How to reduce energy costs

Winterizing a home can be a cheap and easy project

Energy-saving tips

- Setting your thermostat to 68 degrees, and as many as five degrees lower while you're asleep or away from home, can reduce yearly heating costs by as much as $70.

- Open drapes and shades on south-facing windows to let natural light and heat in, then close them when it gets dark.

- Wash your clothes in cold water.

- Replace your furnace or heat pump filter regularly. A furnace with clean air flow doesn't have to work as hard, and it uses less energy.

- Install low-flow showerheads and faucets.

- Use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

- Weather stripping doors and sealing windows can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 10 percent.

Source: XCel Energy spokesman Joe Fuentes

Last winter, Ace at the Curve employee Jim Warren cut his home energy costs by replacing all his windows. He also stopped warm air from leaving his house by caulking around those windows, and he put a hotel shower cap over the inside grate of a bathroom fan.

There are a number of ways to reduce spending on energy and winterize your home through the colder months. Some methods are more involved than others.

"Anything you can do to stop the infiltration of cold air will dramatically reduce your heating bill," Warren said. Placing pieces of foam between a wall and an outlet cover, sealing windows with shrink wrap, caulking gaps around doors, and sealing the back of a garage door with an insulated double-foil wrap all can keep cold air from getting into a house.

A package of foam for electrical outlets costs about $4 and covers four outlets.

There's not a lot of air that comes through, but the difference is noticeable, Warren said.

"You'd be surprised. When it's really cold outside, go put your hand on an outside wall next to an outlet. You'll feel cold air," he said. A package of shrink wrap for windows costs about $12 and creates what Warren called a "dead space," where cold air is blocked from getting inside.

There also are ways to cut costs by expending minimal effort and no money, said Joe Fuentes, a spokesperson for XCel Energy. Those efforts include setting a thermostat to 68 degrees or lower, washing clothes in cold water and opening drapes on south-facing windows.

"If you open your shades or blinds or drapes, close them in the evening when the sun goes down," Fuentes said. "That's kind of a common sense thing, but people forget sometimes, especially somewhere like Steamboat where you might have a nice view."

Installing a low-flow showerhead can reduce the amount of water used and the amount of energy to heat it. Fuentes said minimal changes, such as using cold water for laundry, can make a sizeable difference without much effort on the consumer's side.

"It's one of those things where, if you don't need to use energy, don't," Fuentes said.

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

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