Written by Michael Crowe, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -
Whether you're worried about the environment, or just want to save a few bucks on your heating bill, the volunteers at Green Iowa Americorps are here to help.
"My big thing is people pay money to condition the air in their house, and our job is keeping those dollars and cents from going through the cracks," said Tom Early, a Green Iowa Americorps Volunteer.
The group has sites across Iowa, and provides home weatherization services.
A home efficiency audit starts with a blower door test. They use fans and other equipment to pressurize the home, so the crew can find where air is leaking out.
"It is definitely more important this time of year," said Colin Hutchison, another volunteer for the program. "And as the wood is contracting with the colder weather, we're finding these cracks are getting bigger and we can find more of them."
After they've identified the leaks, the group plugs them. That means sealing windows, putting weather stripping along doors, and even insulating outer joists under the house, where heat often escapes.
All this labor comes free of charge, no matter what. But if you qualify, the materials might be free as well -- the group covers materials for the elderly, disabled, veterans and those with low income.
"A lot of what we do is low hanging fruit," Hutchison said. "It's easy to grab and it can go a long way."
But even if the fixes are pretty simple, they can still make a big difference in your home's overall efficiency. The group said they can reduce air leaks by 10 to 40 percent.
"If you've got an old, beautiful home that's a pain in the butt around utility bill time, we love those homes," said Early.
Green Iowa Americorps has sites in Black Hawk, Linn, Winneshiek and Dubuque counties, as well as in Des Moines.
MidAmerican Energy had the following tips for making your home more energy efficient.
1. Get it Online: Complete our home energy assessment. Compare your energy use to similar homes in your area and see where your home uses the most energy.
2. Roll it Out: Make sure your home has adequate insulation. This includes the attic, exterior walls, floors, basement and crawl spaces. In unheated areas, be sure to insulate around furnace ducts or boiler pipes.
3. Buy it Right: Install ENERGY STAR® lighting and appliances in your home. ENERGY STAR light bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last up to 25 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.
4. Seal it Up: Use weather stripping and caulk to seal air leaks and block drafts, even in the basement and attic, around doors, windows, chimneys, electrical outlets and other potential areas for air leakage.
5. Set it Smart: Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower in the winter and 78 degrees or higher in the summer to save some green. You also can save with a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature when you're asleep or away.
6. Wrap it Up: Put clear plastic sheets over the inside or outside of your windows to reduce heat loss and increase comfort. Window wrap kits, available at your hardware or home store, are an ideal choice for the job.
7. Let it Shine: Keep draperies, shades and blinds open on sunny winter days, especially with windows on the south side of your home, and closed on hot and sunny summer days. Closed drapes also double as insulators.
8. Turn it Off: When plugged in, many appliances and chargers use electricity whether they're on or not. This wasted power is called phantom load. Save some green by turning off and unplugging what you can, possibly reducing your home's phantom load by as much as one third.
9. Keep it Clear: Make sure your air registers and radiators aren't being blocked by furniture, rugs, drapes or other objects in your home. In addition, be sure to dust or vacuum registers or radiators on a regular basis.
10. Keep it Up: Have your heating system serviced once a year so it runs properly and efficiently. Change your furnace filters regularly since dirty filters make the system work harder and use more energy than necessary.
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