When the cold north winds begin to blow this winter, you will want to be sure your home is as energy efficient as possible.
Warm air leaking out of your home during winter months can waste a large portion of your energy dollars. But a well-insulated and weatherized home can reduce your heating costs by up to 30 per cent.
Checking your home’s insulation system is the first step toward overall energy efficiency. First check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-value -the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist heat loss.
The easiest and most cost-effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic. To find out if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness of insulation. If there is less than R-22 (7 inches of fiber glass or 6 inches of cellulose) you should probably add more. If your attic has enough insulation and you are still feeling a chill, chances are you need to add insulation to the exterior walls as well.
A home energy audit will show you where your home may be wasting energy. You can do a simple audit yourself or many local utility companies will conduct energy audits for free or for a nominal charge. For a fee, a professional contractor will analyze how your home’s energy systems work together and compare the analysis against your utility bills. They will give you a list of recommendations for cost effective energy improvements that may include the following tips:
Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter.
Clean or replace furnace filters once a month or as needed.
Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they are not blocked by furniture.
Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly; in just one hour these fans can rob a houseful of warm air.
Keep drapes and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home.
Select energy efficient heating equipment and appliances.
Install exterior or interior storm windows and caulk, seal and weatherstrip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside.
Turn off the lights in any room you are not using, or install timers, photo cells or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
Use task lighting instead of lighting the entire room.
Use compact fluorescent bulbs which are four times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and provide the same lighting.
Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time. .Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank and pipes.
Install low-flow faucets and showerheads.
Lower the thermostat on your water heater.
Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses 15-25 gallons of hot water while a 5-minute showers uses less than 10 gallons.
Your local utility can provide you with many more ideas to save energy in your home. Identifying the energy wasters is a good place to start. Once you have identified the places where you are losing energy, you can assign priorities for improvement. When formulating your plan, you may want to ask yourself the following:
How much do you currently spend on energy?
Where are the greatest energy losses?
How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy saving?
Can the work be done by you or should you hire a contractor?
What is your budget, and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair? With your priorities in order, you can form a “whole house” efficiency plan including a strategy for smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save you the most money.
If your boiler’s making all kinds of banging and bumping sounds, there may be a lack of water in the feed or expansion tank – which is usually found in the loft. Try to locate yours and ensure that it’s topped up with water. If it isn’t, there may be an airlock (trapped pocked of air) in the system or the mains water supply might even have been switched off. There may also be sludge or scale in your boiler, so it’s essential to have all parts checked over by a Gas Safe Register approved engineer. Reputable companies like HomeServe provide a gas boiler service and will get your heating system up and running in no time.
A Faulty Thermostat
Is your house freezing cold one minute and boiling hot the next? If so, there might be a problem with your boiler’s thermostat. These nifty devices can become inaccurate over time and can misread temperature setting and turn the heating on and off unnecessarily. If you think this is what’s happening, ask a professional to clean and recalibrate your old thermostat or buy a new one from your nearest home store. Setback and programmable thermostats can cut your energy bills by ten to twenty per cent, so why not make your house more energy efficient too?
A Weak or Distinguished Pilot Light
The pilot light is an ignition source for your boiler and should be alight at all times. If it’s not, consult the manufacturer’s handbook and see if you can reignite it. The flame should also be crisp and blue (rather than weak and yellow), so seek help if it’s not as you could be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t make any complicated repairs yourself and know how to keep your family gas safe by following expert advice.
If your heating is on, but your radiators are cold – there may be an air bubble trapped in the system. This is known as an airlock and can be easily resolved by bleeding your radiators. Start by turning the central heating off and entering the bleed key into the bleed valve. Turn it anticlockwise and let the trapped air come hissing out. Re-tighten the valve once water starts emerging and turn the heating up once again. Your radiators should now be warm all the way through, but if they’re not – arrange a central heating service online.
Nip problems in the bud quickly and enjoy a toasty house throughout the year.