COVINGTON -- With winter weather finally here, finding ways to stay warm while avoiding massive utility bills may be a concern for many local residents.
The average family spends $2,024 a year on energy; nearly half of that goes toward heating and cooling costs, according to information provided by Snapping Shoals EMC, a membership cooperative with a service area in Newton and Rockdale. Here are a few tips from Snapping Shoals to stay warm while also conserving energy and saving money.
-- Check furnace filters. Be sure to clean or replace your heating and cooling system's air filter. At a minimum change the filter every three months; a dirty filter clogs the system, making the system work harder to keep you warm.
-- Install a programmable thermostat. Is your home empty most of the day? Programmable thermostats can knock up to 10 percent off heating bills with the ability to automatically turn temperatures down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day.
-- Insulate water heaters and pipes. Wrap water pipes connected to the water heater with foam, and insulate the water heater, too. To save about $75 annually, consider lowering the water heater temperature from 130 degrees to 120.
-- Bundle up your home. The more heat that escapes from cracks, the more cold air enters, causing your system to work harder and use more energy. Use an incense stick to spot air leaks. When it's windy outside, hold a lit incense stick near your windows, doors and electrical outlets. If the smoke blows sideways, you've got a leak that should be plugged with weather-stripping, caulk or expandable foam.
-- Use a low-flow shower head. About 14 percent of your energy bill funds water heating. Low-flow shower heads can minimize water use by up to 50 percent.
-- Request a free home energy audit. Snapping Shoals EMC's free home energy audits usually last 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the home, and include a walk-through inspection of the home's insulation, air infiltration areas, such as windows and doors and attic ventilation, by SSEMC employees. Call 770-786-3484 to schedule an appointment. Audits will be scheduled Mondays through Fridays on a first-come, first-served basis.
City of Covington utility customers can also get a free energy audit by calling customer service at 770-385-2000 or calling the electric department at 770-385-2027. Energy audit requests can also be done online at www.cityofcovington.org by clicking on the "Contact Us" link and requesting an energy technician to arrange a time for an on-site visit.
Instructions for do-it-yourself energy audits can be found at www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm by searching for "energy audit."