Angie's List: Some tips on winterizing your home

Brutally cold weather is on the doorstep. Are you and your home ready for winter's wrath?

There is not just one thing to get your home ready for the cold. There are a number of things, but the most obvious is making sure your furnace is up to standard.

Industry experts predict home heating costs will be about three percent higher than they were a year ago.

A little preventative maintenance on your heating system before cold weather hits can keep your unit running efficiently and potentially save you big dollars on an emergency service call.

The numbers do not lie. Staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter is not cheap.

Consumer expert Angie Hicks said, "It's always important to make sure you have a good energy efficient house because your heating and cooling costs are up to 50% of your home energy costs so any improvements you can make whether your house is old or new can cut down on your monthly bills."

And this winter, it begins with your furnace. If you have not done so yet, get it serviced.

Angie said, "The most important thing consumers should do this fall season is have their furnace inspected. One service company told us that between 80 and 90 percent of the calls they get for no heat in the winter is because they didn't have the furnace checked. This cost anywhere from $60 to $85 so it's really worth the money."

Chris Baker, a heating and cooling technician, said, "On an annual checkup we'll check for the efficiency of the system, make sure it's running fine, the safety's - make sure there are no combustions and no failures in the middle of a cold season."

If your furnace is up there in years, you may want to replace it. Also check your attic.

"The first step is your furnace. If your furnace is more than 10 years old it's probably pretty inefficient so you might consider to a more energy efficient model. Also, adding insulation to your house. A lot of times it's something we don't think about but the heat can escape from the roof of your house so easily. If you go up to your attic and can see exposed 2 by 4's, you're going to need more insulation. The good news is there is a tax credit available through the end of this year that you can take advantage of and get up to one third of the cost back on some of these home improvements up to $1,500," said Angie.

If you can see light coming through the seal of your doors, then you need to add weather stripping to close the cracks.

This is simple and cheap to do, costing usually less than $20 a door. Walk by windows and doors with a lit stick of incense.

Drafts will pull the smoke that direction, showing you the drafts.

Products that air seal, like weather stripping and caulking, can qualify for a federal tax credit as long as they come with a manufacturer’s certification statement.

Clear plastic film for windows is cheap and easy to install. Window installation kits at hardware stores usually cost less than $10. Apply the film to your windows and use a hair dryer to seal it.

Here is something that I personally found saves a ton of money: a programmable thermostat. They are not that expensive. If it sounds too complicated, when you have your furnace serviced, your technician can probably install and program it in about ten or fifteen minutes.
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Below are some more tips from Angie.

A little preventative maintenance on your heating system before cold weather hits can keep your unit running efficiently and potentially save you big dollars on an emergency service call.

• An inspection and cleaning of a heating system typically costs between $60 and $85.

• A good cleaning is important because there's lint, a buildup of particles, some rust and other stuff in gas furnaces. There's also soot in an oil furnace. In the case of a heat pump, the outdoor unit actually needs cleaned. Over the summer, you get grass clippings which diminish the ability of the unit to perform to peak.

• An inspection can also reveal a leak of deadly carbon monoxide, which is colorless and odorless.

Simple, low-cost weathering tips:

• Seal it up: If you can see light coming through the seal of your doors, then you need to add weather stripping to close the cracks. This is simple and cheap to do - usually less than $20 a door. Walk by windows and doors with a lit stick of incense. Drafts will pull the smoke that direction, showing you the drafts. Product that air seal (such as weather stripping and caulking) can qualify for a federal tax credit as long as they come with a Manufacturers Certification Statement.

• Apply film to windows: Window installation kits found at hardware stores cost less than $10. Apply the film to your windows with a hair dryer.

• Install a programmable thermostat: Setting a programmable thermostat at 65 degrees for eight hours a day -- for example, while you're at work -- can save 10 percent on your energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.• Check your air filters on your heating unit each month: A clogged filter restricts airflow, forcing the unit to work harder.

• Insulate your pipes: Insulate vulnerable pipes to avoid damage from freezing temperatures. Insulate pipes located outside and on areas where you have plumbing on the exterior walls.

Hiring a professional for weatherization:

• Replace your HVAC unit: If your furnace has been cranking out the heat for more than 10 years, you might want to consider investing in a new, more efficient heating system. In the long run, high efficiency models will reduce bills and cut down those initial costs for a new system.

• Adding more insulation: If you can see 2-by-4s in the attic, you need more insulation. The coldest climates may need up to 19 inches of insulation; warmer climates can get by with 15 inches. Check there, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors and crawl spaces.

• Replace your windows: If your windows are older and drafty, it's a great time to buy new, energy efficient models that will help lower your energy costs.

• Federal tax credits available: Now through the end of the year, homeowners who add qualifying products such as HVAC units, insulation and windows to their homes can receive a tax credit of up to 30 percent the cost of materials with a maximum credit of $1,500. Check products carefully because not all qualify.


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