Three energy-saving tips for your house 

We asked metro Atlanta's top advocate for energy efficiency what the average homeowner should do to save energy. His first answer: "Seal your ducts. Seal your ducts. Seal your ducts."

Southface Energy Institute's Dennis Creech is a gear-head among tree-huggers. His mission: Spread the gospel of clean energy and conservation to builders and utilities. With concerns heightening about Atlanta's dirty air, it's a gospel that's finally being heard.

Here, then, with the caution that the first of these tasks is by far the most important, are three easy tips toward saving money, energy and the environment:

* Seal your ducts: Leaky ducts account for up to 30 percent of heating and cooling costs — hundreds of dollars in the average home. But contractors often fail to seal ducts properly, and inspectors seldom enforce that portion of the building code. First, inspect for leaks; then, seal with a thick paste called mastic.

* Install five compact-fluorescent light bulbs: Standard incandescent bulbs waste most of their energy on heat, which has the doubly wasteful effect of increasing air-conditioning costs. Compact fluorescents are initially pricey but save tremendously over the long haul because they save energy and last longer. Pick five sockets that you use frequently, and that can handle the weight and shape of a compact fluorescent.

* Seal air leaks: Standard insulation has its place but doesn't prevent air from seeping from the home. The trick here is to find holes, cracks and other fissures, particularly in the ceiling and the floor. Caulk, spray foam and rigid foam boards are among the materials that can slow the outflow. Savings can run around $50 a month.

For free how-to sheets, go to www.southface.org or call 404-872-3549.

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