Button up your home for winter | SummitDaily.com

Button up your home for winter

by Eartha Steward

High Country Conservation Center

Most of us live up here for the winter season. I know the first sight of snow last week made me feel a little giddy, knowing that the white days of winter were on the way. But for a lot of us, winter means a time of increasing energy bills, and these days, worries about balancing comfort with affordability.

Simple weatherization can help increase comfort and energy efficiency during our long winters. Since October is National Weatherization Month (and the peaks are getting whiter), I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for saving money and staying warmer this winter.

1. Check to see if you qualify for the Northwest Colorado Council of Government’s (NWCCOG) Free Weatherization Program: The income guidelines have been raised this year, so a family of four earning $44,100 or less can receive this free service, which can include free replacement of inefficient heating equipment and appliances, insulation upgrades, and more. Summit, Park and Lake County residents are all eligible. Call (800) 332-3669 for more information.

2. Get an energy audit: If you don’t qualify for the free NWCCOG program, you can still get an expert to tell you where you can improve efficiency and save money. Call the High Country Conservation Center’s Energy Manager at (970) 485-3509 for more information.

3. See if you qualify for Xcel energy rebates and Incentives: If you are an Xcel Energy natural gas customer, you may qualify for a variety of rebates and incentives to help get you ready for winter, including double-rebates through October 15 for insulation upgrades. Check out http://www.responsiblebynature.com or call (800) 895-4999.

4. Weatherstrip Your Door: If you see daylight or can feel a strong draft on a windy day around your door frame, its time to replace your weatherstripping. Replacing worn weatherstripping is easy for any mildly handy homeowner or renter – and super cheap too.

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5. Upgrade Windows: Windows are often one of the coldest spots in a house. If you can afford to upgrade, you can get a little back from tax rebates (30 percent of cost, up to $1,500) and probably save a lot on energy, too. If you can’t replace windows, installing storm windows over older windows can also dramatically increase comfort and performance.

6. Fix Leaky Windows: Believe it or not, the plastic insulating sheet kits actually work wonders and are a much less-expensive and non-permanent option. Caulking and sealing around inoperable windows is another really easy and affordable fix. To really improve comfort, consider insulated blinds. Breckenridge Blinds (www.breckblinds) offers great, durable choices locally with the assistance of their knowledgeable team. Or, check out http://www.blinds.com for seemingly unlimited options – but you’ll have to measure, calculate, and install yourself. You can also make your own with the help of The Warm Company (www.warmcompany.com) which sells industrial quality supplies for the crafter.

7. Change your furnace filter: Changing out furnace filters is another easy and affordable solution that can help increase the efficiency of your furnace and help it live a longer life too. I recommend taking the old filter out and bringing it with you to the hardware store to find the exact size.

8. Insulate hot water heater and pipes: You’re hard-working hot water heater deserves a blanket too! Most experts recommend wrapping your hot water heater in an insulated blanket and wrapping at least the first 12 feet of hot water pipe in insulated pipe wrap. These are also inexpensive options for the do-it-yourselfer.

9. Install gaskets behind outlets: Ever feel a draft by the power outlets on your walls? This is one of the most common places cold air can penetrate into your house. Especially on exterior walls, install a rubber or foam gasket behind your outlet covers to stop the draft. These gaskets are under a dollar and very easy to install.

10. Close the fireplace damper: When not in use, it’s absolutely imperative to close the fireplace flue! Leaving it open is like leaving a window open 24 hours a day – lots of warm air (that you paid to heat) is just floating away.

Just like pulling out the gloves or putting on the snow tires, its time to button up your house or condo for winter. Don’t wait – take advantage of the programs, advice, and techniques available to get your house ready for winter this month.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier and Jen Santry at the High Country Conservation Center. To submit questions or column suggestions, contact them at eartha@highcountryconservation.org