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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 5, 2008
CONTACT:  Leah Mohr, Communications Manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

Home improvements now help save money this winter

PIERRE, S.D. – This fall is the perfect time to bundle your house to face the cold winter temperatures that lay ahead, suggests the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. Weatherizing efforts, ranging from low-cost options to home improvement investments, can make your home cozier and help you deal with higher winter heating costs.

"It really is worthwhile to take time to assess your home, identify areas that need attention and make those fixes before the cold wind starts howling at our doors and windows," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "For example, air leaks are a common problem that are easily found and easily repaired," he said.

Obvious places to search for air leaks are around electrical outlets, switch plates, window frames, baseboards, doors, attic hatches and wall- or window-mounted air conditioners. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping. Inexpensive foam insulators slip behind outlet and switch plate covers to reduce leaks. Window insulation kits, with plastic sheeting to fit around windows to stop air leaks, are sold at many stores and are simple to install.

"Prepare your furnace for winter with a professional inspection to ensure it is working properly and efficiently," suggested PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "You don't want to wait for the first temperature drop to find out you have a problem with your heating system. You should also plan to change or clean your furnace filter once a month," he continued.

Other heating system efficiencies include installing a programmable thermostat. These devices have automatic digital timers that can be set to turn the thermostat up or down at different times of the day. For example, a user can program the thermostat to be set at 68 degrees when they rise at 6 a.m., set back 8 degrees when they leave for work at 7:30 a.m. and rise back to 68 degrees when they return home at 5:30 p.m.

Occupants of homes or apartments that don't have programmable thermostats should consider setting their manual thermostats at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. If that is lower than a person is accustomed, gradually make the change by adjusting back one degree each week. Homes with elderly or infant occupants should have the thermostat set at 70 degrees.

"Adding insulation may be one of the best home improvement investments a person can make this fall," said PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "Additional insulation can lead to lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. When combined with sealing air leaks, proper insulation can reduce heating needs by up to 10 percent," Johnson said.

Only 20 percent of homes built before 1980 are well-insulated, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program. For South Dakota homes, the DOE recommends the following insulation R-values for specific spaces: R-49 for attics, R-25 for floors and R-19 for crawl spaces. R-value measures the insulation's thermal resistance or how well it holds back heat.

For more advice on becoming energy efficient this winter, see the South Dakota Energy Smart Web site at or contact your energy provider's Web site. For information about energy assistance available to qualifying South Dakotans, go to and click on "Energy Assistance."


Note to editors/producers: This is the final in a series of releases by the PUC about winter heating costs. See the earlier releases on the PUC's Web site at