Imagine leaving a window open all winter long—the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, fireplace or clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day. These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause warm air to leave your home and the cold outside air to rush in—costing you money in the form of higher heating bills. If you’re ready to lower your heating costs this winter, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes and other entry points. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts. But what can you do about the three largest “holes” in your home—the folding attic stair, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes so you won’t be wondering “Why is my gas bill so high in the winter?, “again.
Sealing Your Fireplaces
Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to fireplaces, especially during the winter home-heating season. The bad news is that fireplaces are often energy losers.
Researchers have studied this phenomenon and determined that the amount of heat loss through a fireplace can be significant. One study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house raised the overall heating and energy consumption by as much as 30 percent. Different research indicates that for many consumers, heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy linked to fireplaces.
Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? First, we’ll have to remember that hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find. When the warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from energy conservation companies, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after. Remember to always follow fire safety tips when using your fireplace during the winter.
Cleaning Your Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts
In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.
Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a very effective seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve, causing it to stay partially or completely open.
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air in filtration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.
ABC Can Help Lower Your Heating Costs This Winter
These are just a few examples of how to control home energy use to lower your heating costs this winter. To find out more tips and tricks to reduce your monthly bills, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our experienced technicians can perform a heating tune-up to detect where you might be losing heat and troubleshoot any home heating problems you may be experiencing. With ABC’s help, your heating problems will soon be a thing of the past.