Area Utility companies, the Department of Energy and other federal agencies offer several winter energy saving tips to homeowners:
Oil-fired furnaces can be as much as 30 per cent more efficient with annual cleaning and maintenance, use of flue restrictors, adjustment of burner firing rate or replacement of burner with a smaller model - most homes have oversize burners, according to the National Bureau of Standards. For a free pamphlet, write Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo., 81009 (Dept 620F).
Set thermostats no higher than 68 degrees during the day and 60 at night advises Washington Gas Light Co. (Pepco suggests 62-65 at night, Vepco doesn't say, and other groups suggest settings as low as 58 degrees at night and 65 during the day). Fuel bills increase 3 per cent with every degree higher, regardless of the type of fuel, according to utility companies.
Wrap water heaters in fiber glass blankets and set the temperature lower. Vepco suggests 150-160 degrees, Pepco says 140, and some recommended as low as 120 degrees.
Fix leaking faucets. A dripping hot water faucet that fills a paper cup in 10 minutes wastes 3,200 gallons of heated water a year.
Some more ways to save hot water: Take short showers, not baths; use dishwaters only when full, and wash clothes in warm or cold water. Drip-dry clothes and bright colors do better in warm or cool water (90 per cent of the energy used in washing goes into heating the water).
Humidity homes and apartments. Homes without humidity must be kept warmer to make air comfortable. Humidifying prevents shrinking and warping of wood, especially antiques, changing tune of pianos, and dried out nasal passages.
Insulate your house, whether Congress votes an insulation tax credit or not, with a minimum of 6 inches on top and 3 inches in the walls. Pay special attention to your attic since most house beat loss is through the roof. Attics also should be vented to prevent condensation in winter and superheating in summer. A government survey in Michigan found that 78 per cent of the houses had no attic insulation or too little.
Install storm windows, or tack plastic on screen doors and windows, and caulk and weatherstrip all window and door cracks, except near furnace and water heater which need air supply. A full 15 to 30 per cent of fuel bills results from air leakage and cold air infiltration, government studies show. Keep draperies and shutters open by day to let the sun warm rooms and closed at night for insulation.
Keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use. Though cozy, fires in the hearth provide relatively little heat while blazing and, when dying, draw heat up the chimney. Wood stoves, especially "air tights," are as efficient as oil and gas furnaces and can be installed in fireplaces. They provide heat more cheaply if the homeowner has access to free or low cost firewood.