Energy Adviser: Sealing exteriors lowers bill

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Sealing cold air out and warm air in is a good way to cut your home’s monthly electric bill and live more comfortably during the winter months.

It can be as simple as checking windows for drafts, resealing ductwork or investing in better-insulated windows and doors.

Common upgrades that can help keep your home warm in the winter and lower your monthly energy bill include:

• Covering windows — including small basement windows that allow cold air to find its way upstairs — with plastic.

• Replacing door and window weatherstripping to minimize draft and the escape of warm indoor air.

• Inspecting and replacing worn thermostats on baseboard and wall heaters to help keep temperatures constant and increase energy efficiency.

• Checking attic doors to make sure they fit snuggly and are tightly sealed to help keep warm air in living areas.

• Heating only the living spaces in use. If a room of the home is unoccupied, close the vents in the room and seal off the doorways to concentrate warm air in common areas.

Clark Public Utilities customers can call the Energy Counselor of the Day line to get energy-conservation information or schedule an energy audit for either a home or small business. The line is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 360-992-3355.

“Many of the fixes we recommend can be done easily once homeowners are aware of the problems,” said Rick Cantonwine, energy counselor for Clark Public Utilities. “We encourage our customers to give us a call before starting a home improvement project because there may be incentives available to upgrade to more energy-efficient technologies or retrofit existing elements in the home.”

An energy counselor can provide a detailed energy consumption report and customized action plan for efficiency improvements. The audit will identify ways to save money and energy, and include a list of available cash incentives or loan programs for efficiency improvements.

Incentives available

For eligible customers, Clark Public Utilities offers weatherization and appliance rebates, as well as low-interest loans for additional improvements such as insulation installation and air duct sealing. The improvements can result in hundreds of dollars of heating savings a year. To see if you qualify, visit http://www.clarkpublicutilities.com or call 360-992-3355.

The utility offers energy conservation improvement loans of as much as $15,000 at 5.25 percent interest for air and duct sealing, attic insulation to R-38, wall insulation (variable due to construction method), floor insulation (R-19 to R-30, depending on floor joist depth) and window replacement.

Only electrically heated homes are eligible for the program. The utility also offers loans for manufactured homes.

A homeowner has up to seven years to repay the loan, depending on the amount borrowed. The monthly payment must be at least $25.

Loans of less than $5,000 have a loan processing fee of $225, and loans of $5,000 or more have a loan processing fee of $350. The fees can either be paid upfront or folded into the new loan. Borrowers will be billed monthly, separate from their power bill, for the loan payment. The loan is subject to credit approval.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.