Warm, cozy winter energy efficiency plan

January 19, 2012 4:55:18 AM PST
With a tough economy looming like the Grinch over this year's holiday season, many people are looking for ways to save money through energy efficiency. Better Business Bureau is offering a checklist for homeowners to safely prepare their homes for the cold winter months, and perhaps save a few dollars in the process.

According to the Energy Information Administration, home heating costs this winter are expected to rise by 10.2 percent for homeowners who rely on heating oil. Luckily, homeowners can fend off some of the rising energy costs by winterizing their home before the harshest weather takes hold.

"With the unpredictability of Mother Nature, now is the time to prepare for the winter months ahead," said Steve J. Bernas President and CEO of the BBB. "Taking the time to winterize your home gives you the peace of mind that you will not only save money, but be energy efficient as well."

The following is a BBB home winterizing checklist for consumers to consult when preparing for the cold months ahead:

Furnace. Furnaces older than 15 years might be due for a replacement. For newer furnaces, BBB recommends making sure the furnace filter is clean, the thermostat is working properly and the pilot light is functioning. Homeowners can also hire an inspector to do the job and make sure the furnace is in safe working order.

Chimney. Before lighting up the fireplace, homeowners should have the chimney inspected for animals, debris and leaves that may have fallen in. BBB also recommends installing a screen over the chimney opening.

Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should be cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to allow the house to "breath" correctly. Otherwise, air will stagnate and create an unhealthy environment.

Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. BBB recommends testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and installing fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.

Caulking and Weather Stripping. To prevent leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors and check for cracking and peeling. In addition, BBB recommends ensuring that doors and windows shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn weather stripping.

Seasonal equipment. Homeowners won't need their spring and summer equipment for a few months, so BBB recommends draining the water from garden hoses and air conditioner pipes, and the gasoline from the lawnmower and other garden tools.

Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio. BBB recommends creating the same emergency kit for the car as well, including a couple blankets.

For more consumer tips this holiday season, visit www.bbb.org