Getting Audited

If your energy bill still seems too high, get a professional energy audit. Be sure it includes a blower-door test. Without it, the contractor can only guess at your energy problems. Essentially a large fan, a blower door pulls most of the air out of the house to pinpoint outside air leaking through holes and cracks. The technician locates the gaps, measures their size, and provides options for sealing them.

A blower-door test costs about $100, though some contractors will do it for free if you ultimately choose them to do the sealing work. But it's hard to find a company that performs this type of test. Contact your local utility, state energy office, weatherization contractors, and home inspectors for leads on finding someone in your area.

Finally, don't seal the foundation completely. A good weatherization contractor will seal it just enough to stop serious leaks without cutting off the air needed for combustion appliances, like furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, ranges, and dryers.

Other Ways to Save
Once you've sealed the yawning chasms throughout your home, go after the details.

• Replace single-pane windows with low-e units rated R-3 (also listed as U.40) or higher, says Michael Lamb, a specialist for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse, an information network sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. "You'll cut 20 percent or more off your heating or cooling bills," Lamb explains. • While leaks around windows bleed relatively little energy (except in exposed, windy areas), seal any obvious gaps. You'll find the largest ones between the window frame and the rough opening in the framing of your home. Use expanding foam (sold in cans) for best results. • Invest in a set-back thermostat. You can slice your energy bill up to 15 percent simply by setting the temperature back 10F for an eight-hour period. • Install wall insulation. When properly installed, cellulose and lightweight foam products reduce heat loss and air leaks.
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