Winter is coming! And whether you live in the “Seven Kingdoms” or here in Missouri, it’s going to get cold outside. While it may not protect your home from the Night King, the best way to protect your family and keep them comfortable this winter is by making sure your home is energy efficient.
We talked to Josh Campbell of the Missouri Energy Initiative about the challenges Missourians face when it comes to energy efficiency. Josh explains, “Outside of the mortgage, energy is one of the biggest budget items for most families. There are a number of reports that demonstrate a greater portion of the monthly income goes to utilities for rural families than for urban areas.” Campbell explains that many times, it all comes down to the age of a home and a family’s ability to pay for energy efficiency innovations. “For low-income families, it’s the same thing. Usually, there’s a connection between income and the ability to have a “tight” home, or an energy-efficient home.”
The energy efficiency gap is especially evident between rural homes and urban homes. Campbell tells us, “(Rural homes) are farmhouses. Rural homes are usually provided services by cooperative utilities. And their utility offerings (…) are smaller and less lucrative. So the onus of energy efficiency is put on the property owner.” In older rural households, older building techniques and materials could mean lower energy efficiency. “For example, in a newer home, the need to insulate your water pipes is less of an issue than in an older home. In older homes, there’s sometimes no insulation in the walls between inside and outside,” Campbell says.
An efficient home is also a more comfortable home. Campbell points out that environmental concerns, economics, and comfort all go hand-in-hand when you’re talking about the energy efficiency of your home. “Another reason is for increased comfort and environmental protection. Increasing energy efficiency in your home will reduce those hot or cold spots. Environmentally, if you’re using less energy, in the long run, that’s less energy that needs to be generated. The vast majority of energy that we produce (in Missouri) is through fossil fuels.”
“The cheapest and easiest way to save money on utility bills is blown insulation in your attic.” Campbell explains there are reasonable steps homeowners can take to make their homes more comfortable and efficient. “Insulation is the lowest hanging fruit. It is the easiest thing to do. (Insulation) has the lowest dollar for kilowatt impact. The second would be upgrading your HVAC unit.” You can also check for any areas where outside air might be coming inside. “Check your windows and doors for leaks and put in some weatherization. That can be caulking, weather strips, or plastic sheets; whatever works for your house.”
Even if you’re not an energy or HVAC expert, there are steps you can take to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency. Campbell says, “The thing that most people don’t do is an energy audit. It’s easy to feel drafts around your window. It’s easy to feel cold spots on your walls. But knowing what really needs to happen, that’s what an energy audit can do. There are free ways you can do a self-audit. The Department of Energy has resources so you can do your own audit.”
Saving energy and money also comes down to personal habits. It doesn’t cost any money to adjust your thermostat to be a bit colder in the winter and a bit warmer in the summer. Campbell tells us he keeps his thermostat at 68℉ in the winter and at 77℉ in the summer. These temperatures ensure his home’s HVAC system isn’t working as hard in the extreme heat of the summer and the cold of winter.