December 14, 2004
RICHMOND, Va. – With the coming of winter’s colder temperatures, Dominion Virginia Power encourages its customers to use smart energy practices to keep their homes warm and heating systems working at peak efficiencies.
To get the best value for the energy dollar, it is important for consumers to know where energy is used in their houses. Dominion Virginia Power invites customers to visit the company’s Internet site for energy-saving information or to enroll in its Energy Audit Assistance Program.
Heating costs can account for 25 percent to 50 percent of a home’s total energy expense, so efficiency experts offer these tips to control heating costs:
- Have a qualified heating contractor inspect and service your system to ensure it is safe and working at peak efficiency.
- If you have a forced-air heating system, clean or replace the filter monthly and keep heat vents open and unobstructed by furniture.
- Make sure that all ductwork is sealed at joints and intersections with duct sealer or silicone caulk. Otherwise, supply ductwork can leak heated air into the attic or crawl space, and outside air can be drawn into the return ductwork, increasing costs and reducing comfort dramatically.
- Set the thermostat at 68 degrees or the lowest temperature you find comfortable. For every degree you lower the setting, you can see a difference of up to 3 percent in energy costs. Setting it lower at night will produce savings with gas and oil systems, but is not recommended for heat pump systems unless you have a programmable thermostat specifically designed for that system.
- If you have a gas or oil furnace, consider adding a high-efficiency heat pump. It could save you up to 60 percent on heating costs and keep you cool next summer.
- Trim or remove grass, weeds, leaves and other obstacles from around the outdoor unit of your heating or cooling system. When airflow is blocked, it puts a strain on the system and lowers efficiency.
Air leakage accounts for about 30 percent of heating expenses. Experts agree on these recommendations:
- Use caulk or expanding spray foam to seal around pipes and wires that lead from the attic or crawl space into the home. Install gaskets in outlets and switches on outside walls to prevent air leakage.
- Caulk cracks around window and door moldings, and place weather-stripping around doorframes and at the top and bottom of window sashes.
- Caulk cracks around masonry fireplaces and keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use.
- Install weather-stripping and insulate attic doors and pull-downs. Check the attic insulation. If it is sparse or badly settled, consider blowing in more to bring it up to a minimum of R-30.
- If you have a crawl space, make sure the vents are closed and you have a good vapor barrier (at least 6-mil polyethylene) on the ground. If you don't have insulation in the floor, consider adding R-19 insulation batts.
The U.S. Department of Energy Web site also has information on winterizing your house and other ways to make your home energy-smart. For more information, visit the DOE on the Internet at http://www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/info/homes.
The DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency sponsor Home Energy Saver, a Web-based do-it-yourself energy audit tool at http://hes.lbl.gov/.
Dominion also asks that you contribute to EnergyShare to assist those in need. EnergyShare helps pay home heating bills for qualified individuals living within the company's service area. The program pays for any heating source: oil, gas, kerosene, wood, and electricity. It is a program of last resort for the elderly, the ill and for all who face financial hardships from unemployment or family crisis. Payments go directly to energy vendors on behalf of those helped, and every dollar donated goes to benefit those in need.
Dominion Virginia Power customers can contribute to EnergyShare by adding an extra $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $25 or $35 to monthly bills. The company's computers automatically recognize these exact amounts as contributions to EnergyShare. An envelope also will be inserted in customers' bills in February soliciting contributions. Donations may be mailed to EnergyShare, P.O. Box 12083, Richmond, Va. 23241-0083.
Dominion is one of the nation's largest producers of energy, with an energy portfolio of about 25,500 megawatts of generation. Dominion also serves retail energy customers in eight states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's Web site at www.dom.com.
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