During the cooler months many Americans struggle to keep their homes warm and cozy while keeping energy costs down. Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to save money this winter.

People would be surprised how much energy, and ultimately money, they can save by making minor adjustments in their homes. Whether those changes are made with an architect during the initial design process or during a remodeling, it is really a matter of determining where the house is leaking to prevent good air—warm and cold—from escaping.

To help get you started, try this useful advice:

Insulation is key

Windows are the primary source of heat loss in houses. While newer windows are better insulated than older ones, steps can be taken to improve all windows from losing heat. Whether new or old, start by caulking around windows, door frames and other trim, and use weather-stripping to seal drafty doors.

Planning a home remodeling? Visit AIA’s Architecture Firm Directory to find an architect near you.

Expanding foam sealants in spray form, which are inexpensive and can be found at most home repair stores, can also be used to seal and insulate wall cavities, gaps along the top of foundation walls in attics, and spaces with obvious holes around pipes. Insulating these spaces will keep heat from escaping during winter months and cold air inside during the summer.

Strategic landscaping

Money may not grow on trees, but they can help you save on energy bills. Trees and bushes do an excellent job of blocking cold winter winds; the difference between having and not having them is truly significant.

Basic home maintenance

Some additional tricks around the home:

  • Make sure the damper of your fireplace is closed when not in use; leaving it open is akin to leaving a window open.
  • Fix all leaky faucets. Even slight leaks increase energy consumption and can cause drain on water supplies and your bank account.
  • Use power strips to aggregate rechargeable transformers to conserve energy. Even when not in use, anything plugged into a wall draws a lot of power. So switch power strips to “off” to shut off a number of electronics at the same time.
  • If you’re in the market for new appliances, be a smart shopper. Energy Star models use less energy when in sleep mode than traditional appliances.

Homeowners may also consider using an architect or mechanical engineer to check for pockets of energy inefficiency. An infrared photography test will check for hot and cold energy loss zones and electronic devices that draw energy unnecessarily. A blower test will help determine a home’s airtightness. This information can help homeowners better insulate and green their homes.

By making a few key improvements and behavior changes, you can comfortably save money on energy this winter.

About the author: Leonard Kady, AIA, is an architect and past chair of AIA's Small Project Practitioners Knowledge Community.

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