Q: Any hints on winterizing my home to save money? -Samuel Saver
Dear Mr. Saver: Actually, I offered a few hints back in November, as well as others last winter, but haven't dedicated a specific column to specific solutions. Therefore, here goes with the four best tips I can find, outside of an energy audit from your local power company (which I strongly advocate).
• Find those air leaks. One commonplace method is to light a match and hold it to doors, windows, and other likely drafts. If the match flickers and goes poof, you've got a problem. Alternatively, Black and Decker makes a thermal leak detector, which I discovered on amazon.com for about $50. It identifies all drafty areas so you immediately know which ones to seal. (Our energy audit back in November with EPB found our doors and floor vents needed resealing and we've already seen much money saved with this advice; experts say a savings of 20 percent isn't unusual.)
• Watch the insulation. We're told over and over to insulate enough to resist heat flow. While this is true, depending upon where a consumer lives depends upon the amount of insulation necessary to save money. (This winter hasn't seen much sunny South in our immediate area, has it?)
• When your filters are dirty, change them. A clogged or dirty furnace filter can rob your furnace of energy efficiency. Knowing when to replace your furnace filter will enable you to keep your furnace more energy efficient, saving you energy in the long run. A furnace filter whistle sounds when your filter becomes 50% clogged letting you know it soon needs replacing. Purchase this "whistle" for $1.70 at www.amconservationgroup.com.
• Buy a weatherproofing kit. Many homeowners purchase lots of separate items, such as plastic shrink wrap for windows, weather stripping, and electrical outlet sealers. On the other hand, you can save yourself about 30 percent by purchasing a kit that also includes these articles. Buy this kit also at www.amconservationgroup.com.
(Tax Tip: Marriage penalty relief has been extended for two years. The provision helps married taxpayers filing jointly to avoid paying higher taxes than they would if they were single. Yay-let's hear it for marriage!)
Editor's Note: Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.