Do Your Part: Two quick fixes can cut your energy bill

By January 12, 2010Do It Yourself

 By Terri Bennett


Jan. 11, 2010 (McClatchy-Tribune News Service delivered by Newstex) —

Most of us want to find ways to go green and maintain a budget. We need our dollars to go as far as possible.  At home, your best spending is to improve your energy efficiency. Unless you seal up the drafts in your home, you are letting money blow right out the window. Heating and cooling your home account for nearly 50 percent of a typical household utility bill.  Now is the perfect time to take on two very simple projects that will practically pay for themselves in a few short weeks.


We’ve all heard about the benefits of installing extra insulation and weather stripping around doors and windows, but there are two additional leaky culprits that you should know about. Both allow heat to escape from your home in the winter. Fortunately, both are not expensive to fix. Warm air rises.  If you have a fireplace, it’s likely rising right up and out of your home all winter long. Unfortunately, there are very few fireplace flues that offer an airtight seal. Also, many times we forget to close the flue between fires.  There is a simple solution: an inflatable balloon that fits just under the flue, sealing off leaks. It’s called a fireplace plug or chimney balloon and you can install one in less than five minutes.  A quick-release valve means the plug deflates in seconds when you’re ready to use the fireplace again. So for an investment of roughly $60, you can seal up one of the biggest sources of heat loss in your home during the winter.


The second place to save some serious money is by modifying your attic entryway.  Whether you have a pull-down stairway or a vertical door, attic entryways are rarely insulated.This provides the perfect escape route for air you’ve paid to heat. Conversely, during the summer it’s also a source of hot air leaking into your air-conditioned home.  Insulating attic entryways are usually an easy do-it-yourself project or you can purchase an insulated cover that fits your need.  Last summer, for about $40, I insulated my attic door with rigid insulation that included a heat-reflecting barrier.  A little heavy-duty glue and some weather stripping were the only other materials needed to complete this quick energy-saving project.


Doing your part to seal up the sneaky leaks in your home is a great return on investment. This is one smart investment that will yield an instant and long term return.


(Terri Bennett is an Earth scientist, syndicated columnist and mom; 


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