Insulate Yourself from Vast Heating Costs

Physician's Money Digest, March15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 5

As winter draws to a close, you likely findyourself with yet another outrageouslypriced heating bill. The cost of heating yourhome has gone up dramatically over theyears, and it's not going down anytime soon. But forewarnedis forearmed, and there are steps you can taketo combat the rising cost of warming your homeagainst winter's bitter chill.

Seal and Insulate

Kiplinger's

According to estimates, homeowners can save up to20% on their home heating bills simply by sealing airleaks and insulating their attic. Where should you start?The key thing to remember is that warm air rises.Consequently, heat is likely to escape through your attic,around light fixtures, and your chimney. An article insuggests walking around your attic on awindy day while holding a lit stick of incense. The smokewill let you know where the leaks are.

Once you find those leaks, take action. Cracks in theattic that are less than 1/4-inch wide can be sealed usinga long-lasting outdoor latex caulk. However, leaksaround your chimney or furnace flue must be sealed witha special high-temperature caulk. In addition, be certainto weatherstrip around the attic hatchway.

Once you've sealed all the leaks, it's time to insulate.The article suggests a good rule of thumb: If you can seethe tops of the joists in the attic, you need more insulation.You can easily unroll new fiberglass insulation perpendicularlyacross the joists. However, if the existinginsulation has a paper or foil backing, which serves as avapor barrier, make sure the new insulation does not.Two vapor barriers will trap moisture, rendering yourinsulation efforts ineffective.

Money to Burn

Kiplinger's

Taking these steps to properly insulate your homecan mean a big difference to your wallet. According to, one Massachusetts couple hired a home-sealingcontractor to identify and repair leaks, then properlyinsulate their home. The result was a 10% reductionin their heating oil use.

Making a change in your home heating equipmentcan be cost effective as well. The government estimatesthat replacing a 15-year-old gas furnace with a new,energy efficient model can net a savings of $200 or morein heating costs, depending on where you live.

Your home's windows are a key factor as well. Notonly can warm air escape through poorly insulated windowpanes,cold air can also enter the home. However,replacing those old windows with dual-pane insulatedglass windows—particularly those with a special low-emissivitycoating—can reduce energy loss by 30% to50%, more than making up for the additional 10%you'll pay for these windows.

If, however, you want to go the less expensive route,kits that apply a thin film of plastic to each pane costabout $3 per window. These plastic layers create an insulatingair pocket around the window.

Today's Homeowner

Another way to prevent heat from escaping is tocaulk all cracks around doors and pipes that are exposedto the elements. Danny Lipford, the host of the syndicatedTV show , says that takingthese steps can make a huge difference in your homeheating costs. "If you combine all the cracks in an averagehome, it's equivalent to leaving a 3-square-foot windowopen," Lipford explained.

In addition, we traditionally think of ceiling fansas ways to cool a home and circulate air during thewarm summer months. However, because warm airrises, ceiling fans can be used to push the air backdown and keep it circulating, especially in homes thathave high ceilings.

Next winter, don't be left out in the cold. Take stepsnow to warm your home and reduce your future heatingexpenses.