CPS Energy Casa Verde program provides free weatherization services

Program has helped 21,000 homes so far

SAN ANTONIO – As we crank up the heat in our homes, it's raising the cost on our energy bills, but never fear, we have some unorthodox ways to plug up those drafts and protect your homes.

Even as supplies run out at hardware stores, you still have options, and you might not even need to make the trip in the first place.

You can buy weather stripping, but cardboard, towels, newspapers and even a tube sock filled with rice will plug up gaps in windows and doors nicely.

A regular old tarp will protect plants if frost blankets are sold out.

When pipe and faucet covers are cleaned out, it's amazing what some duct tape and general purpose housing insulation will do when wrapped around pipes.

Even the material found in packing kits for pictures and dishes will keep in the heat when used for wrapping or stuffed in cracks.

If you add up all of the leaks in your home, John Moreno, with CPS Energy, says it's the same as having a 2 by 3-foot hole in the side of your house.

"There is no wrong way to do it," Moreno said, "There is just do it."

Those leaks can come from some overlooked places, too.

The vent in your stove can have cold air coming in. Tape cardboard on top to cover it up.

Cold air trapped in your walls will find its way in through gaskets, outlets and switch plates where you plug in your appliances. That's just the start.

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"Some of the things that customers need to be aware of is fireplaces. If they leave the dampers open, they're gonna have cold air come into the home and infiltrate, uh, cold air with warm air," Moreno said.

"[Cold air comes in] around the exterior pipes that are coming into the house, or exterior cables that are coming into the house, whether that's a cable box, electric wiring, whatever it may be. Once that air gets into your walls, it's obviously gonna make its way into the living area, so you want to stop that from happening when it first occurs."

You can also put ceiling fans in reverse to push down all of the rising hot air.

Since 2009, CPS Energy has encouraged low-income customers to apply for the free Casa Verde weatherization program, which provides an average of $5,000 worth of weatherization work for free. The program has helped 21,000 homes so far.

Linda Massiatte applied and had a crew come in November to her Southeast side home, and she has already noticed both the warmth and the savings.

She's lived in her home for 23 years and used it as her home office for about 15 of those years, and says it was drafty.

"Like in the summer, it would get so hot, even the air conditioner wasn't working properly, and in the winter, I mean we used to have to run it really, really high," Massiatte said.

She says the workers were in and out, there for two days at the most.

They made holes in the kitchen and front room and stuffed the walls full of insulation, installed a new door to cut down on drafts, fixed her broken windows and put on a screen.

There was air leaking through her central heating system, so they padded it up.

The cracks that were there before are now gone.

"There was areas where the wind was actually coming in, and you could feel it," Massiatte said while standing in front of her kitchen sink.

She says she's already saved $90 on her bill compared to last year, and she expects the savings to grow.

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Moreno recommends you keep your thermostat between 68 to 70 degrees when you're home, and then 65 degrees when you're gone for the day and overnight.

Every degree you lower your thermostat, you save 5 percent on your heating bill.