JMU professor offers tips to conserve energy, money in winter

JMU Headlines

by Eric Gorton


Harrisonburg, Virginia — Bitter cold is heading to the central Shenandoah Valley this week, but cranking up the thermostat could have some costly repercussions. 

While keeping indoor temperatures in the mid-70s or higher might seem tempting, it will require more energy and result in higher bills than maintaining lower temperatures, said JMU professor Karim Altaii, especially as the cost of natural gas continues to rise. 

A professor of integrated science and technology whose research includes heating, ventilating and air conditioning, Altaii recommends indoor temperatures be maintained around 72 degrees when occupied and lowered to 68 when unoccupied, even if that means wearing an extra layer of clothing to maintain comfort. 

Another way to save energy before the coldest weather sets in is to seal windows and doors. A little bit of smoke can reveal where leaks exist. And those leaks can be stopped with some weather stripping or calking. 

For longer term planning, consider an energy audit that will identify areas where a home can be improved to be more energy efficient. ”The starting point is to collect data, including the size of the home and things that use energy, such as appliances and lights,” Altaii said.

Energy audits can range in complexity, including pressurizing and depressurizing a home to find air leaks. This requires the auditor to put a blower at the main entrance of the house. Pressurizing the house detects leaks to the outside and depressurizing detects leaks inside.

Another test involves using an infrared camera to check for leaks around windows and doors.

Upgrading the home’s heating system is also something to consider as a longer-term solution.

“Just 15 years ago, when I replaced my heat pump, it had an Energy Efficiency Rating of 10. Nowadays, the rating is 19-20, basically doubling your efficiency,” Altaii said. “When you have more efficient devices, they will consume less energy and cost less money for the same comfort.”



Contact: Eric Gorton,, 540-908-1760 

More information about James Madison University, including rankings and recognitions can be found at

Back to Top

Published: Monday, December 19, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2024

Related Articles