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4 Ways to Save Energy and Money When Winterizing Your Home

Everyone wants to keep their home warm and cozy, draft-free, and not pay an arm and a leg to do it. Here is some excellent advice as to how to save money by saving oil, gas, electricity, and helping to reduce your carbon footprint to boot. Oh, and the savings continue all year long, helping to cool your house more efficiently in summer as well.

Home Automation

As technology advances, the trend in home automation continues to grow. Home auto­mation systems can help homeowners save on energy costs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app on your smart phone or tablet that would allow you to effortlessly control costs and increase energy efficiency? According to Brian Gibson, of Elite Media Solutions, “with the touch of one button, an automation app can insure your lights and electronics are powered off when you are away from the home. It can adjust the thermostat to lower temperatures, saving on heating costs. Additionally, you can raise the shades to let in natural light during the day, adding some natural daytime warmth to your rooms. Automation systems can work with door and window sensors to alert homeowners if a window or door was left open. Furthermore, it can sense if a garage door is left open and close it—shutting the door of heat loss.”

Whether you are concerned about the energy savings in your primary residence or a second home that’s vacant for months at a time, automation allows you to check in on your home remotely. Did you know that a notification can be sent to your smart device if the temperature in your home drops too low, alerting you of a potential problem before your pipes freeze? Cameras can also be added to your automation system to monitor the status of your home. “Security, peace of mind, and energy savings go hand-in-hand when you automate your home,” says Gibson.

Home Energy Auditing

Saving always sounds like a good idea but home­owners frequently have a hard time knowing what energy-saving steps will be the most beneficial to their home and their budget. At MassSave.com you’ll find a long list of rebates and incentives the state makes available for home energy assessments, lighting and appliances, and heating and cooling. They all start with a home energy assessment.

As you consider an in-home energy assess­ment, consider HomeWorks Energy, which has a zero percent heat loan incentive for energy efficient upgrades, and can even provide 75 percent off up to $2,000 on approved insulation upgrades. The company even installs light bulbs for you at no cost. The assessment can take just about three hours, and at the end you’ll have a custom, comprehensive report and explanation of exactly how your home uses, and more importantly, loses energy. Their Certified Home Energy Specialists will show you exactly what steps can be taken to begin saving money on your energy costs.

A big benefit of using HomeWorks Energy as your home performance contractor is the company’s customer service. Lindsay Thompson, Director of Marketing for HomeWorks Energy says, “We have processes in place to improve the customers’ experience throughout every stage of our service. This includes a unique roadblock removal process to help customers take away the issues like mold or old wiring that once stopped them from moving forward with energy efficiency improvements.” So if you want to educate yourself on the specifics of your home’s energy usage with knowledgeable and thorough experts, HomeWorks Energy is an excellent option.

In addition to being a Mass Save Home Energy Services Program member, Boston’s Next Step Living’s whole home auditing approach helps homeowners save energy and money, reduce their carbon footprint, and live more comfortably by connecting clients with the right partners. As Vice President of Operations, Dave Boettcher explains, “Next Step Living part­ners with more than 400 municipalities, civic organizations, contractors and leading corporations to deliver energy-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions to its customers. The solutions not only include home energy assessments, but weatherization work (air sealing and insulation), energy-efficient windows, efficient heating and cooling and access to solar solutions (rooftop or community).”

Insulation & De-icing

Other ways to winterize your home to make the most of your energy bills is to prevent ice dams, which form as the snow melts on the roof, due to poor insulation. According to Doug Hanna, President of S+H Construc­tion in Cambridge, short-term solutions begin with clearing the roof of snow. Large chunks of ice and icicles should be removed, but be careful to avoid banging the edges of the roof and gutter, which can cause more damage than the leaks. Salt (sodium chloride) can be applied to ice in the gutters. Hanna, says, “you can also keep the heat on the upper floor low, but not so low as to risk freezing pipes. Better that all this heat loss and work,” he continues, “is the long term solution to create a ‘cold’ roof, either by installing modern foam insulation between the roof rafters, or applying several inches of rigid insulation on the outside of the roof sheath­ing and under the roof shingles. This is a challenge, but it can be done. Modern insulation and creation of a cold roof where the snow melts consistently is the key to prevention of ice dams.”

Making Windows Work

If you experienced ice dams or icicles last win­ter, one of the best ways of avoiding that is to replace your windows, which is an effec­tive way of reinsulating your whole home. According to John Boyle, window specialist with Concord Lumber Corporation in Littleton, “today’s technology and foam insulation is so much better than what has been available in the past. Today’s glass values are upgraded, allowing better U-and heat-gain factors.”

For example, if you have standard, single pane glass and maybe a storm window, or even older, insulated glass, today’s technology of “Low-E” (low emissivity) windows will make a huge difference in the energy you save. This is a chemically-applied coating to the layers of glass which reflect radiant heat back out when the sun is streaming in the windows during the summer so your home’s interior stays cooler, and reflects the interior heat back into your home during the winter so you stay warmer—saving you money and making your energy output less for greater results all year long.

“All this is tested by the independent National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC,)” Boyle explains. “They rate every manufacturer’s win­dows, ensuring an even buying field. In addition, every window has to meet the Massachusetts energy code and Energy Star Criteria.”

Although energy-efficient windows can be expensive, replacing them can yield a 78 percent return on your investment, according the “Cost vs. Value Report.” In the Boston area, the average annual savings is $319, and you’ll use 29 percent less energy, to boot.