Herald photo Illustration/David Morris

By Sheena Williams

Killeen Daily Herald

Keeping a home warm and cozy for the wintertime can lower bills by creating a more energy-efficient space. The cost of making these modifications is worth the cumulative savings that home insulation touch-ups offer.

Only good can come from making sure a home is well insulated, explained Phyllis Greathouse, a sales specialist for Killeen's Home Depot. Shrinking electric bills is always a great thing.

"Save energy and you're saving money and saving your home's resources. Good home insulation can even save you

money on your water bill," Greathouse said. "So you're not using as much energy, not paying for as much energy and every dollar you can keep in your pocket is a good thing."

Feel the draft

This may take some time, but unscrewing the light switch plates and outlet covers can uncover a big home insulation problem explained Greathouse. Moving air coming out of these holes means the valuable energy that heating and air-conditioners are expending is leaking out. Receptacle and Switch Plate Insulation foam is an inexpensive remedy that blocks air from entering the home through these openings and is easy to apply.

No home is completely airtight said Greathouse, and front and back doors as well as windows are also good places to patch up draft pockets.

"Put your hand around the edges of the windows and doors to see if there's any hot or cold air coming in. What happens a lot around here is that the window seals or weather stripping on doors and windows can break," Greathouse said. "Repair can be as simple as replacing seals or adding more stripping."

A damaged weather strip is noticeable after lifting the window and a broken window seal will make the window fog with condensed moisture during drastic temperature changes.

Being able to see daylight through the cracks of a door is another clear indication that the door is not well insulated, said Greathouse. Door gaskets, the bottom lining of the door, may need to be replaced in order to create a complete seal.

The same problem can happen to garage doors and their gaskets often need to be replaced after they deteriorate over time.

Efficient air

Maintaining air-conditioning units and their adjoining equipment can also help lower energy costs and create a more productive unit. Tubing that connects the unit to the different air vents can wear over time creating a pathway where air can escape through the cracks. Small openings can easily be covered with tape and sections that have received significant damage can be replaced.

Jim Scaff, the president of Killeen Heating and Air-conditioning Inc., explained that a clean air filter is a lot better than a dirty air filter and should be replaced monthly to maintain a healthy air flow that helps the unit work effectively. He said the best rule of thumb is to keep the unit serviced yearly because an air-conditioner has as many moving parts as a small car. Taking advantage of the scheduling power of a programmable thermostat can also reduce lost energy and air, said Scaff. Thermostats can be programmed to reduce the use of the unit when occupants don't plan on being home, which is a convenient money-saving feature.

"The energy-efficient setting for thermostats in the summertime is 78 degrees. That doesn't work for a lot of people including for my house," Scaff said. "And 68 degrees is the recommended energy-saving setting for homes in the wintertime. For the summer, every degree you raise is some money saved and in the winter, every degree you lower is money saved."

Keeping grass from covering the outside unit of an air-conditioner and washing it off with a hose periodically can help keep the unit's refrigerant balanced and proficient, said Scaff.

Check attic insulation

While checking out the air-conditioner tubing, Greathouse recommended looking at the insulation in the attic. Heat rises, so keeping a home's highest space properly padded is a vital part of containing air-conditioned and heated air.

Greathouse recommends measuring the depth of insulation that covers the walls of the attic and adding more if it doesn't meet the energy-efficient standards. She said the recommended amount of attic insulation for homes in Central Texas is 38 to 49 inches.

Contact Sheena Williams at sheenaw@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553.

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