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Fairfield County: Seal Home Before Winter Takes Bite Of Heating Bill

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. - The days are getting shorter and temperatures are poised to plunge throughout Fairfield County. And now is the time to pre-emptively rein in your home heating costs.

Fairfield County general remodeling contractor Chris Spiller suggests some simple measures to cap expenditures and limit fuel waste.

The starting point for energy-efficient home improvements, Spiller said, should be having a $75 energy audit , during which energy-efficiency experts measure how “tight” your house is and identify air leakage. After the audit is complete, a homeowner is eligible for rebates and credits for energy-saving improvements. CL&P has more information about energy audits on its website.

And while a raging fire in an oversized hearth might seem cozy and appealing, Spiller said its only real benefit would be in “roasting a giant mastodon.” Beyond that, he said, old-fashioned, open fireplaces are inefficient for heating homes because they actually suck out more hot air than they emit warmth.

“Investing in insulation can sometimes save you up to 30 to 40 percent on heating and cooling costs,” he said. The energy savings can offset and sometimes more than pay the cost, he said. Low-interest and even no-interest financing is available.

Insulation, he said, "gives you the most bang for your buck" in keeping things warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Spiller said there are three types of insulation: fiberglass, spray foam and cellulose. Fiberglass – the Pink Panther-colored material that looks like cotton candy – is the most widely used, but it’s the least effective, he said.

Cellulose insulation is somewhat higher on the green scale, Spiller said, as it’s made from recycled newspaper rather than from a petroleum-based product. Closed-cell foam, he said, has twice the insulating value per inch as cellulose, but is substantially more expensive.

Spiller said that if he had his druthers and were building a new home, he might behave somewhat radically: “I would put my money in a super-insulated house and then heat it with a candle.”

Short of candles, Spiller said that geothermal heat – literally using the inherent heat from the Earth – is the most efficient way to heat but also the most expensive.

A forward-thinking option, Spiller said, would be to install air-to-air heat pumps, which he said are highly efficient and have the added benefit of generating cool air for summer using the same equipment. Couple that, he said with electricity generated by photovoltaic panels on the roof, and your home will be ready for that candle.

But for starters, Spiller suggests that homeowners embark on an air-sealing expedition throughout the house, which involves sealing any cracks or holes that leak air. This, he said, includes places you might not pay much attention to, such as maintaining the weather stripping on doors and sealing air leaks in the basement.

“All these cracks may seem small, but the sum total could amount to the equivalent of having several windows open all winter.”

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