I remember Daddy's twice-yearly, daylong ordeal of changing the windows on our 1930s-era home in Wilmette, Ill. It had two stories, attic and basement. It had wood-framed, sash windows plus wood-framed screen windows for summer and glass-paneled storm windows for winter. Each summer screen door had its opposite glass number for winter. Providing insulation similar to more modern double-paned windows, our storm windows afforded airspace as well, a buffer zone that prevented the buildup of ice on the inside of our homes windows. Though cumbersome and dangerous due to maneuvering the windows on a ladder, the twice-yearly switching of windows was practical and saved much on fuel bills during the Depression years.
Today, there are less cumbersome ways to protect your home and its occupants against winter weather; but, according to the American Homeowners Association, the installation of storm windows and doors is still common and makes a major difference in heating bills. Windows cost $25 to $150 and doors, $75 to $200.
If you're replacing windows, the AHA recommends purchasing double-pane insulating glass with low-emissivity (low-e) coatings, inert-gas-filled double panes or a combination of the two. Look for windows rated by the National Fenestration Rating Council, an independent, nonprofit organization that provides energy performance ratings to the window industry.
The Energy Star label was created by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers identify windows, appliances, office equipment and other products that save energy.
For more information about Energy Star Windows, contact the Energy Star Hotline at 1-800-363-3732 or Energy Star Programs, 1-888-782-7937. On-line information may be found at http://www.energystar.gov. Also check www.efficient-windows.org.
According to Energy Star, the average household spends more than 40 percent of its annual energy budget on heating and cooling costs. A grand little booklet, Power Smarts, can be yours by sending $3 and a self-addressed envelope to Alliance to Save Energy, P.O. Box 3939, Washington, D.C. 20033-0939.
A well-functioning heating system saves energy. If yours needs maintenance or repair -- perhaps it gave indications of being cranky last winter -- have it inspected and refurbished by a qualified contractor or authorized service personnel. Dont forget to replace furnace filters once a month during the heating season.
You also might want to consider purchasing an annual maintenance contract, usually in the neighborhood of $200. Contract holders are always the first to be served in emergency situations. Mind the thermostat.
The AHA suggests you adjust your thermostat settings to hold down heating costs.
"When its 40 degrees outside, their HomeWise newsletter says, your thermostat doesnt have to be set at 80 degrees to be comfortable. Try setting it to 70 degrees for a week -- you'll adapt to the change quickly.
You might consider a set back thermostat, which may be programmed to adjust the temperature when you leave for work and then move it back into the personal comfort zone in time for your anticipated return. The AHA suggests that these handy devices can save you up to 20 percent on your heating bills, and they cost a mere $30 to $100, which beats paying to heat the furniture.
You can reduce heat loss during the winter by making certain your homes thermal envelope is effective. Check your ceiling and wall insulation. Insulation can easily be upgraded by a local contractor or you can do it yourself.
Insulation is labeled with whats called an R-Value, according to the AHA. The higher the R-Value number, the greater the degree of density. Dont forget your water pipes, either. Pipe insulation is available for about $1 a roll.
Make certain your existing storm windows and doors still fit properly and if not, beef them up with repairs, and new weather-stripping along door and window bottoms and edges. Aluminum or vinyl door bottoms cost only $4 apiece, and rubber seals for garage doors are available for as little as $10.
I have a ceiling fan in my dining room that directs hot air upward in the summer and downward in the winter. Theres a handy switch to reverse its direction as desired. This simple method of controlling your homes airflow will cost you between $75 and $200, but it will save you lots. If you have a larger home than mine, several ceiling fans may be in order.
When cooking, gang your meals to conserve energy. Roast two days worth of main dishes at a time, for instance, a chicken and a pot roast. Bake apples, potatoes, yams and casseroles together. If you roast more vegetables than needed, slice them in tomorrow's salads.
After roasting the aforementioned, turn up the oven temperature for that pie, and once the energy source is turned off, open the oven door to warm your kitchen and humidify the air.