The cold weather has arrived, and as the mercury drops, energy prices rise. While it would be nice to replace all of those old doors and windows, and buy new energy-saving appliances, that kind of expense is not practical for everyone, even with tax credits from federal and state governments to subsidize energy-saving upgrades.
Luckily, you can reign in your winter energy spending with just a few simple, and inexpensive, tweaks to your home and habits.
Cut the Drafts
Allowing too much drafty air to enter is the number one mistake most homeowners make. What good does it do to warm things up inside if you just allow all of that heat to escape through cracks and crevices?
If you have older windows, make sure to reinstall your storm windows, if you have them, each year as the cooler weather descends. The extra layer of glass will help to keep drafts from entering your home.
Whether you have storm doors and windows or not, weather stripping and caulking around your windows, doors, and other potential weak spots in your home is crucial, and costs very little in comparison to the money it will save you in the long run. Carefully inspect every area in your home where two different building materials meet — windows, doors, corners, chimneys — as well as areas where plumbing or wiring enter or exit. Seal off any visible gaps with caulk or weather stripping.
Purchase window insulation kit from your local hardware store. These sheets of clear plastic stick over your windows and shrink tight when heated with a hair dryer. The cold air stays trapped between the plastic and the window, instead of coming inside your home.
Even a simple item like a draft dodger, also known as a draft snake, can make a big difference. Those simple lengths of stuffed fabric that lay at the base of your doors cost only a few dollars, but can go a long way toward keeping the cold air out, and the warm air in.
Check Your Furnace
Just like your car needs a periodic tune-up to stay in good running condition, so does your furnace or boiler. Call your local HVAC contractor, preferably early in the season so you can avoid the rush, and schedule an appointment to have your furnace checked out and serviced, if necessary. Not only will this reduce your fuel usage, it will also cost a lot less than an emergency call for a furnace that’s quit working due to neglect.
Don’t forget to change the filter in your furnace. A dirty filter restricts airflow, reducing the efficiency of your unit. Write a reminder on your calendar to change this as often as your furnace’s manufacturer recommends.
Be sure to also seal off all of your furnace ducts, which can lose 20-30% of the heat you’re paying to produce, and keep them clean.
While all homes have some insulation, most older homes don’t have enough. Wherever possible, replace or reinforce the insulation in your home’s walls, attic, basement, etc.
It’s also a good idea to insulate your pipes, which will reduce the amount of money you spend on hot water. Most hardware stores sell very inexpensive pipe sleeves, which slip easily onto pipes with no fuss.
Other Helpful Tips
If you have ceiling fans in your home, turn them on, clockwise. Though fans are most often used to keep rooms cool in the summer by pulling hot air up and out, they can do just the opposite in the winter, pushing hot air from the ceiling back down into the room where it does the most good.
You can also save a lot of money by heating smarter. Keep your thermostat turned down at night and when you’re not home. For every degree you lower the thermostat, you can save between 1 and 3% on your heating bill. If you tend to be forgetful, you can purchase a programmable thermostat for as little as $50, recouping the cost within a single heating season.
Do you have other tips for saving money on winter heating? Share them below!