Now is the time to take advantage of warm fall days to seal cracks and crevices that will cost you money this winter. The cost of caulking and weather stripping materials are paid for quickly by the energy savings in heating and cooling your home. Did you know that the average home in the United States has enough gaps around doors, windows and air leaks to be equivalent to leaving a window open all year long? This home improvement project is best completed while we still have warm air temperatures, so get busy.

Do you have a programmable thermostat? You can save up to 10 percent of your heating and cooling costs by turning back your thermostat 10 to 15 percent for 8 hours during the day, all done automatically by a programmable thermostat.

You can also save energy dollars in your home by adding insulation. Adding insulation to the attic is rated as having the biggest improvement in energy savings, followed by insulating the basement or crawl space area. This project is a little more difficult, so you may want to consider hiring a contractor.

Next, consider replacing old appliances with energy efficient models, or replacing your heating and cooling system with a high efficiency model. Of course, these home improvements are more expensive, but will save you money over time. For example, it is estimated that by replacing your old refrigerator with an Energy Star rated appliance will save as much as $260 during a five-year period.

Do you change your furnace air filter on a regular basis? A dirty air filter can make your heating and cooling system work harder because of reduced air flow. When your system has to work harder it will use more energy.

Need help learning how to get started with energy conservation in your home? Start with a preliminary energy audit at the “Energy Star” website. This website, located at https://www.energystar.gov/ can help you determine ways to reduce the energy use in your home and compare costs and benefits. You can also contact your local utility company for assistance in evaluating your home’s energy efficiency.

Don’t overlook energy savings outside your home too. Trees can help shade your home in the summer months keeping it cooler so your home’s cooling system has to work less.

If your rural home is exposed to winter winds, a row of evergreen trees or windbreak can be planted to intercept the winter’s prevailing cold winds. A properly designed windbreak can reduce home heating costs by up to 25 percent.

Take advantage of the early days of the fall season to reduce your energy bill. You can start saving money today by turning off lights when leaving a room or by putting timers on lamps and other lights. If you have questions about energy conservation contact the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034.

For more information on University of Illinois Extension programming in Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at 217-345-7034.

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