WILTON – Western Maine Community Action held a forum designed to instruct homeowners in ways to save money on their monthly energy bills today, part of a larger project designed to help alleviate what many believe will be a tough winter.
Randy Burgess, a senior energy auditor with WMCA, said that while his tips could help, homeowners should consider seeking a full energy audit. In an audit, specialists will inspect the entire home and determine the best way to reduce the amount of energy wasted. Audits, Burgess said, cost typically around $300. WMCA has a program where people without financial resources can get a free audit.
“Every house, really, should have an audit at least once,” Burgess said. “They really should.”
He showed the audience a tool of the trade. A fan built in to a collapsable door frame and plastic cover which is used to create a vacuum in the house. Auditors can then easily detect the flow of air through cracks, windowsills, around pipes and chimneys and through other doors. Burgess said that he can actually tell where unwanted ventilation exists based on the smell; the smell of old insulation and dust means that there are cracks leading up to the attic, a damp, musty scent indicates vents leading from crawl spaces and so forth.
“Basically,” Burgess said, “we want an air seal as tight as we can get and then vent mechanically.”
The flip side to maintaining a home’s heat, of course, is having proper ventilation for heating systems and the occupants. Fire chiefs across the state have said they are worried that this year homeowners with new heating systems will be in danger from their inexperience with those systems. Burgess talked about carbon monoxide, chimney fires and other occurrences.
Some tips WMCA is recommending to save money:
- Turn down your thermostat. An obvious suggestion, but one many families still aren’t doing it. Burgess warned against turning the heat down too much at night, requiring even more energy to make the environment bearable the next day. Roughly 5 degrees below your level during the day and another 5 degrees at night could save you as much as 20 percent.
- Use more clothing, more bedding. Wash clothing in cold, rather than the usually-default hot, water setting.
- Use curtains and drapes on storm windows. Using a clear plastic wrap can also help.
- Clean and make sure your furnace is working correctly. Replace the filters on a regular basis. Reduce the water temperature of your hot water tank to 120 degrees.
- If you’re going to burn wood, use the driest, most seasoned you can find. Do not store wood in your basement, as the drying timber will release moisture which will carry molds and pollutants in the wood up through your house. Have your stove, if it’s new, inspected by your local fire department. Keep the chimney clean.
The event was sponsored by WMCA, the Wilton Ecumenical Community Outreach program, Western Mountain Energy Project and the Western Mountains Alliance.