Summer has brought long days, some warm spells and our usual descent into the rainy season that precedes fall. Though we’ve enjoyed the warm weather, we know that winter is just around the corner and will soon be upon us, bringing cold weather, high heating costs and the long, dark days that require lights throughout the day. It is a recipe for high utility bills.
It’s clear that we have our work cut out for us when it comes to reducing utility costs. According to a national survey conducted by the Council for Community and Economic Research, Fairbanks tops the list with the highest average monthly energy bills, checking in at a whopping $549.42 per month. Only four Alaska communities were included in the survey, which includes the cost of natural gas, fuel oil, electricity and any other form of energy used in a community. Juneau and Kodiak came in at fifth and sixth (only a few cents apart) with utilities totaling $287 monthly. The average monthly energy bill in Anchorage was $202.93, considerably less than ours.
Overall, half of the energy used at home goes to heating and cooling. In Alaska, we want to concentrate on how to conserve energy in heating. Let’s consider steps to reduce air leakage and reduce heating costs.
Seal it up. It’s much harder to keep your house warm when you have cold air streaming in from outside. If you consider a small crack of one-sixteenth of an inch around a 3-by-5 window, it is the same area as a 4-inch hole in the wall. If you had a hole that large, you would cover it, so save energy by filling that small crack by using caulk. Caulking is easy to do and is relatively inexpensive. Besides the gaps around windows and door frames, look for those locations where wiring and other utilities enter the house.
Check the weather stripping around doors and windows. Friction, pet scratches, weather, temperature changes, and even wear and tear take their toll on weather stripping’s effectiveness. Replace the weather stripping around exterior doors for less than $20 and it will pay off in less leakage during the cold winter. Weather stripping should seal well when a door or window is closed but should allow for easy opening and closing. Some doors have a groove where weather stripping is applied, but there are a many other types, ranging from stick-on foam, felt and even nail-on types. Inspect your doors and if possible, take a piece of the current weather stripping when going to the store for replacement parts.
Install door sweeps. The door sweep fills the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold. Again, take a close look at what is currently on the door and take a sample with you when buying sweeps. Some are fitted into a slot in the bottom of the door, but they also come in magnetic, nail-on and adhesive-backed types.
A big factor in the comfort in a home is the radiating cold. Covering bare floors with rugs and windows with curtains will add a layer of insulating air, which keeps cold from radiating into warm areas. In this same vein, wear socks or use slippers. If your feet are cold, your whole body will feel cold. Warm up your feet and you’ll feel warm all over.
Take a few minutes now to guard against air leakage and you’ll save money during the upcoming winter.
In last week’s column, I talked about recycling your clothing by donating it to a thrift shop or by taking it to a consignment shop. I had a phone call from someone reminding me to not forget our local shelters. I have recently donated clothing to the women’s shelter and they were glad to see my donation. The Rescue Mission also accepts donation of usable clothing.
Whatever location you choose, make sure you donate clothing so it will be used and not enter the waste stream.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.