As the temperatures drop and the winds begin to pick up speed, it’s time to better winterize your home, maximize energy efficiency and save money on your heating bills. The following tips will help you and your family stay comfortable throughout our cold winter months, and love our planet in the process.
Install a programmable thermostat.
Regulating the heat in your home based on time of day is a great way to save money on your monthly energy bills. Your furnace will only turn on when you need it and can remain idle when you are away. Setting the temperature a degree or two cooler, and putting on a sweater and socks, can also conserve energy and lower energy consumption.
Consider a home energy audit.
A professional energy auditor can conduct a thorough review of your entire home to identify areas where heat is escaping, cold air is getting in or energy is being needlessly wasted. This can be an invaluable first step in preparing a fix-it plan. Your home energy audit report will also suggest ways you can get the most from the federal government’s ecoENERGY rebate program.
Check all windows, doors and walls—inside and out—for any cracks or gaps that allow drafts or cause heat to escape, and then seal them with the appropriate caulking. One way to check for drafts coming through cracks is to hold up a candle or lighter next to the gap and look for a flicker in the flame. Likewise, have any ductwork inspected to ensure it’s properly sealed so you’re not losing heat.
Protect your windows.
Double-glazed energy-efficient windows provide superior heat retention, but they can be an expensive upgrade. If that’s not in your budget right now, you can buy plastic-insulating kits at your local home improvement store. Failing that option, for a quick fix, hang extra-thick curtains to help keep the cold out.
Insulate. Insulate. Insulate.
Fill wall cavities and your attic space with foam insulation to help prevent any kind of heat loss. You can also install foam gaskets around electrical outlets on exterior walls for the same effect.
Change your furnace filter.
Yes it’s easy to forget, but it’s important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Here’s a worry-saving tip: make a monthly note on your calendar. Better yet, consider switching to a permanent filter, which will reduce waste and hassle. Did you know that disposable fiberglass filters trap a measly 10–40% of debris? Electrostatic filters trap around 88% and are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen that cause illness and irritation.
Clean your vents.
Ensuring the vents for your furnace, stove and dryer are clean and free of dust and debris will help them function more efficiently and effectively.
Replace your old furnace.
Consider buying a high-efficiency furnace, which can save you up to 40% on your heating bills. Check for the ENERGY STAR label, and look for a furnace with an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating of 92% or greater. As a bonus, you can get up to $1,690 in government rebates when you replace your aging furnace with a high-efficiency furnace.
Install ceiling fans.
One of the best ways to evenly circulate heat in your home is to use a ceiling fan. They are able to direct warm air, which rises naturally, back down to where it’s needed most. Reversing your ceiling fans’ direction in the winter will push warm air down and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. Here’s how you know the fan is ready for winter: when you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise. As an extra perk, those same fans will help cool you and your home in the summer.
Check your fridge door.
It may sound silly, but a poorly sealed refrigerator door can actually contribute to the cooling of your kitchen and subsequently increase energy costs, since the fridge now has to work twice as hard to keep its contents cold and your furnace has to work harder to keep your kitchen warm. To test your fridge door, place a piece of paper between the door and the body of the fridge and then close the door. If you can pull the paper back out easily, it’s time to re-seal your fridge door.