Winterizing can save big bucks even in mild winters

November 8, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

Checking your furnace can save on winter heating costs. Thinkstock

Even in this area, where winters are fairly mild compared to some other spots in the country, there are numerous steps you can take to help protect your home against winter cold and reduce your energy bills.

“As cooler temperatures are upon us, preparing homes to save on heating expenses and conducting annual safety checks are important for our customers’ pocketbooks, safety and the reliability of their heating equipment,” said Agnes Barard, director of customer care for Puget Sound Energy.

In a press release and on its website, PSE offers numerous steps folks can take to winterize their homes:

  • Seal gaps around windows by adding weather stripping or, if appropriate, caulking, to keep heat from escaping. For a cheap and quick way to do this around doors, roll up a towel or blanket and put it at the base of the door.
  • Add insulation to attics, walls, ducts and floors.
  • Have your furnace inspected and serviced to make sure it is in good working order. If you believe there is a problem with your natural gas furnace, water heater or other gas appliance, PSE will send a technician to conduct a free inspection. Small repairs may be done for a minimal cost. Call 888-225-5773 toll free.
  • Keep heating vents unblocked by furniture or other items.
  • Close the fireplace damper when it’s not in use.

PSE said with just a few steps, you could save up to 15 percent off your heating bill and actually keep your home warmer.

Of course, some of the chief culprits in allowing inner heat to escape are quite possibly your windows. Tim Bergsma, of Issaquah Glass Inc., said the usual recommendations are what PSE suggested, namely caulking around windows and even doors.

“The biggest thing you can do is upgrade your windows,” Bergsma said.

Windows installed or rebuilt prior to the late 1980s probably aren’t the most efficient available. They may look good, with double panes of glass and aluminum frames, but Bergsma said there are more efficient materials now available.

Many newer windows are coated with materials that reflect heat back into your home instead of letting it slip outside. The frames commonly are vinyl and don’t conduct heat or cold nearly as much as aluminum.

Incidentally, Bergsma doesn’t necessarily recommend putting that plastic insulation you can find in hardware stores over your windows. If you have older, possibly even single pane windows and feel cold coming off them, the plastic may indeed do you some good. On new windows, you probably needn’t bother.

“I don’t think you’re going to gain much,” Bergsma said.

Bergsma believes there is one phenomenon of which owners of newer windows need to be more aware. With older, single pane windows, sometimes condensation forms on the inside of the window.

With new, highly efficient double pane windows and frames, very little cold is getting in and very little heat is getting out. The outside window surface is probably the coldest thing on the exterior of your house. In this case, exterior window condensation can occur. It’s harmless and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your windows.

“It’s just something some people don’t understand,” Bergsma said, adding his firm has had to replace new windows with less efficient models in order to satisfy customers convinced their windows were faulty.

PSE offers various rebates for home upgrades, ranging from new windows to insulation. Learn more at www.pse.com. You can find more winterizing tips on the same site.

If you have trouble paying your winter heating bills, help might be available through the federal government’s Low Income Heat Energy Assistance Program as well as PSE’s Home Energy Lifeline. Call 888-225-5773 toll free.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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