Cozy up your cottage: Simple, inexpensive steps can help as heating costs rise
When temperatures dipped into the 30s last week, sales started heating up at area hardware stores. Aisles with weatherstripping and foam insulation were bustling as homeowners prepared to bundle up their houses. With skyrocketing heating costs, c...
When temperatures dipped into the 30s last week, sales started heating up at area hardware stores.
Aisles with weatherstripping and foam insulation were bustling as homeowners prepared to bundle up their houses.
With skyrocketing heating costs, customers are more concerned than usual about keeping Old Man Winter at bay, says David Facey, department manager at Fargo's Scheels Ace Hardware.
The Department of Energy's October short-term outlook forecasts a 48 percent increase in costs for homes heated by natural gas and a 32 percent increase for heating oil.
Propane heating costs are expected to rise 30 percent over last year, and 5 percent for electric heat.
To keep some of those dollars from slipping through the cracks, the first place homeowners should start is with windows and doors, Facey says.
Some estimates say heat lost through windows could account for as much as 35 percent of heating bills
"If the person had no doors and no windows in your house at all, you'd be pretty tight," Facey says.
A cold draft can easily be felt with a hand up against the opening.
Holding a candle or cigarette lighter in front of doors and windows will also reveal leaks as the flame flickers, said Stacy Erickson, operations manager at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in Fargo.
Fixing the problem is almost as easy, thanks to products on the market that require little skill or tools.
Window insulator kits are hugely popular, Facey says. Clear film is adhered with two-sided tape around the window, trimmed and shrunk with a hairdryer.
"It shrinks so tight that you can hardly tell that there's something on the window," Facey says.
Foam tape is easy to install around windows and doors, but doesn't handle friction well. Weatherstripping may be more appropriate around doors.
Facey also suggests adding a threshold underneath the door or a sweep to the bottom.
Also check the latch and strike plate - where the door latch closes - on storm doors.
"A lot of people, their storm doors don't shut as good as they could," Facey says.
Spray foam insulation can be used to fill exterior cracks in the foundation or siding. Caulk should also be used to fill in gaps.
Erickson said outlet covers and light switch plates are another heat drainer.
"It's really surprising how quickly a lot of that heat escapes your home," he says.
Erickson said another area that's seen booming sales this season compared to the past few years is the alternative heat sources, such as electric fireplaces and multifuel pellet stoves, which burn recycled wood pellets, corn or wheat.
"That's selling as quickly as we get it in," Erickson says. "We're just barely getting into winter."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525
Quick, easy weather-proofing products
When Craig Manock with Northern States Inspection inspects a home, he takes note of drafty windows and doors. Often homes built before the 1980s need updating, he says, such as caulking around the windows, doors and the rim joist - the board that runs around the house between the basement foundation and main floor.
Other weatherizing problems can often be fixed easily with products on the market. Here are a few examples:
- Insulating behind outlets and light switch plates can help reduce the draft coming through walls. Simply remove the cover and place the foam sealer around the outlet and replace the cover.
- Clear film placed over windows and glass doors either inside or outside can cut down breezes. Two-sided tape adheres the plastic. Use a hairdryer to shrink those inside.
- Self-adhesive insulating tape is easy to add around windows and doors. Cut with scissors to fit.
- Spray insulation works well for filling exterior cracks. It expands to form a weather-tight seal.