Now that summer is over, it’s time to start thinking about and preparing for the cold weather ahead. There are a number of small things you can do around your home, each of which can make a big impact on increasing your home’s heating efficiency and reducing your overall heating costs.
October is an ideal time to start preparing your home for the cold winter months, so get started today by checking the items on this list that apply to your home:
Install a programmable thermostat: If you don’t already have one, consider installing a programmable thermostat because the dollar and energy savings both make it a worthwhile investment. The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling costs. By installing a programmable thermostat, you can automate your heating usage (i.e., decrease the temperature when you don’t need as much heat), which can save you up to $180 per year.
Check and test your furnace: There is nothing worse than turning on your furnace at the first sign of cold only to learn that it isn’t working. To avoid a situation like this, consider testing whether your furnace is working and have your furnace inspected by an HVAC professional sometime during the fall.
Check windows and doors: If your windows are leaky or drafty, and you don’t have the budget to replace them, there are a few wallet-friendly things you can do to keep the cold air out. The first is to caulk your windows inside and out as well as all around the outside edges of the windows sills. Once you’ve done that, consider purchasing a window insulator kit. These kits contain sheets of plastic that are applied to the inside portion of windows to help prevent any cold drafts from entering the home. Although this is a temporary solution, it is very cost effective at about $15 a kit and it is also extremely energy efficient. You should also consider inspecting door frames for any cold air coming through and apply weatherstripping if needed. Window insulation kits and weather strips can be easily found at your local hardware store.
Clean air filters: Ensure your heating unit’s air filters are clean. Dirty filters can clog the unit, causing it to work twice as hard, ultimately costing you more money to operate. Now is also a good time to stock up on furnace filters because they should be changed monthly during times of peak use.
Inspect air ducts: This is a good time to take a look at your home’s air ducts. Homes with central heating can lose up to 60% of heated air before it even reaches the vents if the ductwork isn’t well connected or insulated.
Reverse ceiling fans: If you use ceiling fans in your home and have a ceiling fan that can run in reverse, make the switch starting in the fall. Reversing the direction of your ceiling fan will not only save energy costs, but it will also help keep you and your family warmer in the winter months. Rotating the blade so that it turns clockwise produces an updraft that sends the warmer air pooled near the ceiling back down. Making this simple switch can cut heating costs by as much as 10%.
Check water pipes: There is nothing worse than frozen water pipes or a water pipe that has burst because of the deep winter freeze. To avoid either of these situations, start by turning off and draining any outside water valves. You should then check for any pipes that aren’t insulated in places that aren’t heated (e.g., crawlspaces, basements, garages and attics). Wrap these pipes with specially insulated sleeves, which will prevent them from freezing.
Clean gutters and check roof: After the leaves have fallen, clean out your home’s gutters so that water drains easily when the snow melts and the spring rain arrives. You should also consider replacing any worn roof shingles or tiles.
Added attic insulation: If your budget permits, consider additional insulation for your attic space. Attics are among the easiest places in a house to insulate. The only downside to this option is that it can be quite expensive depending on the size of your attic. It is recommended that you consult with a professional insulation contractor prior to starting the job.