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Tom Witkin

Tom Witkin

Marketing and Collaboration, Department of Energy Resources (DOER) 

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Daylight Savings Time is over, a clear hint that the warm weather is past. Standing on the train station platform this morning removed any doubt for me; I needed my gloves. It got me thinking about what we can do when the temperature plunges to keep our homes more comfortable and spend less on heat at the same time.

The Globe published a good starter called How to winterize your home: A procrastinator’s manual with 8 tips. U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Savers Guide: Tips on Saving Money and Energy at Home is a great jumping-off point for lots of practical advice. The site makes a critical point for homeowners. To paraphrase:

The key to savings is to take a whole-house approach — view your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace — it's a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts (or pipes if you have a boiler). Even a top -of-the-line,  energy efficient furnace or boiler will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts or pipes, walls, attic, windows, and doors are leaky or poorly insulated.

Start off with these tips and use the DOE site to gather details on specific topics such as insulation, lighting, appliances, even renewable energy options (my house now has photovoltaic panels on our Programmable thermostat roof, but that's another story):

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Believe it or not, there are ones that are easy to use and no longer require a PhD (I've never figured out the one in our living room).
  • Set your programmable thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and lower the setpoint when you're sleeping or away from home.
  • Clean/replace filters on furnaces once a month or as recommended, and air vents, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed. Make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
  • Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to, contact a professional.
  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
  • Keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night.
  • Check windows and doors for air leaks and seal/caulk any you find.

If you have an oil burner, check this tip sheet. The state's Home Heating Consumer Assistance web page has (hot) soup-to-nuts information on weatherization services and fuel assistance, as well as recommendations to minimize your winter heating bill. Mass Save® is the place to start for a home energy assessment that can lead to all sorts of money-saving opportunities.

Sure, we're New Englanders. We're tough and don't mind the cold (so much). Then again, we don't have anything to prove. Why not get comfortable and save some money, too? Might make any Patriots' losses easier to take.

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