Don't Blow Money Out The Window

02/16/2010 12:00 PM

12/28/2010 5:05 PM

Most of us want to find ways to go green and maintain a budget. We need our dollars to go as far as possible.  At home your best spend is to improve your energy efficiency. Unless you seal up the drafts in your home, you are letting money blow right out the window. Heating and cooling your home accounts for nearly 50% of the typical household utility bill.  Now is the perfect time to take on two very simple projects that will practically pay for themselves in a few short weeks.

We've all heard about the benefits of installing extra insulation and weather-stripping around doors and windows, but there are two additional leaky, sneaky culprits that you should know about as well.  Both allow heat to escape from your home in the winter. Fortunately, both are not expensive to fix.

Warm air rises.  If you have a fireplace, it's likely rising right up and out of your home all winter long.  Unfortunately, there are very few fireplace flues that offer an airtight seal.  To add insult to injury, many times we forget to close the flue between fires.  Alas, there is a simple solution: an inflatable balloon that fits just under the flue, sealing off leaks. It's called a fireplace plug or chimney balloon and you can install one in less than five minutes.  A quick release valve means the plug deflates in seconds when you're ready to use the fireplace again. So for an investment of roughly $60, you can seal up one of the biggest sources of heat loss in your home during the winter.

The second place to save some serious money is by modifying your attic entryway. Whether you have a pull-down stairway or a vertical door, attic entryways are rarely insulated. This provides the perfect escape route for air that you've paid to heat.  Conversely, during the summer it's also a source of hot air leaking into your air-conditioned home. Insulating attic entryways are usually an easy DIY project or you can purchase an insulated cover that fits your need. Last summer, for about $40, I insulated my attic door with rigid insulation that included a heat-reflecting barrier.  A little heavy-duty glue and some weather-stripping were the only other materials needed to complete this quick energy saving project.

Doing your part to seal up the sneaky leaks in your home is a great return on investment.  For about $100 and 30 minutes you can instantly improve the energy efficiency of your home and lower your monthly heating and cooling costs.  This is one smart investment that will yield an instant and long term return.

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