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Conserve energy and stay warm by The Family Handyman

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Winter Storm Hercules unleashed heavy snow and winds this past weekend leaving most people stuck in their homes trying to keep warm. Now that winter has officially arrived and temperatures are expected to reach record breaking lows beginning tomorrow, you can expect those heating bills should quickly skyrocket as well.

With the help of The Family Handyman—the #1 in DIY Home Improvement—there may just be a solution to keep you and your family safe and warm without breaking the bank. The experts have compiled a simple and easy-to-do list of home energy conservation tips.

Here are a few ways to keep warm and still conserve energy this winter:

· Stop fireplace heat loss: Wood-burning fireplaces can warm up a room, but more often, they rob a house of heat by letting it escape up the chimney. If you have a modern fireplace with a cold air intake from outside, make sure you equip it with an airtight door. If you have an older fireplace that uses room air for combustion, equip it with a door that has operable vents. And only keep those vents open when you have a fire in the fireplace. Otherwise, heat will constantly be sucked out of the house.

· Install quilted curtains to block draft: If you're turning up the heat in the house to compensate for drafty windows, consider quilted curtains, which can increase your comfort and let you keep the temp down. The curtains are available in various colors, patterns and sizes.

· Turn down the heat and still be comfortable: We all know the mantra by now— turn down the thermostat during the winter months and you’ll save money. And it’s true. But turning down the heat has a big drawback—you have to wear extra clothes to stay warm. The solution? Use a space heater to stay comfortable in the room where family members gather, like the living room. The heaters work best in walled-in rooms, where the heat can be contained.

· Make your windows work for you: Keep the blinds or drapes on windows with direct sun exposure (usually on the south side of the house) open to let sunlight heat the room. Heating doesn't get any cheaper than this! At night, close the blinds or drapes to cover the cold glass.

· Cut heat loss with storm windows: Storm windows aren’t new, but they’re definitely improved: New ones open and close and can be left on year-round. Some offer low-emissivity coatings to further cut heat loss. You can use low-e versions even if your windows already have a low-e coating. If you have single-pane windows, installing storm windows is one of the most cost-effective improvements you can make to reduce heat loss.

· Seal basement air leaks: Sill plates and rim joists are usually poorly insulated (if at all) and very leaky. So if you have an unfinished basement, grab some silicone or acrylic latex caulk to seal the sill plate. If you simply have fiberglass insulation stuffed against the rim joist, pull it out. Run a bead of caulk between the edge of the sill plate and the top of the foundation wall. Use expanding spray foam anywhere there are gaps larger than 1/4 in. between the sill and the foundation. For hollow-block foundations, stuff fiberglass insulation in the holes, then seal it with expanding foam.

· Use an infrared thermometer to find drafts: If your home is drafty, check it with a thermal leak detector or infrared thermometer. The battery-operated hand-held tool uses infrared sensors to identify spots that are warmer or colder than the surrounding area, signifying an air leak or poor insulation. Of course, you have to do some detective work to figure out the problem and how to fix it. The detectors are available at some home centers and online.

· Add attic insulation: In most homes, adding insulation in the attic will cut heat loss. At a minimum, homes should have attic insulation between R-22 and R-49 (6 to 13 in. of loose fill or 7 to 19 in. of fiberglass batts). Stick your head through the attic access door and measure how much insulation you have. If your insulation is at or below the minimum, adding some will lower your heating bills.

· Get an energy audit: A surefire way to find air leaks and identify insulation problems is to have an energy audit. The audit, which takes two to three hours, uses a blower door test and an infrared camera to pinpoint leaks and identifies ways to improve energy efficiency.

Please visit The Family Handyman to find more ways to keep warm this winter and how to prevent frozen pipes.

For additional DIY tips, product recommendations and more, download the latest digital edition of The Family Handyman on your iPad. You can also download the all-new DIY Tip Genius app, available on iTunes now: http://www.familyhandyman.com/diy-tip-genius.

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