Top tips for saving energy – and money – this winter

The leaves are turning and the pumpkin spice is in the air, marking the traditional start of “Uh Oh, I need to get the house ready for winter season.”

It’s OK, you still have time. But if your home is drafty or expensive to heat, now is an ideal time to make improvements that will quickly pay for themselves in saved energy costs.

There are more reasons than ever to be energy efficient these days. Increasingly, people are looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption, whether due to rising prices, concern about climate change or a desire to be energy independent.

A great place to start is with a home energy assessment (or audit). This professional checkup will identify which measures are appropriate for your particular situation — and which will provide the best bang for your buck. The analyst will perform a blower door test and thermal imaging to reveal where air is leaking in or out of the home, as well as test your indoor air quality for potential health and safety issues.


By Dave Reed
This column was originally published in the Oct. 11, 2023 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Afterwards, you’ll get a written report listing recommended measures. That opens the door to rebates that will help pay for the measures, which in turn will lower your monthly bills.

Garfield Clean Energy and the electric utilities that serve Garfield County are currently running a seasonal promotion on home energy assessments. For more information, see our Get Your Home Ready for Winter page.

The beauty of the home energy assessment is that it prioritizes what really matters. For example, people often think they need to replace their windows to stop drafts, when it’s more likely that what’s needed is simple weatherization. And that’s good news, because it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to add insulation or caulk around windows and doors than to install new windows.

CLEER’s energy experts have been doing a lot of home inspections lately, and here are their top recommendations for efficiency upgrades:

Insulate hot water pipes. This is the single most cost-effective measure you can do. Foam pipe wrap is cheap, you can do it yourself in minutes, and it will pay for itself in saved energy in just a few months. What’s more, you’ll get quicker, hotter water at the faucet.

Insulate your attic hatch. Unless your home is fairly new, the pull-down ladder or access hatch to the attic is probably uninsulated, and as a result you’re losing a ton of heat in winter and gaining unwanted heat in summer. The easy fix is to install an attic stairway insulation cover, which looks like a bubble wrap wine cooler with a zipper. It costs $30-40 on Amazon and you just staple it in place. Use weather-stripping foam or caulk for a better seal.

Increase attic insulation. Attic insulation makes a huge difference in home comfort (especially in summer) and is highly cost-effective. Unfortunately, builders rarely blow in more than the minimum required by code at the time. You’ll probably want to hire someone to do this job, but you can rent a blower for about $175 a day from Home Depot and top it up yourself. Aim for R-49, which is about 15 inches thick.

Install low-e storm windows. If you have inefficient windows, don’t assume you need to replace them. Removable storm windows provide similar energy savings and comfort improvements at about a third the cost of replacement windows. Specify “low-e” (short for low emissivity) windows, which retain 35% more heat than old-fashioned clear glass ones.

Enclose the crawlspace. An uninsulated crawlspace allows cold air to be drawn into the house in the winter and cool air to leak out in the summer. Enclosing it will reduce your energy bills by up to 20 percent, and will also improve indoor air quality. It’s best to hire a pro for this job, though, because it requires installing a vapor barrier.

Of course the elephant in the room when it comes to energy use at this time of year is your heating system. It’s a good idea to have your furnace or boiler serviced by a professional each fall. Doing so will give you the confidence that the equipment won’t break down in the dead of winter or leak harmful exhaust fumes into your home. Regular maintenance also ensures that the unit is operating efficiently and thus using less energy. If nothing else, at least replace the furnace filter.

Replacement is another matter. If your furnace, boiler or water heater is looking like it won’t last the winter, talk to Garfield Clean Energy. Their energy coaches can help you weigh your options and tap into a variety of financial incentives available for new energy-efficient models. There’s a veritable cornucopia of utility rebates, state rebates, and state and federal tax credits to sift through. GCE’s energy coaches can also help you get substantial financial aid – potentially thousands of dollars – if you qualify for it based on household income.

This is a great time of year to get outside and enjoy this beautiful place we call home. But take some time to prepare for winter, too, so that you enjoy the comfort of being inside when the cold weather hits.