Tips From the Experts: How We Make St. Louis Energy Efficient Homes
By Kim Hibbs, 2016 President, Home Builders Association of St. Louis & Eastern Missouri (HBA)
As temperatures drop during the winter, home fueling costs often increase. Reducing fuel costs can involve both short-term and long-term solutions and range from simple, inexpensive changes to major home modifications. Here are some ways that you can create an energy efficient home that keeps out the cold and the costs down this winter:
Reduce Air Leaks
By caulking and sealing air leaks in a home, an average household can cut 10 percent of their monthly energy bill. Use caulk to seal any cracks or small openings on non-moving surfaces such as where window frames meet the house structure. Make sure your weather stripping on exterior door frames hasn’t deteriorated and cracked. If it has, replace it.
Sealing windows and doors will help, but the worst culprits are usually utility cut-throughs for pipes (plumbing penetrations), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. You can buy material that expands to fill the gaps and keep air from flowing through.
Use Energy Wisely
Set the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 F). If your water heater is older, get an insulating blanket to wrap around it and reduce heat loss. Newer heaters are much more energy-efficient and a blanket won’t make a noticeable impact.
Lower the thermostat setting to 50 or 55 degrees when you are using your fireplace and the furnace is on. Some warmed air will still be lost, but the furnace won’t have to use as much fuel to keep the rest of the house at its usual temperature.
Install a programmable smart thermostat that allows you to lower the heat during the workday or at night when you’re asleep, and automatically increase the setting before you get home or wake up in the morning.
Install Energy-Efficient Products
Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances and products such as new HVAC systems, high-performance windows and ENERGY-STAR rated appliances will also help lower your electricity bills. Windows with low-E glass may cost 10 to 30 percent more than conventional glass double-pane windows, but their effectiveness will make up for it with lower heat costs over time.
The best way to reduce your home’s overall energy consumption is to hire a professional energy auditor to evaluate your home and identify all the inefficiencies. It may cost a couple hundred dollars, but will save you much more over the long run.