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Save Money and Energy This Winter

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Save Money and Energy This Winter

Try as we might to save energy – turning off lights when we leave a room, unplugging “phantom” appliances when we’re not using them, waiting until we have a full load of laundry or dishes, air drying our clothes – all of our hard-won gains can literally blow right out the window when it comes to home heating. After all, nobody wants to be cold and uncomfortable all winter long. Try these helpful, and easy, tips, and you can conserve heating fuel this winter without suffering from hypothermia:

– Seal up any visible cracks and gaps in your house, install adequate insulation, check that ducts are sealed, and choose energy efficient windows when replacing old ones. A home energy auditor can help to identify poorly insulated areas and evaluate the energy efficiency of your home. Many communities and organizations even offer home energy audits for free.

– Keep your thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees (or even lower, if you can handle it) when you’re home and awake, and 58 degrees overnight or when you’re away for more than two hours. (Households with elderly residents or very young children should be kept a bit warmer at night, though). A timer for your thermostat may help you to regulate these timed temperature changes.

– Put on a sweater. Why heat up your whole home when you’re just using one room? Dress for the season. Don’t expect to be comfortable in shorts and a tank top when it’s snowing outside. Put on layers, even indoors, and bundle up under blankets when you’re not moving around. Use several blankets at night to keep your body warm enough without warming your whole home.

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– Lower the thermostats on your water heater to the lowest comfortable level. (A setting of 120 degrees is about right for most people). Each 10-degree decrease saves five percent on water heating costs!

– Be sure your attic is properly ventilated, and insulated. A warm attic steals heat from the rest of the house, and does no one any good.

– Keeping your registers or radiators clean can make your home warmer with less energy, and save you money. Dust acts like an insulating blanket, trapping the heat.

– Your radiators will heat more efficiently if you place a piece of aluminum foil behind each one. The foil reflects heat back into the room, instead of allowing it to be absorbed into the wall.

– To promote cleaner air when burning wood in your fireplace or woodstove, be sure that the wood you use is 100% untreated, has been seasoned for at least nine months, and is not painted.

– On the coldest nights, pull down window shades to keep heat from escaping. During the day, keep blinds and drapes open to let in the sunshine. Keep shrubs around your home trimmed back, so they don’t block the sun from entering your windows.

– Shut off the heat in unused rooms. It’s simple, just shut off the radiator valve or close the vent. Closing off a spare room in winter will be more effective if you stuff a plastic dry cleaner bag under the door to keep the cold air from escaping into the house.

– If you have a fireplace, close the dampers when it’s not in use.

– Insulate your electrical outlets. One of the most overlooked ways cold air can get into your house is through the outlets. Remove the outlet covers and insert insulation pads underneath. Cap off any outlets that are not being used.

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1 Caren with a C Fowler { 01.13.14 at 11:26 am }

I wish I could just get my husband to be more curious about any of this. He has no idea how helpful it could be if he maintained….

2 Leah { 01.13.14 at 9:59 am }

58 degreesis fine if you use a heating blanket. But heating blankets should not be used with children or the elderly and should have been mentioned in the article.

3 Kathy { 01.13.14 at 9:48 am }

58 is too cold for young, old or in between. Do not go that low, otherwise, you could have a lot of sickness in your home or worse. Just use common sense…if it doesn’t sound quite right, don’t do it.

4 Melba { 11.14.12 at 12:44 pm }

I find that those “holiday themed elongated fabric pillows or characters” are great when set next to a window on your window sill. They amazingly keep out a lot of cold air entry. We live in Florida and this conversation seems geared to Northerners. Here we have what is called a “wet cold” not a “dry cold”. It is much colder on the body system and if you have diabetes, cardiovascular issues or low thyroid-I highly recommend that (if you live south of the Mason-Dixon line), that you keep your heat on a warmish level. Otherwise you can catch pneumonia very easily-my elderly father nearly died from such. Even if you live in the Midwest, people with health issues should take extreme caution to avoid hypothermia by insulating windows, outlets and doorways.

5 Barb { 11.14.12 at 10:42 am }

The people that lived in the 1800’s & early 1900’s didn’t have the heating that we have & the children survived. The heavy fleece made into pajamas for them is great. It is like having a blanket on. I’m close to 80 & keep my home at 60 degrees all the time. If I need it, I can turn the thermostat up for a little while. I have installed a folding door at the doorways of my living room & have an osscelating heater in my living room & one in my bedroom, if I need them. I don’t like paying the electric company any more than I have to.

6 Elaine { 11.14.12 at 10:11 am }

I agree with Clifton. When we switched from fuel oil heat to a gas pack, we were told not to shut off our extra room. Systems are designed for the whole house. One thing I did not read was to have your heating system serviced before the cold sets in. This has always helped keep our bills down as well.

And I’m sorry, but a plastic dry cleaner bag? Obviously no children or pets in the author’s home. Think safety first.

7 Clifton Printy { 09.18.12 at 12:59 am }

Closing registers on unused rooms is almost always a bad idea. Properly installed heating systems should have an exacting airflow for which the ductwork and all equipment is sized to allow for the right amount of air over the heat exchangers and coils of a system. Messing with that airflow can cause major system problems. Also the amount of energy involved in change a total temperature of a house 10 degrees would in fact be more than the amount of energy to maintain that temperature. I work for KB Complete in Shawnee Kansas and would love someone to talk to me, or better yet my betters about this. I have spent countless hours correcting the problems of this kind of adjustment.

8 Cheryl { 10.30.11 at 9:35 am }

Great article! The federal government has a national program called the Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) and is free. This program offers free Auditors that also does audits on appliances and cleans and tune the heating systems. It is based on income limits and has some other qualifying criteria. Great program!

9 Jaime McLeod { 01.07.11 at 4:14 pm }

Hi Victoria, Yes, 58 is probably a bit too cold for your two younger kids. I keep my house that cold at night, but I use an electric blanket and don’t have young kids. A good principle, always, is that it’s cheaper and easer to warm individual people and smaller spaces than an entire house. If you can shut off the heat in unused rooms, that will help. All of this comes down to your own situation and comfort level, though. Try turning the heat down to 63 or 64 some night and see if your kids seem comfortable. If they wear warm pajamas and have lots of blankets, they should be fine.

10 victoria { 01.07.11 at 3:46 pm }

Great read, very helpful. Although 58 seems a bit cold? I have 2 & 4 & 11 yr old’s, is this temp ok for them?

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