Q: I just got my electric bill and it is a little higher than I anticipated. Does the BBB have any tips on how to make a house more energy efficient especially during these winter months?
A: With the cold winter chill comes higher energy consumption and higher costs. As a result, many people are looking for ways to save money through energy efficiency. Better Business Bureau is offering a checklist for homeowners to keep their homes warm and safe during the cold winter months, and perhaps save a few dollars in the process.
Homeowners can fend off some of the rising energy costs by winterizing their home.
The following is a BBB home winterizing checklist for consumers to consult for these cold months:
• Furnace. Furnaces older than 15 years might be due for a replacement. For newer furnaces, BBB recommends making sure the furnace filter is clean, the thermostat is working properly and
the pilot light is functioning. Homeowners also can hire an inspector to do the job and make sure the furnace is in safe working order.
• Chimney. Before lighting up the fireplace, homeowners should have the chimney inspected for animals, debris and leaves that may have fallen in. BBB also recommends installing a screen over the chimney opening.
• Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should be cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to allow the house to "breath" correctly. Otherwise, air will stagnate and create an unhealthy environment.
• Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. BBB recommends testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and installing fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.
• Caulking and weather stripping. To prevent leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors and check for cracking and peeling. In addition, BBB recommends ensuring that doors and windows shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn weather stripping.
• Seasonal equipment. Homeowners won't need their spring and summer equipment for a few months, so BBB recommends draining the water from garden hoses and air conditioner pipes, and the gasoline from the lawn mower and other garden tools. It's also time to prepare in case of a snow or ice event.
• Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, nonperishable food and a battery-powered radio. BBB recommends creating the same emergency kit for the car as well, including a couple blankets.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.