KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Having your heating bills rise in this extreme cold is almost unavoidable, but there are ways to lessen that expense.
Two energy efficiency representatives, one from electricity supplier Evergy and one from natural gas supplier Sprire, walked us through a house to highlight those places and solutions.
“I like to work from the bottom and go up,” said Evergy’s Nicholas Newport, “move the same way the air does, from the basement into the attic.”
Newport said one thing to look for is cobwebs.
“Wherever you see cobwebs is actually where the air is moving in and out of the house,” Newport explained.
If you have an unfinished basement, you might notice them in the corners of the ceiling. That means you should add some insulation on those upper walls
The basement windows we looked at were filled with cobwebs and on closer inspection, there was light coming through gaps in the wooden window frames.
“You can feel that air coming in and now you can see the light coming in,” Newport said as he held his hand up to the window.
The way to fix that is with window caulk or low expanding foam.
Another culprit is the pipes, starting in the basement then working your way up.
“When you’re thinking about air infiltration coming into your house, it’s coming in from outside and going up through your house and to your attic. And the leading spot for that actually is the bathroom.” Newport said.
Those gaps should be filled with an expanding foam spray.
Once upstairs, check your doors. Feel for air. Look for light coming through the sides or bottom.
Spire energy efficiency representative Lemartt Holman suggested a test that involves nothing more than a piece of paper.
“If I simply open the door and I place a piece of paper in, [then shut the door], and I’m able to easily pull it out, that’s another opportunity for insulation,” Holman described.
Weather stripping, including door sweeps for the base of the door, can accommodate even canted door frames in a house that has settled over many years
“When you screw it into your door, you can adjust the angle of it,” Newport clarified.
Until you get to the hardware store for that, there’s the quick short-term fix of shoving an old towel up against the bottom of the door.
Then there are the windows.
You’ve probably heard about the heat-sealed plastic that can seal windows. You might not want it on windows through which you’d escape a fire, but there are other windows you might not think about.
Newport noticed a decorative back door with windows.
“On your door here, you have a lot of single pane windows. And this actually get very cold,” he noted. To touch it felt like reaching into the refrigerator.
That’s why a storm door is important, but it’s also where that plastic works well.
Newport said the plastic can go on either side of the window. Pick the side less likely to get paint damage, which is a possibility when removed. If you want the edges less visible, consider putting it on the outside.
“And you put on this tape right around the edges here, attach the film to it, cut it to size and use a blow dryer to make it tight,” he demonstrated.
Another option is heavyweight curtains.
Holman said it’s also a good idea to double check the windows with sashes to be sure they are securely closed.
“One of the ways that you’re able to stop airflow from coming into your home is to make sure that your windows are completely locked, pressing completely to the top, and then locking these, it will help to keep the insulation engaged,” he said.
Also, be sure your screen is switched to the storm if you have one. It seems obvious, but some of us might have neglected that.
Spire and Evergy both have programs that offer assistance for bills and rebates for audits and repairs.
*During the winter months, your heat will not be turned off for non-payment. However, the payment is not forgiven, and you will need to come up with a payment plan by Spring.
*Spire and Evergy do offer a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which provides federal funding to assist families with maintaining or restoring heating services. You can find more information on whether you qualify and whom to contact in each state here.
*Evergy participates in a program called Dollar-Aide. The money comes from individual customers to help fellow customers who might be struggling. The funds are delivered not directly through the utilities but through local social service agencies who work with those in need of funding for their heating, cooling and water bills. Click here to find out how to donate.
*Spire has a similar program called DollarHelp. You can donate here.
*Evergy is currently offering a free ecobee smart thermostat for enrolling in a program that allows the utility to adjust your thermostat settings remotely during times of high use throughout the region. There is a $50 charge for installation. You can find more on that limited time offer here.
*On the Missouri side, Evergy and Spire work jointly with low income families who are interested in an energy efficiency assessment. It’s essentially a home walk-through that can also now be done virtually. There is no charge if you qualify. The home energy audit team will leave you with some energy efficiency materials such as low flow faucet aerators and LED light bulbs. Information can be found here.
*The U.S. Department of Energy has a list of all low-income weatherization and subsidy programs offered throughout the nation by state and county. That can be found here.
*In both Kansas and Missouri, the two utilities have a joint program with no income restrictions in which they connect you with a contractor to do a thorough evaluation of the home and install improvements such as insulation. The cost of the service must be paid by customers, but rebates are offered by the utilities to offset the cost. Contact the utility's customer service for more information.