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Keep the chill outside

Caulk, storm doors, weatherstripping can cut heating bills

William Hageman Chicago Tribune

Winter has been here a while, but you can still make some easy adjustments at home to cut home heating bills – and be warmer.

If you want to shut out the cold air, you first need to find where it’s coming in.

A good way to start is with a stick of incense. Light it and hold it along the edges of windows and doorways. Even the slightest flow of incoming air will affect the stream of smoke.

Caulk any gaps you find; if old caulking is badly cracked or chipping, scrape it away and apply new caulk.

Baseboards, door frames, windows and storm doors are all possible locations for leaks. Especially storm doors; they’re the first line of defense against cold air.

Weatherstripping placed along the bottoms of doors will also stop the air flow. And there’s a thin foam insulation that goes behind electrical plates, also a location for incoming air.

Though it might not be the most aesthetically pleasing solution, that easy-to-install plastic film that covers windows does work. Kits come with plastic sheets and two-sided tape; all you have to supply is a little effort and the heat from a hair dryer to shrink the plastic and make the seal.

Adjusting living habits also can make a difference. Run appliances that generate heat, such as a washer or dishwasher, during the cooler evening hours. And always run full loads.

Showers use less hot water than baths; you can take it a step further with water-saving shower heads.

Open curtains during the day, and let the sun help warm a room. Close them at night – and here’s where thick, lined draperies come in – to retain heat.

Other simple short-term solutions:

•Turn the thermostat on your hot-water tank down to 120 degrees.

•Change the filters in your forced-air furnace; dirty filters only make the furnace work harder.

•Reverse the rotation on ceiling fans to create an updraft that allows hot air to circulate without creating a breeze.

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