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It finally feels like fall! This time of year, the best way to treat your home right is by improving your home's energy efficiency. Instead of focusing on rising energy and heating costs this heating season, we’d rather you be able to enjoy a winter full of sledding, snowmen, and hot cocoa. These tips will keep you running efficiently over the winter, and even save you some money in the long run!.

1. Change your light bulbs to LEDs

Simple, easy, inexpensive.

2. Clean or replace your furnace filter

A dirty filter means your system is working harder, and therefore using more energy. Now is a great time to have your inspected and cleaned by a professional (you should have your furnace inspected annually anyway). Then, all you need to do is continue cleaning the filter monthly to keep your furnace at peak efficiency.

3. Seal up or replace older windows, doors, and skylights

These areas of your home are major sources for heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. Fall is a great time to replace your old windows, doors, or skylights because the weather is mild enough that the temperature in your home will still be comfortable during construction. You’ll also reap the benefits of new energy efficient products come winter.

Why are windows, doors, and skylights so important to your home’s efficiency?

To understand that you need to understand heat gain and loss. Heat gain occurs when heat is transferred into your home during summer, and heat loss occurs when heat leaves your home in winter.

How can replacing your windows, doors or skylights help improve your home’s energy efficiency?

The frames and weatherstripping of older products can get worn out, allowing air to travel in and out. Also, older windows are often single-pane windows, meaning they are made with one layer of glass.

These windows allow for a lot of heat gain and loss as they are not insulating and replacing them can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Today’s EnergyStar certified windows which are double pane, meaning they have two panes of glass, and often an insulating argon gas between the panes. The additional layer of glass, plus the insulating gap in between, protect your home much better than single pane windows.

Tip: If you can’t replace your doors or windows right now, sealing up all the drafts can still save you up to 20% on your heating bill (U.S. Dept of Energy). We suggest filling in cracks by replacing worn out weatherstripping and missing caulk. Try closing your doors and windows on a strip of paper. If the paper slides around easily, you have a gap that needs to be sealed. You can also (carefully!) hold a candle close to your windows, electrical outlets, and the entry points for your electrical, cable, phone, and gas. If the candle starts flickering more, then you've found a draft that needs to be sealed up.

How do I know I’m replacing my old windows with better windows?

That’s where the Energy Efficiency and Performance ratings come in. They help you understand and compare how new windows perform. Here’s what you need to know to understand these ratings:

  • EnergyStar - means that the product meets federally mandated guidelines regarding energy efficiency. You’ll see this label on windows and doors, as well as many home appliances.

  • NFRC Certified indicates the manufacturer is licensed with the National Fenestration Ratings Council and the window has been certified in accordance with the NFRC’s standards.

  • U-Factor – The U-factor, or U-value, indicates the rate of heat loss for the window. In other words, it is the rate at which the window (or door or skylight) transmits non-solar heat flow. The lower the U-value, the lower the rate of heat loss and the better the window’s insulating value (the insulating value is indicated by the R-value, which is the inverse of the U-value). U-factor ratings for windows are typically between 0.20 and 1.20. A U-factor may refer to the glass alone, however an NFRC U-rating represents the entire window performance, including frame and spacer material.

  • The solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) indicates how well the window blocks heat from the sun. It is a fraction of solar radiation admitted through the window (or door or skylight), either transmitted directly or absorbed and subsequently released as heat inside your home. The SHGC falls between 0 and 1. A lower SHGC means the window transmits less solar heat and has a greater shading ability. A low SHGC rating is more effective at reducing cooling loads during the summer by blocking heat gain from the sun. A high SHGC rating is more effective at collecting solar heat during the winter.

  • VT, or visible transmittance, is also expressed as a number between 0 and 1 and indicates the amount of visible light transmitted. A higher VT means more light is being transmitted.

  • Air leakage is the rate of air movement around the window, door or skylight tested with a specific air pressure difference across it. A low air leakage rating means the product is tighter and has less air flow. A “drafty” window or door would have a much higher air leakage rate. Note that this also depends on the quality of installation, why you should only hire the best!

4. Check for missing interior insulation

If you can feel air coming in through the walls or electrical outlets, you may want to add some additional insulation, which can make a big difference in your heating costs. Unfinished attics can also be large areas of inefficiency if improperly insulated.

5. Wash your clothes with cold water instead of hot water

6. Install a programmable thermostat and set your thermostat to 78F in the summer and 68F in the winter

Every degree of extra heating or cooling will increase your energy usage between 6-8%.

7. Turn off and unplug

Only turn on your lights, computers, and printers when you need them. Lighting alone accounts for about 12% of a typical residential utility bill (according to EnergyStar) As for your wireless devices such as iPads, cell phones and laptops; these devices only take a few hours to charge, so they don’t need to be plugged in all night long.

8. Improve your water efficiency

Fall is also a great time to update older appliances that use a lot of water, such as washing machines, toilets, shower heads and faucets, to new EnergyStar certified models.

9. Inspect your roof

Something as small as a shingle blown off your roof in a winter storm can cause extensive water damage, which is why taking a quick look now can save you thousands of dollars later. Use a ladder, pair of binoculars or a camera to look over your roof and identify any damaged or missing shingles. Also pay attention to damaged metal flashing in roof valleys and around vents and chimneys.

There you have it! With these tips you’ll be able to enjoy a more comfortable home and lower heating bills this winter. If you are ready to make some big changes, such as replacing your old windows, we hope you’ll give us a call! We’ve been serving the Farmington Valley since 1955, and proudly guarantee the quality of our work.

Covering homes for generations. Tell us about your project today 860-604-7660.

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