Then, you’ll want to connect with Bill Steinhauser.
He is co-owner of Park ACE Hardware, 16725 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. And, at this time of year, he helps homeowners solve problems with window and door leaks that inflate their heating bills.
He started working in the family-run business sweeping sidewalks at the store’s old location just down the street when he was 5 or 6 years old. Now, he is in charge of the day-to-day operation.
Got leaks? He’s got you covered.
“The first thing I would probably say is the plastic insulation kits for windows and any doors not being used,” Steinhauser said. “That’s a huge heating cost right there. Leaks, yes. A lot of the products we have deal with that—stopping the drafts and air escaping in the summer or the winter.”
How huge is the cost of leaks to an average customer? According to EarthWorks Group’s “30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth,” the small gaps surrounding windows, doors and other entry/exit areas in the typical American house, taken together, are like a 9-square-foot hole in the wall.
Plugging those gaps can save an average consumer about 10 percent on a typical winter heating bill, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a recent online report by MSN Real Estate’s Bill Solomon.
But you don’t have to settle for Solomon’s word as the gospel truth, not when Steinhauser is your neighbor and resident Southland answer man.
Got leaks? He’ll speak your language.
“Yeah, window insulation kits would be the first thing,” he said. “They have what they call open-cell insulation, which is the self-adhesion insulation, where you can go around door frames, windows, anything where air could escape.
“Then, you have the actual rope caulk as well. Open-cell insulation is foam basically. It comes in different widths and thicknesses. You take an adhesive off and you can stick it right underneath the door, window, whatever you’re looking for.”
Steinhauser offered several other ideas to help consumers save on winter heating bills by addressing common problem areas:
The Easy Fix
1. Air-conditioning covers.
“A lot of older homes lose a lot of air going out through air-conditioning vents,” Steinhauser said. “And the actual unit itself causes a lot of air loss in older homes.”
2. Switch and receptacle insulators.
“If you have a switch or receptacle on an outside wall, most times you can stick your hand there and feel the air passing through,” Steinhauser said. “You can take the covers off and there is insulation you can stick in there to prevent any air loss.”
3. Garage door bottoms.
“You could have a lot more air coming in and then, obviously, going through the house if somebody opens a door into the garage,” Steinhauser said. “A lot of colder air can pass through if you have a lack of a garage door bottom.
"It’s basically a rubber seal that gets nailed to the bottom—or on some garage doors, there is a track where it actually slides in and it basically seals out any rain or air loss and, again, going back to the ‘Great Stuff’ even stops any mice or spiders or anything like that from coming in during the winters.”
4. Exterior doors. Air leaks out the threshold. Stop it with an insert.
“It’s a rubber threshold insert,” Steinhauser said. “They vary from door-to-door, from threshold-to-threshold. You do have different sizes that either slide in underneath the door or sit on the actual threshold on the floor itself. The idea is to prevent that air from being lost.
"It will help prevent moisture from rain water creeping in and help keep out bugs and mice and all those kinds of things, too.”
Steinhauser suggested some other simple ways to save on energy bills:
More Ways to Save
1. Use a programmable thermostat.
2. Winterize old windows by wrapping them with plastic.
3. Invest in low-flow showerheads or low-flow toilet kits (to save on water heater use).
4. Inspect/clean your furnace and replace the air filter.
5. Keep heating vents clear and block vents in rooms that go unused during the winter months.
COMING WEDNESDAY: Log on a 6 a.m. Wednesday and learn how Steinhauser's family business includes a plan to touch those in need over the holidays.