With temperatures reaching record highs this summer, it's hard to imagine cold weather just around the corner. According to early forecasts, however, an equally memorable winter is coming. Whether you are a renter or an owner, taking appropriate steps now to prepare your home can keep you warmer during the winter months and can significantly reduce your utility costs.
"Weatherizing your home is an important strategy, saving money by saving energy," says Lindsey Geisler of the Department of Energy. "On average, 15 percent of income goes to utilities for low-income families, so weatherization can really free up those funds for other important things."
Currently, more than 40 million households are eligible for the DOE-sponsored Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income families with making home upgrades that can reduce annual energy bills by an average of $437. "It's never too soon to make adjustments as you can afford them," says Geisler. Regardless of income levels, any home can save through tax breaks and other incentives by visiting Dsireusa.org, seeking out Energy Star appliances, or scrolling through Energy.gov/savings to find state-specific savings.
According to the DOE, space heating accounts for nearly 50 percent of energy use in a home as heat escapes rapidly through window and door leaks. Easily combat such leaks with quality caulking or a sealant. Try DAP 3.0 Window, Door, Trim & Siding, a low-odor, 100 percent waterproof sealant with a lifetime guarantee.
Thin-paned windows can be the bane of a renter's existence, and plastic, insulating sheets--though effective and readily available at any hardware store--can be a hassle. Go the easy route and boost visual appeal in your home with thermal curtains or blinds.
R-Value and solar heat gain are factors used to calculate how a shade can reduce your heating and cooling costs, explains Tara Gudger of Lowe's. Consider both when choosing a cellular shade for your home. "Bali's ⅜" double cell shades are the most energy efficient window treatment in the industry. The Bali Midnight ⅜" Double Cell is the highest R-Value with 4.76 and represents a 56 percent reduction of heat transfer," Gudger says. Lowe's offers additional tips on its website for creating an energy-efficient home.
Another simple way renters can save? Add a door sweep. The front door threshold to a rental property often takes a beating, preventing a proper seal, Gudger warns. "A door sweep installs on the interior of the door and provides a seal against the threshold when the door is closed."
Leaks in air ducts can significantly contribute to higher utility bills, according to the DOE, so homeowners should ensure they have solid insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces. Most insulation repairs or replacements should be left to professionals, but if you try your hand at minor repairs, seal leaks with tape that has the UL logo--duct tape is not recommended.
The added bonus for prepping your home for winter is that these weatherization strategies will help keep your home cool next summer, too.