A long and cold winter is on the doorstep.
With temperatures dropping, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is providing Minnesotans with simple and inexpensive ways to save energy, save money and keep their homes safe this winter.
Commissioner Mike Rothman said consumers may take simple and low-cost measures to save on energy costs and prevent expensive repairs.
“A small amount of preparation can go to great lengths in leading to more energy efficiency, comfort and safety all winter long,” Rothman said in a news release.
The Commerce Department’s Division of Energy Resources is committed to helping Minnesotans make informed decisions about their energy use. In that effort, the department encourages all Minnesotans to follow these simple household tips:
■ Set your thermostat low; use a programmable thermostat. Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable when you are home and awake. Turn down the temperature about 10 degrees — manually or via your programmable thermostat — at night when you go to bed and when you’re not at home. This can reduce your heating bill by about 10 percent, or $100 per year.
■ Seal air leaks to prevent cold air infiltration around chimneys, vents, pipes, and wires. Plugging air leaks is one of the most cost-effective ways to conserve energy and increase comfort — and is the key to preventing ice dams http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/images/IceDamFacts.pdf.
■ Look for the Energy Star label when purchasing new household products. Go to http://www.energystar.gov/ for more information. The Energy Star label signifies strict energy efficiency and reliability guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
■ Weather strip and caulk windows and doors to eliminate air infiltration.
■ Cover drafty windows with tightly sealed plastic to keep the warm air in.
■ Open curtains and blinds on south-facing windows to let the sun in during the day to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill from cold windows.
■ Close the fireplace damper when a fire is not in use and install airtight doors to prevent warm air from escaping. If the fireplace is no longer used, seal the flue with an inflatable plug.
■ Maintain your heating system. Have your furnace or boiler inspected annually to ensure maximum efficiency and safety, consider replacing mechanical systems if they’re old or inefficient, and clean or replace furnace filters regularly as needed. For wood and pellet-burning heaters, clean the flue vent and the inside of the appliance to improve efficiency.
■ Maintain your water heater by turning it down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only will this save energy, it will reduce the chances of scalds.
■ Use light-emitting diode — or LED — holiday light strings to reduce the expense to decorate your home for the winter holidays.
■ Take short showers — with low-flow showerheads — to reduce hot water use.
These energy-saving tips were collected from several sources, including the DOE — http://www.energysavers.gov/. For more information on energy efficiency and energy conservation, visit the Division of Energy Resources (DER) website at http://www.energy.mn.gov/ and check out two energy guides: “Home Envelope” and “Appliances, Lighting, Electronics” (click on Information Resources > Consumer Guides).
DER recommends advanced energy audits of homes to diagnose the best strategies to save energy. Audits may be facilitated through your electric or gas utility, visit the Minnesota Building Performance Association http://www.mbpa.us/ for a list of certified auditors, or contact nonprofit energy groups such as the Neighborhood Energy Connection at http://www.thenec.org/