FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 21, 2012) -- With the ups and downs of the winter weather experienced in the southeast, it can sometimes be hard to know what to do to keep homes warm, but Picerne Military Housing and Directorate of Public Work officials offer tips on how to efficiently heat homes and keep them safe during the cold months.

When it comes to saving money during the winter, the simple things matter, according to Tony King, DPW resource efficiency manager.

"Sealing a window or door with caulk and weather stripping prevents infiltration and is a quick payback. Attic insulation is recommended to be R30 or approximately 12-15 inches deep. This does cost, but again the paybacks are quick if the insulation is less than 6 inches currently," he said.

"People can also use solar radiation in the winter. Open drapes and blinds to allow sunlight to heat the house during the day then shut them to slow heat loss during the night," he said.

King also said to wear warmer clothing during the winter months while inside --like a sweater and long socks-- and to not use energy-inefficient space heaters.

"Avoid the use of small space heaters where possible. They are against Army regulations, anyway," he said.

Picerne Military Housing also provides many winterizing supplies for free, according to Brandon Masters, PMH communications manager.

"Change your heating, ventilation and air conditioning filter every month to get the most out of your system. Neighborhood offices will provide these for free. If you need to add weather stripping to your home, neighborhood offices will also add it for no cost," he said.

Keeping cold air out is usually many people's main way of saving cash, and King said that blocking air leaks is people's best defense.

"In the case of leaking windows that you do not want to replace, kits are available with shrink wrap that can be applied to the window moldings. Using a hair dryer, the shrink wrap is stretched tightly allowing for near-transparency while providing a barrier to air flow," he said.

Masters added to King's air flow tips.

"Adding door sweeps beneath doors for added insulation will help keep cold air out and warmer air in," he said.

Freezing or bursting pipes might not seem like a problem in the area, but King said that it happens more than people might expect.

"We don't have a lot of days when we worry about pipes freezing, but I have personally repaired pipes that have burst. Put insulation on exposed pipes and faucets, and set them to a slow drip on nights when the temperature is projected to drop below freezing. Foam pipe insulation comes in sticks and is relatively inexpensive and easy to install," he said.

For Families living in manufactured homes off post, King says they are very susceptible to winter damage.

"A mobile home without skirting around the base is a real problem. All pipes are exposed to the outdoor temperature and the wind can leech the heat from the pipes very quickly. The best protection is to skirt the home and insulate any exposed pipes," he said. He added that mobile homes often have less insulation than a site-built house and even the pipes in walls can freeze, so people need to take extra precautions.

Many people shut off the heat entirely when leaving the home for several hours or over the weekend to save on heating expenses, but King said that is not the most efficient way to save energy or money.

"Energy-efficiency experts agree that turning off HVAC units is not a good idea unless the space is going to be vacant for at least two weeks. We recommend setting back the thermostat 2-6 degrees during unoccupied times," he said.

King suggests that when people leave their home they should turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, and to be careful in the winter to not make significant changes in the upward direction if they have a heat pump.

"Turning a heat pump up more than 2 degrees engages the electric resistance back-up heat and will eliminate whatever savings you gained with it turned down very quickly," he said.

For Families and Soldiers living on post, contact neighborhood offices to lower the thermostat on water heaters to save some cash.

"Water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 120 degrees provides comfortable hot water for most uses," said Masters.

Masters said that by following simple tips such as not blocking heating outlets or return registers with furniture and stopping hot water from running when washing one's face or shaving can easily save people money.

"It's not about cutting corners but eliminating unnecessary costs and wasted energy," he said. "Just by taking that extra little step people can make it through the winter with a little extra money in their pocket," he said.

Safety is an additional consideration during the winter, according to King.

"No one wants to potentially burn down their house in an attempt to stay warm during the holidays, so safety is important. Any heating device that operates on a combustible fuel source should be certified for indoor use, maintained and fueled properly, but it is the less efficient way to heat a home or a room. If open-flame heaters are used, they should be installed with proper clearances," he said. "Fireplaces are also much safer if they are clean. Only use hardwoods and make sure you have a screen or doors in place to prevent unwanted sparks from reaching the room."

Page last updated Wed November 21st, 2012 at 00:00