Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2005 / 14 Tishrei, 5766

Everyday Cheapskate
By Mary Hunt

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Consumer Reports

Beating the record high cost of winter | The news is not good for those of us who plan to stay reasonably warm this winter. The cost of heating oil is expected to spike by 70 percent over last year's cost. The only good thing about the expected 30-percent jump in natural gas prices is that the increase is less than oil. And while the news isn't as bad for the cost of electricity, the overall picture is grim: It's going to cost a great deal more to stay warm this coming winter than ever before.

While there's not much we can do about the high cost of the energy required to heat our homes, there's lots we can do to make sure we use as little of it as possible, and that our precious warmed air stays in the house — not in the cold outdoors, sucked out through air leaks.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, stopping air leaks in a house can save as much as 40 percent on the home's heating and cooling costs. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to turn your home into an airtight "envelope."

The basic tools needed to tighten up a home are a good all-purpose caulk, a caulking gun, filler caulk for larger holes, weather stripping for doors and windows and insulating gaskets for electrical outlets. You may also need expanding foam to fill larger holes.

LIGHT SWITCHES AND ELECTRICAL OUTLETS: Install foam gaskets behind all light switches and electrical outlet covers, even those in interior walls. These simple foam gaskets help seal the holes created when the outlets and light switches are built into homes.

After installing the gaskets, use child safety plugs to keep the cold air from coming in through the sockets. Find foam gasket kits at home-improvement stores, or cut your own from the foam trays that come with packaged meat.

AIR CONDITIONERS: Remove window air conditioners. If they can't be removed, seal up the area around the unit with removable rope caulk and add an air conditioner window insulation blanket.

WINDOWS AND DOORS: Weather-strip and caulk all cracks between walls and window trim, especially under windowsills. Replace broken glass, and putty any loose windowpanes. Caulk around the moving parts of windows with a non-permanent caulk during the winter. This type of caulk can be easily removed in the spring.

RECESSED LIGHTS AND BATHROOM FANS: Caulk around these from below with high-temperature, flexible caulk.

OTHER EXTERIOR WALL HOLES: Seal around all ceiling fixtures, heat registers, medicine cabinets, bathtubs, kitchen cabinets, drains and water pipes where they enter the walls, and any other holes in exterior walls.

FIREPLACE: When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you close it, warm air escapes — 24 hours a day!

It's never too late to winterize your home. But if you get started today it will be a lot simpler than if you wait until Old Man Winter is knocking at your door.

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