Energy Adviser: Preparing for winter? Rebates can help

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Fall brings chill to the air that reminds us colder months are coming — and that it’s time to get ready.

A few projects around the house now will help you avoid wasting energy and money once the temperatures dip.

“Weatherizing your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut energy waste and improve the comfort of your home. In nearly every case, no matter how you heat and cool your home, weatherization makes sense,” said Matthew Babbitts, a Clark Public Utilities energy counselor.

In winter, it’s all about keeping heated air inside your house and cold air out.

Plug leaks. On a cool morning, wet the back of your hand and feel around doors, windows and electrical outlets for cold air. You can install foam gaskets to seal leaky outlets. Spray insulation will seal gaps around plumbing coming into the house. Use caulk and weather stripping around doors and windows.

If you hire a contractor from the Clark Public Utilities approved weatherization contractor list to seal your home, the utility offers a 50 percent rebate up to $100. For natural gas customers, Energy Trust of Oregon offers a 50 percent rebate, up to $275. Energy Trust also offers $35 toward an air-leakage test.

o Seal ducts. You want to make sure the warm air blasting from your furnace isn’t seeping out and heating your crawl space instead of your living room. If you hire a certified contractor to seal your ducts to Performance Tested Comfort Systems standards, you can get as much as $500 back from Clark Public Utilities. Energy Trust offers a rebate of 50 percent of the cost, or $325, to natural gas customers.

o Insulate. Adequate insulation in the attic and crawl spaces can significantly reduce heat loss. R values are a measure of the insulating capacity of the material. Energy codes for new homes call for R-38 insulation in the attic and R-30 in crawl spaces. Older homes often have less insulation — or even none — in those spaces.

It can cost $1,000 to $2,000 to improve insulation in each of those areas. For electrically heated homes, Clark Public Utilities offers a rebate of 50 percent of the cost, or a maximum of $400, for each area insulated. For gas customers, Energy Trust offers a rebate of 25 cents per square foot for the attic and 30 cents per square for the crawl space.

o Replace windows — or cover them. New windows are a big investment — at minimum, $25 per square foot installed — and definitely worth considering if your home has single-paned windows. Replacing them with dual-paned windows can save $2 per square foot of window a year. Clark Public Utilities offers a rebate of as much as $500. For gas customers, Energy Trust offers a rebate between $2.25 and $3.50 per square foot of window installed, depending on the efficiency rating. If you’re not ready to shell out the money for new windows, shades and curtains can help keep heat inside.

o Keep up your heating system. If you haven’t done it recently, make an appointment with a heating and cooling professional for a system inspection. Regular inspection and service will help extend the life of your furnace, maintain its efficiency and catch problems.

A technician typically will inspect system components, ductwork and the thermostat. In a gas-fired furnace, the professional should check all safety controls and clean the burners on the heat exchanger.

Homes with baseboard or wall heaters don’t need an annual inspection, but the heaters should be cleaned of dust at least once a year.

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.