Even the most carefully laid plans merit review, particularly when it comes to your home and the impending bitter cold winds of winter. Homeowners in Wisconsin and other cold-weather states should be fairly well briefed on important steps to take as we approach extreme weather conditions. One of the main goals is, of course, saving on energy bills, in addition to maintaining the general condition of all the operating systems that have been invested in, as well as protecting the materials that were carefully selected to create a luxury custom home.

storm-doorIt is important to note that the government supports and encourages energy saving measures on the part of the homeowner, offering federal tax credits of up to 30% of the cost for everything from new furnaces, HEPA filters and storm doors and windows.

Windows and doors present the obvious opportunities for cold weather to invade the home during the winter months. Drafty doors leading to the exterior can waste 5-30% of energy use, and can also give thermostats a false reading, causing it to create higher than desired temperatures. A simple rolled up towel or draft snake is quite effective in eliminating drafts. Most homeowners that have or are currently working with a custom homebuilder will also be advised to invest in storm doors and windows, which automatically increase energy efficiency of the home in winter months by 45%. For those new homeowners working on updating the charming older home, caulking and weather stripping in areas where building materials meet can address simple leaks, which can sap a home’s energy efficiency by 5-30%.

furnaceThe furnace and heating system is the next important consideration. Filters are important for removing debris and airborne particles that contribute to mold and bacteria, causing illnesses and irritation. During the winter months, filters need to be changed monthly to ensure proper functioning; clogged filters restrict airflow, which significantly reduces the energy efficiency of the furnace. One should also consider a permanent filter, such as a genuine HEPA filter, which removes 3-5 times the airborne particles than disposable fiberglass filters. In addition to filter maintenance, the furnace or heating system should have a regular tune-up, just like a car. Keeping the heating system clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will also help reduce the energy use as well as insure the longevity of the system.

A final note is related to common sense and temperature. Each degree the thermostat is lowered during winter months will equate to 1-3% lower energy costs. It is estimated that most homeowners spend 50-70% of their energy on heating and cooling throughout the year. An often forgotten and easy cost saving measure is to lower the thermostat when not at home; why pay for what is not being used? A custom home builder can recommend programmable thermostats that can address daytime/ nighttime patterns in addition to vacation modes that are easily set. The water heater is another cost-saving opportunity. Most installers set the water heater temperature to 140 degrees, which is usually unnecessarily high, not to mention the accidental burns it can cause. By lowering the temperature to 120 degrees, water-heating costs are reduced by 6-10%.

Consult your custom homebuilder for any other energy saving tips and measures for your luxury home. Further recommendations may include winterizing AC and water lines, draining any hoses or AC pipes, and turning off exterior water spigots. Additionally, ceiling fans can be run in reverse, as the clockwise rotation (reverse from normal cooling option), circulates warmer air pooled near the ceiling back into the living space and may cut heating costs by as much as 10%. Being vigilant about heating costs during the winter months conserves energy and saves homeowners a great deal of money that can be better utilized.