The Weather Outside is Frightful

12/2/2014 - 2:07:45 PM

“... but the fire is so delightful!”

Come Sit by the Fire

If you are one of those lucky people that has a real fireplace, or cozy woodstove, congrats! You’ve just earned an instant ticket to a more comfortable home as wood heat tends to “feel” warmer than any other type, excepting coal. If you depend mostly on gas, oil or electric types of heat you have earned the benefit of less mess and time, and an even dependable temperature for the winter. There’s just one problem for the last scenario, it tends to cost the most money, unless we employ a couple of money saving tips.


But first, because we want you to have warm hands and heart and delectable scents wafting through the house this winter, please make this lovely crockpot wassail to make the winter even better.

Crockpot Wassail

2.5 c. sugar

4 c. water

2-4 cinnamon sticks (or 2T. gr. cinnamon)

10-15 whole cloves (or 2T gr. cloves)

1 orange, sliced

4 c. orange juice

1 c. lemon juice

2 quarts Kauffman's Apple Cider



Turn crockpot on high, combine sugar and water and let it heat for a while. Once it is close to simmering add cinnamon sticks, cloves and oranges and set the crockpot to let it simmer for about an hour, (though 4-6 hours is ideal for scent and flavor)

Add the juices and keep the crockpot on high if you want to serve it within the next hour, otherwise keep it turned on low. If you used the whole spices you will want to have a strainer handy before pouring for serving.


Slash the Heating Bill and Fill Your Pocket 

By now, Pennsylvania is seeing the first snowflakes come drifting down, and the time of year for reds and greens, snow plows and fur boots is upon us. For folks that can stay inside this time of year is one of the most magical and lovely, but for everyone who has to leave it can be a pretty frightful experience.


Either way, it is definitely the time of year that we all start the battle with the thermostat. Should it be turned higher? Lower? How cool can we keep it before our toes get frostbit? “Someone please shut the door!”


Yup, pretty frightful. Still there are ways to cut down on a heating bill each year, and in some cases slash it as much as 20%. You might be thinking, “Thanks, but I don’t want the expense of insulating my home, or the bother and expense of a renovation project.” You don’t have too, because unless you live in an old house built way long ago the expense doesn’t even out quickly enough to justify a major remodel. However, we’ve rounded up 8 ways to actually cut down what you spend on heat and thought we’d shut the front door for you, so to speak.


  1. Plug Holes in Outside Walls

Gas lines, pipes, and electrical cables that enter your house often have “leaks” for cold air and drafts because they haven't been well caulked, and over time it cracks, peels and falls off. The best way to avoid this is seal it with expanding foam. For water pipes, unscrew, pull back the escutcheon ring and caulk around the pipe.  


  1. Replace Worn Weatherstripping

Worn or torn weatherstripping (what a mouthful) around windows and doors lets in drafts of cold air, and 7-12% of heat loss in a home happens here. Usually homeowners turn up their furnace to keep comfy but even if they don’t, they’re losing warm air that causes the furnace to work harder. Replacing this weatherstripping isn’t complicated and should be done every few years by simply pulling off the old and tacking on the new.  


  1. Adjust Door Thresholds

Seeing daylight under doors is losing indoor air you’ve paid to heat. Some thresholds have four or five screws counterclockwise to lift the threshold until daylight is mostly gone. A little light at the corners is fine, but raising it so high that the door won’t open or close isn’t, and may wear out the weatherstripping.


  1. Eliminate Drafts around Electrical Boxes

These little boxes are notorious for being drafty because insulation isn’t always placed behind and around them correctly. To stop the leaks, take off the cover plates and fill small gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk, and for larger gaps use foam sealant. The second step is to place foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate. Gaskets are inexpensive coming in around $1.10 for a two-pack and will repay the small investment you’ve made for as long as you own your home.


  1. Buy a Portable Heater, and Turn Down the Furnace

Putting a space heater in the rooms that are most used, like the living room, means you can turn down the furnace and the room you are in will stay warmer while heat costs are reduced everywhere else. Utilities companies estimate 3% saved for every degree below 70F that the furnace is turned down, and these are savings you’ll see all winter.


You will have to buy a heater and use electricity, which cuts into some overall savings, but portable heaters start at about $30 and cost around 14 cents per hour. With portable heaters, some savings are still recouped because heating one room extra vs. heating them all.


  1. Keep Warm Air from Escaping up the Chimney


Fireplaces are wonderful things, but when they’re not in use warm indoor air is escaping through the chimney, even when the flue is closed. For those days when fireplaces are not in use an easy solution is to block the airflow with an inflatable chimney balloon such as you would find here. These come in different sizes and cost around $65, but with savings of up to $100 a year they’ll pay for themselves twice in a year, especially considering how much more useful they are in summertime to help keep a/c related costs down.  


Tip: Repeated use of balloons does make them sooty and harder to manage.


  1. Insulate the Attic Access Door


Even in well-insulated attics, the access door may not be insulated properly, letting warm air escape through the attic hatch. If the door is warped the door won’t lie flat, and this also allows air to leak into the attic. Adhesive can be used to attach fiberglass insulation to the attic side of the door and latch bolt systems can help the door to close tightly if it isn’t warped too badly.


  1. Installing a Programmable Thermostat.


This is my personal favorite, a thermostat that can be set to accommodate your own habits and schedule. Prices for these have dropped over the years and can now be picked up for under $50. They can be set to only run higher in the times of the day when it is most wanted, such as in the morning when you get up and when you come home from work, making other times of the day such as when everyone is at school, at work or asleep more economical. It’s hard to remember to turn it up and down when you want it, so with this handy gadget you only have to think about it once.


The U.S Department of Energy says that you can knock 10% off a yearly heating and cooling bill by turning back 10-15 degrees for 8 hours a day. This savings is more than enough to offset the little bit you might lose from the furnace reheating the house to a warmer temp.
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joan
12/18/2014 - 1:48:17 AM
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