As the mercury in thermometers drops this winter, there are a few things homeowners can do to make their heating bills follow suit.
Yampa Valley Electric Association can help owners of residential properties find cold air leaks with the help of a thermal imaging camera. YVEA provides the service free of charge, Jan. 5 through Feb. 27.
Using technology similar to that employed by the military during Desert Storm, Brian Thornton, Member Service Advisor at YVEA, makes an hour long VHS tape of a home using a camera that records all cold areas and objects in dark shades and all warm areas and objects in bright shades.
"It identifies areas of cold infiltration," Thornton said.
After reviewing the tape, Thornton can tell a homeowner where insulation might be lacking or what doors have cold air drafts.
Thornton said that in past years, YVEA has received more thermal imaging requests from Steamboat Springs homeowners, but he'd love to hear from Craig residents.
Aside from that, there are other low-tech techniques for conserving energy.
"There are a few cost-free things you can do to bring your bills down," said Karen Wilkes, manager of public affairs at Atmos Energy.
She advised everyone to make sure their heat registers are clear so they can put out the heat that is necessary to warm a home. It's also important to be aware of how furniture is arranged in a room. Positioning a couch in front of a heating vent will limit the output from that vent.
Gaps around windows also suck heat out of a room. Some caulking around windowpanes can make a huge difference.
Keep window curtains and blinds open during the day to let sunlight in to heat the house. Draw the blinds at night to keep heat inside.
Most people cool their home to 68 degrees in the summer, then heat it to 72 degrees in the winter. Keeping a house between those two temperatures, where it is comfortable to wear a sweater, can help bring down heating bills.
Lowering the thermostat on the water heater helps, too.
"We try to encourage customers to be sure heating equipment is running at its best efficiency," Wilkes said. She advised homeowners to get their heating system checked once a year by a professional heating contractor.
Just like a car runs at its best with a clean fuel filter, furnaces run best with a clean air filter. Air filters should be changed every four to six weeks.
Replacing old furnaces with new models is worth the cost. Furnaces are so efficient today that homeowners will see a real payback, Wilkes said.
She said set-back thermostats make great Christmas gifts. These thermostats can be set to go down at times when high heat isn't needed, such as while homeowners are sleeping or at work. It can be set to go back up before one wakes or arrives home, so that the house is warm when it needs to be.
Although storm windows are more expensive, they can help keep a house warm, too.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.