Saving heat and lowering the heating bill is a high priority for most of us as hints of winter keep coming our way. Even with this glorious October weather, we know the cold and snow and sleet and hail are coming, sooner or later. The best way to save heat is: insulate, insulate, and insulate some more.

But that is only part of the picture. There are many other ways to save heat. These are the things you can do, not in any particular order of priority:

* Seal all leak paths.

* Change furnace filters often.

* Lower the thermostat.

* Cover outlet and switch plates.

* Weatherstrip.

* Check your storms.

Now for some details on how to do all these things. You certainly don’t have to do them all at once, or do them at all. Pick and choose your projects as you go along.

Just what are those leaks paths, and what is used to seal them? There are a lot of them:

1. Where wires and pipes enter the house.

2. Around air ducts and exhaust fan openings.

3. Window and door frames.

4. Along baseboards.

Seal the paths with caulk. Contemporary caulks are inexpensive and very effective, and more important, they are flexible and easily dispensed from a caulking cartridge in a caulking gun.

While wire and pipe openings are best sealed on the outside, door and window frames are best done on the inside. This is tricky because such a bead of caulk is likely to show, especially if the caulk is white and the walls and woodwork are dark, or vice versa. One’s helpmate might not approve, but generally draperies and/or curtains will cover such beads of caulk.

Even caulking around baseboards can be effective because air can flow thrugh a baseboard joint into the uninsulated cavity of an interior wall. Not only does this lose heat, but it also creates a draft.

* Furnace filters are only on hot-hair systems, and changing the filter once a month in winter will make the system more efficient.

* Turning down the thermostat will save heat, no matter who tells you otherwise. In other words, you will save more heat during the down time than what you will spend bringing the heat back up.

Do this when not at home, or at night; the more degrees you turn down (5 is good, 10 is better) and the longer you keep it down, the better.

In fact, it’s OK to turn the system off completely, or the thermostat down far enough so the heat won’t come on until morning. A well-insulated house will not cool off much more than 10 to 15 degees over an 8-hour period, and there should be no concern over freezing water pipes, even at below-freezing temperatures outside.

* Stores sell foam switch and outlet plate covers, and it’s easy to unscrew the plate, slip on the foam cover and replace the plate. Do this on all outlet and switches, including those on inside walls.

Buy plastic plugs for plugging into an outlet; they will help reduce air loss and also keep curious little fingers out of them.

* Weatherstripping all windows and doors will not only save heat but could save you a bundle of money; a well-weatherstripped window and a good storm window are essentially as good as a double-glazed replacement window. So you don’t even have to think about replacements. Of course, if your present windows are “hopeless,” replacements make sense.

The same goes for doors. A steel insulated door is not necessary when you have a quality wood door, well weatherstripped, and a good, tight-fitting storm door.

* Storm windows are always good to have, and most of the time they do a lot of good in saving heat. But a lot of storms are cheap or just old and loose.

So, inspect them to make sure they are tight, and the frames are caulked. Try to wiggle the sashes (the glass panels that move up and down) back and forth. If they give even 1/4 inch, it is too loose.

Then it’s time to buy new storms, and consider a quality, airtight storm at $100 to $125 each rather than a cheapie at $35 to $50.

That $100 figure may sound a little high, but it cannot be helped. And, you can go easy on the budget by buying two or three storms at a time rather than all 25 (or whatever number) all at once.


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