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Issue Date: February 2006 Issue

High Energy?

Kristen Hampshire

If high energy bills are making you shiver, maybe it's time to tune up your home. Energy exits the home in unexpected places - a little chipped wood by the window might signal poor insulation, and don't discount wall outlets, where warm air can leak out and winter weather can creep in.

Elaine Barnes, executive director of the Cleveland Green Building Coalition, offers these energy-wise tips to help green up your home.

Seal. Look for air leaks around doors, windows and wall outlets. Even slight gaps in these spots will overwork your heat source. Foam inserts available in hardware and home improvement stores provide a do-it-yourself solution to stop these drafts.

Insulate. Floors, ceilings, water heaters, hot water pipes and ducts all need proper insulation so energy doesn't escape the home. Keep in mind, insulation techniques should create appropriate water barriers, not cause water infiltration problems.

Upgrade. Damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fit sashes or window locks that don't work are red flags for upgrades. Replacing inefficient windows and doors requires a greater investment than simply resealing drafty gaps. But consider this improvement a preventive measure to keep your energy source from kicking into overdrive.

Repair. A professional furnace tune-up will not only improve its efficiency, but ensure that it is not emitting dangerous carbon monoxide.

Audit. A certified home energy rater can conduct an energy audit for $300 to $400. This testing can determine weak spots in your home so you can develop an energy plan. A professional will help you determine cost-effective ways to save energy.

Bundle up. Watch your thermostat and dress for the weather. A sweater will warm you up faster and cheaper than cranking up the heat.

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