How to avoid scary heating bills this winter - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

How to avoid scary heating bills this winter

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(ARA) - This year's winter weather has been unpredictable, but homeowners can take a few simple steps now to ensure chilly temperatures and monthly heating bills don't take a bite out of their wallet.

Seeing your home through the lens of an infrared camera is one simple way to evaluate heat loss - an infrared lens is able to capture thermal energy emitted from weaknesses in the home's "thermal envelope," the barrier created between the exterior of a home and outdoor temperatures.

"What you're seeing in an infrared photo of a home is not unlike what you might see from the human body - the most substantial loss of heat is from the top," says John Smith, leader of Environmental Construction for Johns Manville, a building products manufacturer. "Similar to a winter hat, the proper level of attic insulation combined with air sealing helps trap heat inside, increasing comfort and efficiency and decreasing money wasted on energy bills."

Homeowners can contact a local energy auditor to have a thermal image taken of their home. If you don't have access to an infrared camera, evaluating home efficiency can be as easy as taking a trip to the attic with a measuring tape and measuring the depth of attic insulation - the average home needs up to 19 inches of fiber glass attic insulation for maximum energy efficiency.

"Many homeowners automatically brace themselves for higher energy bills as soon as temperatures dip and winter coats come out," says Kateri Callahan, president of Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting energy efficiency. "But it doesn't need to be that way. Taking a proactive approach to energy efficiency is easier and more attractive than ever with the availability of tax credits and rebate incentives. What's more, projects that increase energy efficiency, such as air sealing and adding insulation, are among the best investments to deliver paybacks - now and in the future."

Investments made in home energy efficiency pay dividends for the lifetime of a home and improve the home's resale value. For every dollar saved in annual utility costs, homeowners can expect to add $20 to their home's market value, according to the Appraisal Institute. Homeowners can reduce their homes' heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 percent through proper air sealing and insulation techniques, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) or Do-it-for-me (DIFM)?

After evaluating their existing level of attic insulation, homeowners can identify the best approach to completing the project based on available resources, such as time, their personal skill level and budget. DIY-savvy homeowners can install insulation themselves, whereas other homeowners may be more comfortable with a DIFM approach.

"Handy homeowners can add insulation in their attics by placing batts or rolls on top of existing insulation or they can rent an insulation blowing machine to install loose-fill insulation," says Fred Stephan, vice president and general manager of Insulation Systems for Johns Manville. "For those who prefer to hire someone to perform the work, major retailers such as Lowe's offer Installation Services programs, which connect homeowners with qualified contractors in their area. With one stop, a homeowner can select products and a reputable third party to handle the project."

When adding insulation, homeowners should also consider air sealing their attic to help eliminate any holes or gaps that may exist in the floor or walls. By using caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to close such gaps, homeowners can further decrease wasted energy.

"As homeowners tighten up their homes to improve energy efficiency, they should consider using products that are free of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds," says Stephan. "Products such as Johns Manville Formaldehyde-free fiber glass insulation help improve indoor air quality and achieve a healthier, safer home by reducing your overall formaldehyde exposure."

To find more information on DIY tips or how to find a contractor in your area, visit www.jmhomeowner.com.

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