Use current good weather to get ready for bad

Saturday, September 20, 2008

We remember times -- perish the thought -- when we were experiencing weather that was more winter-like than the summer-like temperatures we're enjoying this weekend.

Yes, they were early, but some years snows and freezing temperatures weren't all that far away on the last official summer weekend in September.

We know it's tempting to find some other enjoyable activity to take us outdoor on balmy fall days like these, but come winter, we may wish we would have taken advantage of the nice weather to get our homes ready for the bad.

That's especially true this winter, when high energy prices and a slippery economy may make savings a priority.

According to the Energy Star nationwide energy efficiency program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners can realize potential savings of up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, or up to to percent of their total annual energy bill, by improving the sealing and insulation on their homes.

The Nebraska Public Power District and its partner public power utilities point out some simple steps homeowners can take in making these improvements:

* Make the house weather tight. Air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel -- like those around windows and doors. Other leaks may take some hunting to find, such as those hidden in attics, basements and crawlspaces. Sealing them up with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping will improve comfort and help reduce utility bills.

* Ask a heating and cooling technician to check to make sure combustion appliances such as a gas- or oil-fired furnace, water heater and clothes dryer are vented properly.

* Don't scrimp on the insulation. Insulation helps keep a home warm in winter and cool in summer. To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in the attick. A quick way to see if there is a need for more insulation is to look across an uncovered attic floor. If the insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, more insulation is needed.

So how about it? At least take time this weekend to check out your house to make sure the windows are tight and heat isn't escaping through cracks around doors, foundations or elsewhere. And, it's always better to have your funace checked out when you don't need it than to call for help when it quits in the middle of a blizzard.

More information is availale on the Energy Start Web site at http://www.energystar.gov/homeadvisor

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