Problem: Attic Heat Loss
Without adequate attic insulation to retain warm air, your heating system must work harder in order to maintain a comfortable temperature. Older homes, especially those built before 1980, often don't have enough insulation.
Solution: Add Insulation
Attic insulation should be approximately five inches deep. Check with a local home improvement store or a contractor to determine the optimal R-value for insulation in your region. You can hire a professional or install the additional insulation yourself, making sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Problem: Air Leaks
Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors allow warm indoor air to escape, lowering your home's overall efficiency while raising your heating bill. Examine all windows, doors, and exterior walls to identify weak spots in need of attention.
Solution: Fill in the Gaps
Bobby DiFulgentiz, energy efficiency expert for Lennox Industries, suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weatherstripping, particularly where siding meets with another material, such as wood. To seal cracks within and around windows (wherever wood meets glass), use putty. If you need an extra dose of energy efficiency, install drapes or insulating shades over windows and exterior doors.
Problem: Inefficient HVAC Equipment
A home's heating and cooling system can account for more than 50 percent of the utility bill. A clogged air filter can hinder your unit's efficiency by reducing airflow and in turn, causing the system to work harder. Check and clean HVAC filters monthly.
Related: How To: Change a Furnace Filter
Solution: Regular Professional Maintenance
Lennox's DiFulgentiz recommends having your HVAC equipment thoroughly inspected by a certified technician. Do so before Old Man Winter arrives. A professional inspection reduces the likelihood of a system breakdown during the coldest days, when losing heat would be more than a little inconvenient.
Problem: The Forgotten Fireplace
Fireplaces and chimneys need to be checked and cleaned regularly to ensure that they are operating safely and efficiently. Always keep your fireplace dampers closed when the fireplace is not in use; that prevents warm indoor air from escaping through the chimney. Check for soot buildup as well as cracks in the mortar between bricks.
Solution: Bring In a Pro
It's a good idea to hire a professional to inspect the chimney, chimney cap, and fireplace, making repairs where necessary. Also, consider installing heatproof glass doors to improve your fireplace's energy-efficiency.
Problem: Shorter Days, Darker Homes
Because winter brings shorter days, now is a good time to evaluate your home's lighting needs and decide if natural light is insufficient in any areas. Once you've determined your lighting needs, add lamps where necessary. While you're at it, check to see if you are still using inefficient incandescent light bulbs.
Solution: Replace Old Bulbs
To save money on lighting, replace old-style incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. CFLs use less energy and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing the bulbs in your five most frequently used fixtures can save you up to $65 each year.
Related: Your Guide to Navigating the New World of Light Bulbs
For more about energy efficiency, consider:
11 Ways To Winterize Your Home on a Budget
12 Ways to Put Your Home on an Energy Diet—TODAY!
9 Cutting-Edge Energy-Efficient Appliances
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!