A new year is a great time to think about easy ways you can save energy in your home and save on your utility bills at the same time. Start with considering weatherization for your home to save energy and money and to keep your home toasty during this winter season. Weatherization focuses on finding the small leaks and holes in your home’s building envelope (otherwise known as the separation of the interior from the exterior of your home) and sealing them. Warm air leaks out and cold air comes in through these holes in your home during the colder temperatures and vice versa in warmer temperatures. If you add up all the leaks, holes and gaps in your home’s building envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Here are common areas for air leakage in your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy:

How do you seal these air leaks in your apartment or house? The Chicago Conservation Corps has compiled a list of materials that can help.

  • Rubber weather seal or weather strip: It creates an edge seal for door and window openings.
  • V-shaped seal or weather strip: This is another option for an edge seal for doors and windows.
  • Window kit: Use plastic film and tape to cover windows and other large openings.
  • Clear poly tape: Use this for quick temporary sealing needs.
  • Caulk and caulk gun: This seals small gaps, applies white and dries clear.
  • Foam rod: Insert a flexible foam rod for filling openings larger than ¼”.

Here is an example from the Chicago Conservation Corps Weatherization Guide of where these materials could be applied to your door frame:

You should start the investigation for air leaks with the front door then move the investigation to your windows. Lastly, don’t forget to check the baseboards to see if it’s appropriate to caulk them to prevent leakage.

Other ways to stop air leaks are utilizing a draft stopper to block air leaks under the front and back doors and insulating electrical outlets and light switch boxes with foam. For more detailed information on where to look for leaks and how to apply the appropriate weatherization products, please refer to the Chicago Conservation Corps Weatherization Guide.

Beyond sealing the envelope of your house, adding insulation is essential to increasing the comfort of your home, saving energy and money. You can save an average of 11 percent on your total energy costs by air sealing and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joists, according to the U.S. EPA. There are rebates available for air sealing, duct sealing, wall insulation and attic insulation. Please review the Nicor Gas or Peoples Gas websites for details.

What else can be done?

Beyond weatherization, here are some other tips to save energy as winter is upon us.

  • Pay attention to your heating system. Check your furnace filter regularly and change the filter every three months, especially if there are pets in your home or if you notice dust or dirt build up on the filter. Have your HVAC system checked annually for yearly maintenance to ensure efficiency and comfort in your home. Also, if you need to purchase a new furnace, there are rebates available for high efficiency furnaces. Please review the Nicor Gas or Peoples Gas websites for the details.
  • Don’t overlook your water heater. Water heating accounts for 14 percent of heating in your house. Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120˚F and you will be able to save $36 to $61 annually on standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses as you use water that is hotter than needed, according to the S. EPA. Also, insulate your hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and shorten the time you wait for hot water at the faucet or showerhead. If you participate in a free energy assessment from ComEd, Nicor Gas or Peoples Gas, you can receive hot water pipe insulation for free. Find out more information on the ComEd, Nicor Gas or Peoples Gas websites.
  • Program your thermostat. If you are going to be gone for more than 4 hours, it makes sense to adjust your thermostat. By using a programmable thermostat, you can set back the temperature when you are asleep or gone from your home using programmed settings. Lowering the thermostat by 1˚F can decrease energy usage by 2 percent. According to the S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs by turning a thermostat back 7˚-10˚F for eight hours a day from the typical setting used. If you would like even more control and convenience with your energy use, a smart thermostat may be right for you. Smart thermostats are devices that connect to Wi-Fi and allow remote control of heating and air conditioning settings in homes through smart phones, tablets and computers. Smart thermostats have been found to reduce energy use for home heating and cooling by an average of 8-15 percent, according to ACEEE 2015. The Environmental Law & Policy Center has said that this translates to $50-$130 in annual savings for the average Illinois customer. Through May 31, 2017, there are eight different smart thermostats that qualify for up to $150 in rebates for customers that meet the eligibility requirements. Please review each of the utilities’ websites for eligibility requirements: ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Visit the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s website to learn more.
  • Take advantage of the sun. Leave the blinds open on south-facing windows during the day so that the sun can naturally heat your home.

Want to learn more about how you can save energy and money in your home all year round? Visit our website or contact Sarah Edwards at sarah.edwards@cookcountyil.gov for more information on smart meter and energy efficiency programs.