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Efficiency leads to lower heating bills during cold weather

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

COVINGTON -- For those who want to stay comfy and cozy this winter without going broke, the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and Better Business Bureau are offering energy conservation tips.

"Poorly maintained systems can create many problems, ranging from heating inefficiency to breakdowns and release of dangerous fumes," said Fred T. Elsberry Jr., president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving metro Atlanta. "An annual investment in home winterization is money well spent."

One way to substantially decrease energy bills is to replace 25 percent of the lights in high-use areas of the home with compact fluorescent lighting. This can save about 50 percent on the lighting portion of an energy bill, according to MGAG.

Another way to save energy, and therefore, money, is to use lower-wattage bulbs and turn off lights in rooms that are not being used. During the day, open curtains to make use of natural light. Use photocell or timers to turn off outdoor lighting during the day and install motion detectors on outdoor security lighting so the lights come on only when needed.

Air leakage, or infiltration, is one of the most preventable energy wastes, according to MGAG. Infiltration typically occurs around doors, windows and points where different materials meet, such as brick and siding. The culprits are usually windows, walls and ceilings, ventilation and air conditioning systems and openings for pipes, doors, vents and wall outlets.

Ways to reduce infiltration include caulking to fill cracks and stop leaks around fixtures, pipes and between walls and windows, along with applying weather stripping to reduce air leakage around doors and windows. Leakage around doors and windows can account for 10 to 25 percent of home heating bills, according to MGAG.

Investing in an insulation system can save up to 30 percent on energy bills. MGAG also recommends having home heating and cooling systems serviced at least once a year to make sure they are at peak performance. Thermostats should be set at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, and filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly.

Water heating typically accounts for about 14 percent of a utility bill. Ways to cut down on the cost include using less hot water, repairing leaky faucets and insulating the water heater tank and hot water lines or buying a new, more efficient unit, like a tankless water heater.

The Better Business Bureau recommends cleaning or replacing furnace air filters and having a professional do an inspection to make sure the furnace is still working properly. Before lighting the first fire of the season, BBB suggests having the chimney checked for animals, nests, leaves and other debris. Also, be sure to install a tight-fitting fireplace door or cover to stop loss of heat through the chimney.

Attic vents or windows should also be closed to prevent heated air from escaping and cold air from seeping in, BBB advises. Clear gutters and ridge vents to prevent or remove buildups that would cause rainwater to clog, freeze and damage gutters. Ridge vents should be cleared to allow the house to breathe properly to eliminate stagnant air inside.