A winter survival guide for your house

<p>This week’s sharp drop in temperatures rudely announced winter’s arrival.</p><p>Soon, we’ll experience cold wind, single-digit temps, more cold wind and snow.</p><p>If you feel like your home is a long way from energy efficient, there are lots of ways to take action. Some of them are baby steps, and some are more like giant leaps.</p><p>The giant-leap category includes a whole house audit. There are several ways to go, from the specialty audits for specific problems to a top-to-bottom energy overall.</p><p>Lincoln homeowners may want to make use of the last of the $1.7 million still available as part of the reEnergize Program, which is one of 41 pilot programs around the country. The funds came from a U.S. Department of Energy grant and are split between Omaha and Lincoln, according to Milo Mumgaard, senior aide for sustainability to Mayor Chris Beutler.</p><p>It starts with a paid evaluation by a certified energy auditor. If the homeowner decides to make some of the suggested energy solutions (resulting in a minimum of 15 percent efficiency change), they will receive a refund that may cover the cost of the audit and a percentage of some of the upgrades, too.</p><p>So far, more than 360 homes have benefited, Mumgaard said.</p><p>The top energy problem found in audits was heat loss, resulting from a lack of insulation or poorly-sealed windows and doors, he said. Using specialty tests, the auditors were able to detect exactly where heat loss occurred.</p><p>Next on the list were heating and cooling issues — think old furnaces — and inefficient lighting.</p><p>“Just changing out the light bulbs in a house to energy-saving ones saves money,” Mumgaard said.</p><p>The program includes commercial buildings, as well as moderate and low-income homes, mostly built before 1980. Mumgaard said they are in the process of simplifying it so more people can take advantage of the funds before the program ends in May 2013.</p><p>Here are a few of the baby steps, which are small, but doable, and will make a difference:</p><p>* Add clothing layers. Jay Stoa, the “energy audit guy” from Lincoln Electric System stated the obvious when he advised to “wear warm clothes in the house.” A light sweater will add 2 degrees to your comfort zone and a heavier fleece may add as much as 4 degrees.</p><p>Stoa said on a recent energy audit, the homeowner was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and had the thermostat set at 75 degrees. He suggested setting it at the recommended 68 degrees, but was told the house seemed too “cold” at that temperature.</p><p>Duh.</p><p>* Limit light usage. Yes, it gets dark earlier, so inside lights are needed longer. But if you are reading, Stoa suggested using task lighting. There’s no need to turn on all of the overhead lights, too, he said.</p><p>* Close the fireplace damper. “Get a flashlight and look,” said Doug Gates of Douglas Hearth Shoppe. He said older home often have dampers that get stuck or are rusty and won’t close.</p><p>Likewise, keeping a furnace filter clean seems like a no-brainer as does something as simple as locking the windows so air doesn’t escape.</p><p>Even baby steps will save you money.</p>

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