November 19, 2017

A few simple do-it-yourself things can net a big heating cost savings


The clocks have been turned back to Standard Time, and the leaves have all but surrendered their annual color show. If you haven't already done it now is the time to get your winterization chores in high gear. You might be surprised what some simple do-it-yourself home adjustment can do to help the winter heating bills.

Attacking drafty areas is a top priority. One way to check is to walk around your home’s drafty areas on a breezy day with a lighted incense stick. It helps pinpoint where drafts are coming from.

Start with bath, kitchen and dryer vents. They account for about 6% of the average home's heat loss.

Also, check electrical switch plates. If you see the tell-tale sign of a draft remove the plate and install a switch plate gasket. It's an easy task.

Doors and windows should also be on the inspection list. Energy auditors say air leaks around doors account for about 11% of the heat loss at the average home. Windows account for another 10%.

2017 NETAR President


A well-fitted bottom sweep is often the best way to stop heat loss. Several styles are available. Sometimes raising or replacing the threshold is worth the extra effort. Of course, the quick fix is anything that blocks the draft, and that can be as simple as a tightly rolled towel.

Sealing window leaks with caulking and weather-stripping is an inexpensive energy efficiency upgrade and a simple task. An upgrade to more energy efficient windows is a better solution. But it usually involves a contractor and cost a lot more.

If your home has a chimney, it can be a major energy drain. Most homeowners have their chimney cleaned in the early fall, but that doesn't always include inspection of the chimney flue insulator. Look for the best fit for your damper and install a new one if there are signs of a draft because it can sap up to 14% of your home's heat. While they are not as big an offender as a fireplace chimney, the same maintenance should be performed on wood burning stoves.

Your home's plumbing penetrations are usually a little tougher to inspect and insulate, but they should also be on any insulation tune up list.

Heating ducts can also be a major source of heat loss. The entire duct system should be inspected annually. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a central heating system can lose up to 60% of its heated air before it reaches the rooms to be heated if ductwork is not well-connected, clean and insulated in unheated areas. That means more than just a chilly house. It's a waste of energy and money. Ducts should be vacuumed once every three or four years to clean out dust and other foreign material that gathers there.

Another thing to remember is reversing your ceiling fan. It's a small thing often overlooked, but by reversing the fan's direction from the summer setting, you'll get the warm air at the ceiling level re-circulate to the living area. If the switch doesn't indicate a winter/summer selection turn it on a watch the direction the blades move. They should be turning clockwise during the winter.

Additional heating sources are also a common go-to when it gets cold, and that brings up a safety concern. Electric heaters should never be placed against or very close to anything flammable. And rooms where kerosene heaters are used must be ventilated before they can be safely used. One quick way to get up to speed with these safety issues can be accomplished by calling the local fire department. They can and will quickly explain in detail the right and wrong way to use supplemental heating devices.

For additional information and tips on a multitude of what homeowners can save money can be found at It's a free service of the National Association of Realtors® and can be accessed at

Eric Kistner is the 2017 president of the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors. The real estate education and trade group is the voice for real estate in the Tri-Cities and has over 1,250 local Realtor® members and almost 100 affiliates.