Recommended insulation levels for retrofitting existing wood-framed buildings
Recommended insulation levels for retrofitting existing wood-framed buildings
Winter is here. The first sign that winter is coming is the changing of the clocks, and if that does not convince you, then the cold nighttime temperatures should. 

As the temperatures drop, many of us look for ways to keep our heating bills affordable. 

On average, households in America spend about $2,200 annually on energy bills.  

Here are some tips on how to save on energy costs when winterizing your home.

Hunt for Leaks… Leaky or old windows can account for 10%-25% of heating costs due to warm air escaping. Hunt for air leaks in your home using a thermal leak detector (try Home De-pot,, or Lowes). This device may run around $50 to purchase and will last you years. It identifies problem spots and drafty areas of your home. If you have old windows, consider replacing windows with double-pane windows or installing storm windows in winter.

You could potentially save up to 20% on energy costs. For more information go to

Do Not Over-insulate…Is there such thing as OVER insulation???  Depending on the geographical location of your home, you may not need insulation with the highest R-value (a measure of its ability to resist heat flow). Here in Northern Nevada the recommended R-value for un-insulated attic areas is R49 - R60, for floors R25 - R30 is recommended. For more in-formation go to:

Change Your Air Filter ONLY when it is dirty… According to a spokesperson from the United States Department of Energy, you can install a whistle on your furnace that alerts you when your filter is partially clogged and will soon need replacing (cost approximately $2).

A clean filter is important as it can prevent expensive maintenance down the road by preventing dust and dirt build-up. 

For more information go to:

Opt for a Weatherproofing Kit…If you buy plastic shrink-wrap, weather stripping and electrical-outlet sealers individually, you will pay about 30% more than if you buy them in a set.

Use all of these components in your home and you will reduce energy costs by up to 20%.

Improve Duct Sealing Performance… Because ducts are often concealed in walls, ceiling, attics and basements, repairing them can be difficult. However, there are things that you can do to improve duct performance. Start by sealing air leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access. Do not use duct tape, as it is not long lasting. Also, make sure that the connections at vents are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls and ceiling.

Additional Steps…. Wrap water heaters and hot water pipes in insulation to improve efficiency. 

This is especially important in locations where hot water components are exposed to cold temperatures. Reinstall storm doors or windows if they were removed during warm weather.  Check the dampers on wood burning fireplaces to make sure they close snugly. If fireplaces are used, the chimney should be clean and free of obstructions. 

Appliances: About 13% of a home’s energy costs come from appliances. When buying new models, look for the Energy Star label. Energy Star appliances meet or exceed the federal minimum standards for energy efficiency. 

For example, a new Energy Star-labeled refrigerator uses at least 15% less energy than one without the label and 40% less than models sold in 2001. 

Energy Star appliances show their annual energy consumption on their packaging, which lets you compare appliance energy costs.

Lighting: Lighting accounts for about 12% of a home’s energy budget, so changing to energy-efficient bulbs and remembering to turn lights off when they are not in use can save money. Switching to smart bulbs is another option that can save on energy costs.

If you leave home and forget to turn lights off, simply use your smartphone to shut down the smart bulbs remotely so they don’t run for the duration of your absence.

Knowing average household utility costs can help you reduce your use of energy and save money. So take a little time before it gets really cold and survey your home for ways to reduce your energy bills this winter.