LEAP Offers Tips to Warm Homes on a Budget

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Experts are expecting home heating costs to rise this year compared to last winter. But one Charlottesville organization says, with a few minor adjustments, you can go green while saving some green.

The Energy Information Administration says costs are expected to rise because of higher prices for natural gas, propane, and electricity, but also because the northeast is expected to be about 3 percent colder than last year. So Charlottesville's Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) is giving some cost-effective tips for heating your home.

Cracks and gaps that you probably didn't even know were in your house could mean money out the window.

"Most houses have an opening in them the size of a refrigerator door," said Guy Caroselli, LEAP’s senior technical advisor. "So if a house is four times leakier than it needs to be, that furnace might be turning on every 15 minutes. If the house is pretty tight it may turn on once every hour." 

Caroselli says a basic walkthrough is the first step toward staying warm without breaking the bank. Building scientists can look for areas that are poorly insulated, especially in those not-so-obvious places.

“It's either up in the attic or down in the basement, down in the crawl space, places they normally don't go,” Caroselli said.

When it comes to checking your doors, experts say there's a simple test you can do using a sheet of paper. Open the door and slide it underneath. If you can pull the paper out, it’s not tight enough.

Caroselli says the best thing about what LEAP offers is educating people on the small things they can do, which will pay off over time.

"A lot of things might be readily apparent to us, but to homeowner, it's 'I never thought about that,’” Caroselli said.

There are a number of programs that provide assistance to help pay for an assessment. One is available specifically for Dominion Direct customers. Another is the Power Saver Loan administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ninety percent of LEAP's work has been done under that program.
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