I've been thinking a lot about heat lately—not the humid, 90-degree type we're having in the Northeast in late July-- but the kind we're going to be paying our fuel oil company a bundle for come November 1 (that is if we can hold out that long). Con Edison's full-page ad in the New York Times this Wednesday had several Energy Tips for operating your air conditioners, so I figured they must offer similar penny-saving advise for winter. Their Web site (www.ConEd.com) didn't disappoint. (It even has a great educational section on energy for children).
Click on the section called Conserving Energy, and you'll find a very
useful list called 100+ Tips to Help You Go Green and Save Some Green.
The first item, under weatherization, is to conduct a do-it-yourself
energy audit. Our fuel oil supplier offered a free audit, so I took
the lazy way out, called them, and asked them to send someone over.
They sent a helpful gentleman a few days later. He told me our storm windows (which we inherited when we bought the house and are probably about 30 years old) were good. That was a relief. But then he gave us some homework—we need to wrap our steam pipes in the basement with insulation (which you can buy at your local home improvement store). This is so we don't lose precious heat in the basement, instead of directing it to the upstairs radiators.
He also said we should unplug anything with a charger--we have several chargers plugged in 24/7 because my husband is a big charger fan. But our auditor said they draw energy unnecessarily. Also, we turned off a radiator in an unused bedroom last winter, but he advised against that. He said we should leave the radiator valves partially open so that any water in there has a chance to evaporate, rather than just sitting in the radiator and potentially freezing. He also made a slight sales pitch (can't blame him!) and suggested we switch to a computerized thermostat rather than a mercury-based one. The computerized ones react more quickly to any changes in temperature and therefore maintain a more consistent indoor climate.
That was about it from our oil-company representative.
I also had a person from a local widow supply company come in to give me some idea how much it would cost to have our 84-year-old windows replaced. The windows are another story, but while he was here he made a few useful observations. We have two window air conditioners upstairs and he said that if we don't remove them in the winter then we should cover them from the inside with a heavy duty plastic and tape. In addition, if possible, we should put covers on the exterior of the air conditioners to give extra protection against cold drafts.
As he was leaving, he looked at our lovely old heavy wooden front door. Our house has shifted some since the early 1920's and there is some air space between the door and the door frame. Not much to the naked eye, but enough to let plenty of nice warm air escape. He said for about $200 we could have a professional weather-stripping job that would probably cover its cost in less than one season.
Although I learned a few handy tips from visiting professionals, I think it is best to do one's own energy audit. The Department of Energy has a terrific Web site that instructs you on how to conduct one. It's loaded with money-saving tips, the most useful of which may be to lower your thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. Each degree over 68 can increase by 3 percent the amount of energy you use for heating and really inflate your bill. Just log on to https://www.eere.energy.gov and check out the section on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In the meantime, you might consider doing what my husband and I are planning to do this winter. We just received our LL Bean winter catalog and for about $250 we can order a nice down comforter. The only problem is that now my husband is talking about lowering the heat to 55 degrees at night!