Here is part 2 of the basics of saving energy: Saving Natural Gas. Here in Minnesota, we use natural gas for heating our homes, as well as hot water. What are some tips to reduce our natural gas usage?
The obvious is to turn down the heat. Everyone always says to turn down the heat a few degrees and throw on a sweater or jacket. It's true that it will help save gas, but there are other basic things we can do before we get to this point. An Energy Audit is a great place to start.
But short of doing an energy audit, you can probably find a good number of leaks that you can fix yourself, and save some green in the process. The very first basic item is to stop leaks and infiltration. Why turn down the heat if we are still leaking the heat out of the home?
Air infiltration is when the conditioned air (air in your living space) leaks out into unconditioned space such as your attic or the great outdoors. Leaks let air that you heated (in the winter) escape into the great outdoors, so finding leaks should be your first step in saving energy.
Where do you find leaks? Windows, Doors, light fixtures... Caulk and weather stripping would go a long way on the windows and doors. Caulk where the windows meet the walls. Weather strip the door on all 4 sides. Close the storm windows. If the windows feel drafty, maybe it's time to replace them. If you replace them, be sure to look for Energy Star windows. These windows meet a higher level of performance than the standard windows.
Recessed light fixtures on the upper level may be a huge culprit in letting air escape. You'll want to crawl into the attic space and look at the light fixtures. If you can see light coming through the fixture into the attic, chances are it's leaking air as well, and lots of it. There are recessed can fixtures that are rated for contact with insulation or you can build a box around the fixture to seal it from the attic. Doing this one thing should also improve any ice dam situations you may have. This is one form of an attic bypass. There are others as well, such as the plumbing vent stack. Usually people cut a square hole, and stick a round pipe through it. In this case, there should be insulation to seal around the stack.
Another way to save natural gas is to turn down the water heater. I've heard to set the water heater to 120 degrees, or to turn it down so that your bath uses only hot water, not a mixture of hot and cold. That way, you're not heating the water to a high temp and cooling it with cold water for a bath or shower.
The next way to save gas is to turn down the furnace temp and put on a sweater or jacket. Besides, then you can show off those beautiful sweaters that Aunt Bertha gave you the past 10 christmases. They say that for every degree lower the thermostat is, you'll save 10%. So if I turn down my thermostat 10 degrees, I'll save 100%? I don't think so.
Furthering your savings would be to insulate your attic, if it needs it. If you look in your attic and see 1 inch of compressed blow-in, you're probably due for more insulation. R-50 is not unheard of in attic insulation. Plus this will help reduce ice dams as well. This is a 2-fer.
1. Turn down the heat
2. Stop air infiltration by caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows
3. Seal attic bypasses (vent stack, light fixtures)
4. Turn down the water heater.
5. Insulate your attic.