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  - - Featured Articles - - : Utilities Articles
Heating Smarts: Using Less Energy, Saving Money, and Staying More Comfortable During Central Texas Cold Fronts

Snow in Wimberley during a February cold front
Tips for saving heating costs and enjoying a more comfortable home when arctic fronts blow through the Hill Country.
This winter heating season is the most expensive in recent memory. All of the major conventional heating fuels are at record highs because of growing global demand coupled with increased pricing by oil and gas producers.

What can homeowners do? Fortunately there are some simple measures most of us can undertake to reduce the amount of fuel we consume and thereby save energy dollars in the short term. Some options cost just a little bit of money, some cost more, and some are completely free.

Long term solutions will lie in new ways to use sources of renewable energy. Solar and wind are two that offer realistic solutions for central Texans. The key lies in funding development for these to bring initial installation costs down.

Until solar and other "new" sources of energy are truly accessible by the average homeowner, there are ways to cut costs now.

Austin Energy offers free home energy improvements to customers with a low-to-moderate income, providing the materials and installation for attic insulation, repairing and replacing ductwork, caulking, weather stripping, and solar screens where needed for qualified applicants.

PEC customers don't yet have an equivalent program, but there are professionals who will come to your home and test the heating system, check for leaks in your ductwork, and point out areas in the house that could benefit from weatherization measures. You should be able to find a contractor who can perform an energy audit on your house for $100 to $150. This may sound like a lot of money, but a typical homeowner can save much more than that by having a professional point out the little things to do that can add up to big savings.

In the meantime, pay attention to the house itself there are good indications of how your home measures up in terms of energy efficiency. For instance, if your bathrooms are a little chilly, pipes (like water pipes, drain pipes, and venting pipes) may be creating leaky passageways that cause drafts. Place your hand a couple of inches away over switch and plug plates. If you feel cool air, that's a sure sign insulation is needed there.

Tips for saving energy and money this winter:

1. If you have forced hot air heating, close the vents in any rooms that are not used to concentrate the heat where you want it.
2. If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed tightly. Even better, consider having a top mount fireplace damper installed. This provides tighter seals and prevents heat from escaping.
3. Install a programmable thermostat that can automatically set the temperature higher when you are awake and lower when you are sleeping or away during certain hours of the day.
4. Install caulking around windows and doors, and use weather stripping to ensure that there are no gaps for sucking out your expensively-heated air.
5. Tune up your heating equipment every year or two to keep it running efficiently.
6. Draw curtains or draperies over the windows after sunset to block cold air drafts from coming into the house.
7. Use ceiling fans to gently push the warm air back down from the ceiling and help it circulate.
8. Set your thermostat back a degree or two. For every degree lower you set your thermostat, you will save 3% on heating costs. It's easy to see how to quickly save 10% on that heart-stopping bill each month.
9. Replace filters in the forced air systems since a clogged filter forces your system to work harder to give you the same amount of heat. This results in more expense.
10. Add more insulation to the attic. Although your windows and doors may also be drafty, the majority of heat escapes through the ceiling. If your attic is accessible, rolling out another layer of insulation is an easy weekend project and will pay off in comfort and lower bills over time.


» Austin Energy
Free Home Improvements

» Pedernales Electric Coop
Rebate program for SEER 14  HVAC

in Central Texas