Sustainable Living: Plan Now to Get Energy Efficient Upgrades

Thermostat in bedroom
Photograph provided by MGE

While you may not be ready to embrace the frigid temperatures the upcoming season will bring, planning ahead is the best way to get your energy efficiency upgrades done before Jack Frost arrives.

Think about last winter. Did you have ice dams? Did a particular area of your home often feel cold? Were your doors drafty? The following strategies can help you save energy and keep your home comfortable.

• Consider those warm, sunny windows around your home that soon will turn cold. There are many options available today for window coverings to reduce infiltration.
• What about the attic? Does it have enough insulation? If you are going to air seal and add insulation, keep in mind other upgrades that can be done at the same time. One example is upgrading any electrical that runs in the attic, such as replacing outdated lighting with LED options. Or if you plan to add ceiling fans in the future, consider adding extra support for them in the attic before installing more insulation.
• Do you have an unused chimney? It could be a major source of heat loss. Consider hiring a contractor to bring it down at least below the attic floor.

How do you know the best way to identify which projects to tackle first and how to go about them? Start with an energy assessment.

Schedule an Assessment

Many people don’t know where heat loss is occurring in their homes. To achieve maximum energy efficiency, each room in your home should be evaluated. An energy assessment will provide you with a clear roadmap of the problem areas and recommended improvements. It’s a good idea to schedule an assessment in August or September so there is enough time to complete upgrades by October, when the chilly weather arrives.

FOCUS ON ENERGY® can connect you with a reliable contractor to perform the assessment. Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program works with residents on cost-saving energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus on Energy also offers incentives for making energy-saving improvements and provides guidance to help you use energy wisely.

While a professional energy assessment gives the most comprehensive look at your home’s energy use, a self-assessment can help you identify some issues too. Visit for more details about this process.

Implement the Plan Sooner Rather Than Later

From insulators to heating technicians, contractors get busier the closer it gets to the heating season. Contact them early to allow time to complete your projects before or early in the heating season. Consider getting bids from three contractors to help you make an informed decision.

If you are looking for qualified contractors, check out the Focus on Energy Trade Ally search tool, . Focus on Energy partners with professionals in a variety of areas, including construction, energy efficiency, and heating and cooling.

Focus on Energy also offers financial incentives to homeowners for making qualified energy-saving upgrades. Learn more at .

Making Other Improvements

Do you remember last winter imagining how nice it would be to start up a cozy fireplace? Now also is a good time to plan for other improvements, like installing a new fireplace or updating an older, inefficient model. Do your shopping and planning early for these types of improvements too, as installers get busier further into the fall and winter.

Don’t forget some of the simple no- or low-cost strategies you can implement to help save energy and weatherize your home.

• Adjust ceiling fans to turn clockwise, which pushes warm air down to your living space.
• If your health permits, keep your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
• The furnace filter is a small part of your heating system, but an important one. A clogged filter can inhibit airflow. It causes your furnace to work harder and use more energy. During heating season, check your filter monthly. Change or clean the filter when it’s dirty.
• Check vents. Properly opening and closing high and low vent returns will help your furnace operate efficiently. If your home has these vents, you will see low vents on the wall near the floor. Straight up from the low vents toward the ceiling will be the high vents. Remember that hot air rises and cold air falls. In winter, open low vents and close top vents to draw cold air through the return registers so the furnace can heat it.
• Clean warm air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed. Make sure they are not blocked by furniture or drapes.
• Turn off outdoor water spigots to prevent freezing and costly plumbing repairs.

Ask the Experts
MGE is available to answer your questions and provide tips on managing energy use in your home.

• MGE Home Energy Line: MGE’s Energy Experts are available 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 608.252.7117 or email .
• More energy efficiency tips at and

Photographs provided by MGE.