the perfect locations for air to seep into the home - especially where pipes enter and exit the structure, Kent said.

"If leaks are found, they can be sealed with silicone sealant in above freezing temperatures," he said.

By sealing the duct system in the crawl space, Kent said a homeowner can save well over 20 percent on his heating and cooling costs.

"Ducts should be air tight, and if you are blowing warm air into your crawl space instead of your home, you're wasting energy," he said.

If a door or window is drafty, try weather stripping.

"Home improvement stores have full lines available and this is an easy project, even when it is cold," he said.

Remember to check any attached garage doors leading into the home as well, he said.

"These must be sealed air tight for not only energy savings, but also for safety purposes," Kent said.

Insulate

If you have less than 9 inches of attic insulation, Kent said this is a great time to have additional insulation blown in.

Szot said homes built before 1970 typically don't have adequate insulation.

"NIPSCO offers incentives on insulation and duct sealing to help make it easier to find the solution that's best for your home," she said.

Be prepared

Ice storms equal power outages, so before one hits the region, Kent suggests getting a good flashlight with spare batteries handy.

"This is the time of year when we can lose power, so make sure you are geared up with food, coolers and a generator, if possible," he said. "Remember, generators must be operated outside the home and garage due to carbon monoxide exhaust gases."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also recommends clearing rain gutters, cleaning chimneys, repairing roof leaks and cutting away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.

Get help

Not sure where to begin winterizing the home?

NIPSCO offers a Home Energy Assessment as part of the Energizing Indiana program in which an energy adviser will analyze a home's energy use, recommend weatherization measures and help install low-cost energy-saving measures.

Once the energy assessment is complete, the home owner will receive a report on the home's efficiency and ideas for energy-saving improvements.

The program is available to all NIPSCO customers at no additional cost, Szot said.

FEMA also recommends hiring a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from snow accumulation.

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