Ask Eco Ed: The Frigid Weather Makes Our House Cold

Dear Eco-Ed:

It sure got frigid here in a hurry. Some rooms in my home have gotten so cold, we try to avoid them altogether. Our home is older (circa 1928), so it’s tough to know where to begin. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.
– Uncomfortable in Ridgewood

Think your house is too cold? (Credit: Snugg LePup)

Cold house? Hiding under the covers? Ask Eco Ed is here to help warm things up. (Credit: Snugg LePup)

Dear Uncomfortable,

In older homes, it is best to have a professional home energy auditor evaluate your specific situation. There are typical culprits that allow cold air to get into your home and cause inefficiencies:

  • Little or missing insulation in floors, walls or ceilings
  • Inadequate heat sources
  • Single-paned windows
  • Gaps where cold air gets in

Finding a good and objective energy auditor can prove to be challenging.

When choosing a home energy auditor, you want to find someone who is certified with the Home Performance with Energy Star Program in New Jersey. Believe it or not, the State is supportive of energy efficiency improvements.

They are offering rebates and incentives, of up to $5000, in addition to interest free loans, that can be used towards making your home more comfortable and efficient.

In many situations the improvements can be made with no money spent out of pocket.  Beware of companies who offer free or low-cost home energy audits, as they just want to get into your home and sell you something that you may or may not need.

Also be wary of heating/cooling companies or other specialists, as they make their money by selling you their products, as opposed to objectively evaluating your problems.

A good place to start your search…

…would be the New Jersey Clean Energy Program at www.njcep.com.   Look for the Home Performance with Energy Star program.  These professionals have specialized tools, like blower doors and infrared cameras, that can pinpoint your exact problem areas.

For the Do-It-Yourselfers out there

Here are some additional tips that are inexpensive, but may be helpful:

  • Caulk or weatherstrip noticeable drafts around window and door trim where you feel cold drafts coming in.
  • If you have storm windows on single pane windows, be sure to lower them.  Do not caulk the bottom of storm windows, as those gaps are intentional, to allow water to flow out when the screens are being used.  If there are no storms windows, install them, or you can also consider using shrink-wrap to seal windows during winter.
  •  Remove any items that may be obstructing your heating registers.  If you have radiators, get some heat-resistant reflectors and slide them between the radiators and the walls to reflect warmth back into the room.
  • If you have window air conditioning units, remove them in colder weather, as they let cold air flow in freely.  For air conditioning units that cannot be removed, you can get insulated covers at your local hardware stores to minimize cold coming in.

In most cases, proper guidance from a qualified and ethical professional will help you get the best and most cost-effective result.  Having the State pick up some of the costs, lowering your utility bills, and reducing your impact on the environment are side benefits that come along with your improvements!

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