The advice might sound a tad metaphysical, but Tim Jahnigen, Energy Services supervisor for Baltimore Gas and Electric, says that gettingyour home ready for winter is simply a matter of "controlling your own destiny."
"It all depends on how much time and money one is willing to spend, and how important the rewards are," Jahnigen said. "Most often it's the little things around the house that an individual can do to help conserve energy. In the long run, it boils down to saving money."
And one need not have been Homer Formby in a past life to follow some of these energy-saving tips, which range from setting the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit to checking the caulking around window and door frames to insulating the attic.
What? You say 68 degrees is out of the question? Throw a sweater on.
Jahnigen says that most people are comfortable when they set the temperature between 68 and73 during the day and 65 at night. "For every degree you lower the thermostat, you get a 4 percent cost saving," he said.
If you have a heat pump, keep the thermostat at 68 all the time. Don't lower yourheat pump thermostat before heading for work in the morning. "The back-up system might kick in if the temperature drops and end up costing even more money," he said.
Programmable, or "smart" thermostats,are available for the wealthy weather wizard who wishes to regulate the room temperature automatically throughout the day.
For those still adhering to the "less is best" summer wardrobe mentality to impress winter dinner dates -- which rules out bulky sweaters -- build a fire. You might want to replace your fireplace screen with a glass door if you use the chimney a lot, which will prevent heat from escaping the room. Remember to keep the damper closed when not in use.
The "warm room" concept might sound a bit drastic but makes sense for the family that spends a lot of time together, particularly in the living room.
Peggy Mulloy, a BG & E spokeswoman, explained that the concept involves keeping the room that's used the most warm with a portable space heater, while keeping the rest of the house at a lower temperature, like 55 or 60.
On the other hand, portable heaters can be added to seldom-used rooms or to warm up parts of a large, cold room, she said.
You also can take advantage of the winter sun's warmth by keeping the curtains on the sunny side of your home open duringthe day and drawn at night.
Keep the windows and doors to unheated rooms like the garage, basement and attic closed as much as possible. These rooms also can be weatherstripped and insulated.
Weatherstripping shuts out unwanted drafts and moisture that penetrate through cracks around unsealed areas. There are several different ways to seal doors at their bottoms and jambs. These include a metal rain drip, door sweep, automatic sweep or door shoe device for the door's bottom; and cushion-metal, spring-metal, felt, gasket or surface-mounted interlocking devices for the jambs.
The majority of windows are weatherstripped at the factory. However, if you need to add or replace the stripping, the three types generally available are spring-type, pliable gasket and compressible felt strips.
Spring-type weatherstripping is best for double-hung windows; and pliable gasket stripping works well on wood casement and other hinged windows, as well as sliding windows with wood sashes. Felt strips are the least effective butcan be used on metal or wood casement windows.
If all this talk about stripping, double-hung windows and pliable gaskets has left you confused, pay a visit to your local hardware store or home repair professional and learn what options are best and the most cost-effectivefor you. The library is also a great resource.
Be sure to check the caulking around all window and door frames, whether it be winter or summer. Proper caulking and weatherstripping might be time-consuming, but Jahnigen says it can reduce your heating bills by about 20 percent each year.
Insulating your house with fiberglass also reducesfuel costs. The attic is probably the most important place to insulate, but other areas will benefit from this as well.
Just as the air filter in your car needs to be replaced every so often, so does thefilter in your furnace, says Mulloy. She recommends having it checked monthly with the oil, as well as having frequent maintenance checkson your heating and cooling systems.
"A new filter only costs about 79 cents," Mulloy said.
Although most water heaters are insulated on the inside, Jahnigen says adding an insulation blanket on the outside can save you about $37 a year. He suggests covering the first few feet of pipes surrounding the water heater as well.
If you're planning a trip over the holidays and will be away from your home foran extended period of time, you'll want to lower your thermostat, and closing down the plumbing system is a cost-free alternative to frozen pipes.
You can either close the main shut-off valve and drain the pipes yourself or have the water company turn off the service. Butwhether you're traveling or not, remember to drain the pipes connecting the faucets on the outside of your home.
For those with heat pumps that double as air conditioners, just a flick of a switch gets you ready for the cold. If you have a portable window unit air conditioner, Jahnigen says to remove it for the winter. Central air units should not be covered with plastic or fabric.
"This causes the moisture to get trapped inside and rust can develop prematurely. You want air circulating inside and outside the unit. They're built to be weather-resistant. A board can be placed on its top, if you want," he said.
OK. You've been trying your darnedest to be energy-conscious and are following most of the above steps. But you say the one thing you won't give up is your half-hour, steaming hot, skin-melting, morning wake-up shower.
Again, you're the one who controls your own destiny and energy bills. So spoil yourself.
But first think about allthe fun and alternative ways to spoil yourself at the mall come spring with the money you saved around the house this winter.
For moreinformation about winterizing your home, call BG & E at (800) 666-5183.