Prepare Now for a Warm and Cozy Winter
Energy costs and unanticipated home damages can take a sizable bite out of family budgets as the seasons change. With cooler weather on the horizon, and as energy costs continue to climb, now is the time to take money saving steps that can take the chill out of winter in any climate – and potentially add value to your home.
Conduct a home energy audit.
A home energy audit is an important step in making sure your home is efficient. An audit will assess how much energy your home uses and allow you to evaluate ways to improve its efficiency. You can conduct a do-it-yourself audit using advice offered by the Department of Energy at www.energysavers.gov, or you can hire a professional home energy auditor. While a professional will charge a nominal fee, this option may pay off in the long-term as they can provide a more precise audit and make recommendations on the most cost effective improvements.
Eliminate the leaks.
Your energy audit will identify weak spots in your home for air leaks. Windows and doors are notorious spots for warm air to escape. Adequate weather-stripping is a must for all windows and doors. In addition, you’ll want to head outside and caulk around any and all openings such as windows, doors, water faucets and vent pipes. Also consider insulating your attic and sealing up your basement crawlspace.
Keep your heating system in good shape.
Periodically check the furnace filters and replace them as needed. Your heating system will work more efficiently, use less energy and last longer if you change filters regularly. In addition, you may want to consider hiring a professional to check and clean the system once a year. You may want to upgrade your thermostat to one with settings that allow you to set your home to be cooler at night or during the day while you’re away to cut your energy bill.
Consider Energy Star requirements for home updates.
If you are looking to cut energy costs by replacing your heating or cooling systems this fall, familiarize yourself with the Energy Star ratings provided by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Their ratings make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features and comfort. What’s more, certain Energy Star products may be eligible for a Federal tax credit that expires at year-end 2011. Consult your tax advisor for more information about how your home improvements may affect your taxes.
Added benefits to being proactive.
Utility companies may provide incentives to help offset the costs of an energy audit and any subsequent improvements you pursue as a result. There are also a number of government incentive programs that can help compensate a percentage of the cost for major updates, such as new heating or cooling equipment, insulation and new windows and doors.
Don’t hesitate to improve energy efficiency, prevent expensive damages and possibly add value to your home by spending a little extra time and cash now while the weather still allows.
James C. Hanna, CFP®, MBA, Financial Advisor, Certified Financial Planner ™ practitioner. Advisor is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Indiana.
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