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Winter Weather: Optimize Energy Efficiency

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While the mid-Atlantic has been spared a big snow storm so far this winter, there's still plenty of time left in the season. And with an average low temperature of 31 degrees in February, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC still have to contend with cold conditions even if the white stuff isn't falling.

To combat low temperatures, you want to make sure your home is running at peak energy efficiency. Draft-free windows and doors, a well-maintained heating system, and sufficient insulation keep the temperature inside your home comfortable without the astronomical utility bills.

The first area in your home to address is your windows and doors. The Energy Information Administration estimates that the average home loses up to a third of its heat through windows and doors. To improve energy efficiency, inspect existing windows and doors for any signs of wear or air leakage. Check that the caulk and weatherstripping are in good condition and repair or replace where necessary. If you have storm windows, be sure they are installed to provide an extra layer of insulation against the cold temperatures. Keep curtains and blinds closed during the nighttime hours.

When it comes to your heating system, there are a few tasks that most homeowners can - and should - easily perform on a regular basis. Replacing your furnace filter is probably the easiest and most important thing to do. A dirty filter impedes air flow, creating unnecessary wear and tear on your heating system. In addition, it allows dust and other debris to makes its way through the ventilation system and into your rooms. You should also check your furnace burners and clean off any soot that's accumulated on them.

If you're at all hesitant about working on your furnace, call in a pro. An HVAC technician will come out to inspect your entire system, make adjustments, and perform routine maintenance tasks for you. They can also alert you to any potential issues that should be addressed such as rust, corrosion, improper drainage, and blockages or leaks.

Proper home insulation goes a long way in improving the energy efficiency of your home. Inspect your attic and crawlspaces and look for areas that may need additional insulation. For most of the mid-Atlantic area, the recommended insulation values range from R30 to R60 for unfinished attics. Choose either rolls of insulation batting, or use loose fill insulation that is blown in to the attic area. Loose fill can be placed on top of existing fiberglass batts.  In unfinished basements, look at the sill plates along your foundation. Running a bead of caulk along the sill plate and the top of the foundation wall will stop leaks.

Just because it's winter doesn't mean you have to be uncomfortably cold in your own home. Ensuring that your windows and doors are draft-free, maintaining your heating system, and beefing up your home's insulation will keep you warm and cozy all winter long.

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