Across the United States, towns are seeing colder weather than ever before. But most of us aren’t prepared for the costly expenses caused by cold weather. Without wasting any more of your time, here are 18 easy ways to save big on heating costs for the remainder of winter:
1 – Install a programmable thermostat and set it up properly. The old theory that installing a programmable thermostat will save you 10% in energy cost isn’t completely true. A programmable thermostat CAN save you money if you are committed to using less energy, set up the thermostat properly and utilize that programming. If you frequently use the “HOLD” feature, you are overriding your programming and likely any savings you might get from it. Set your thermostat back 10 degrees for an eight hour period when you are not home, this will likely save you about 6% to 7% on your energy bill. And if you lower your temperature overnight by a degree or two, this will reduce your energy consumption by about 1%. Every little bit helps.
2 – Check your attic insulation. Around this time of year many people are pulling out or packing away their Christmas decorations in their attic. When this happens, attic insulation often becomes disturbed or compressed, and this affects the insulation’s R-value. The R-value is the capacity of insulating material to resist heat flow. So if you compress your R30 insulation by putting a box of Christmas ornaments on it, the R-value may be reduced to R25. This allows the heat that filters through your ceiling to escape that much faster, meaning your HVAC system has to work that much harder to maintain the temperature in the home. Check your attic insulation– Make sure all spaces are covered pretty evenly, no items are compressing the insulation, and everything is nice and fluffy!
3 – Have your air ducts inspected. A common place to lose heating efficiency is your air ducts. Energy Star estimates that most forced air systems lose 20 to 30% due to leaks, holes and poor connections. Having your ducts inspected and corrected can save you significant money on both your heating and cooling bills. Taping up gaps and holes is a quick way of improving your heat loss, but mastic sealing, which your HVAC contractor can do for you, is a way of really improving air escaping into non-conditioned spaces (and possibly getting a nice rebate from your energy utility).
4 – Use that big, yellow heater in the sky. The sun can be a big help in heating up your home during the day and possibly reducing your energy consumption. If you leave curtain and blinds open during the day (particularly south-facing), the sun’s warmth will beam through the windows and be absorbed by items in your home. As those items radiate the sun’s heat, they warm the space around them, causing your HVAC system to work a bit less. When you get home in the evening, close the blinds and curtains to help retain the heat in those areas.
5 – Replace dirty air filters frequently. It really is one of the simplest task and can save you quite a bit. Dirty filters reduce air flow, making your HVAC work harder to exchange air and reach desired temperatures. They may also contribute to your blower motor pulling increased amperage. Not to mention, dirty air filters can lead to limit trips and pressure trips that cause your system to shut down, providing no heat when you need it most. Changing your filters regular may save you 5 to 10% in energy costs plus the cost of a service call.
6 – Lower your thermostat. This may be obvious, but there are plenty of times during the day when you can lower your thermostat, particularly when you’re sleeping, or out of the house for an extended period of time. The U.S. Department of Energy calculates that you can save 10% each year with a 10-15 degree reduction just eight hours each day. And you’ll likely sleep better in a cooler home too!
7 – Insulate electrical outlets. If you search through the electrical outlets on the outside walls of your house, you’ll likely find cracks or gaps surrounding them, which are easy pathways for warm air to escape the home. Caulk any small gaps around your electrical outlets. And for larger gaps, begin with foam sealant, then foam gasket covers, and finish by replacing the cover plates. While this may seem like one of the more obscure ways to save on heating costs, think about the sheer number of outlets you have on the outer walls of your home, each of which is like a small window to the outdoors.
8 – Winterize your windows. There are two common ways to do this. You can either put up heavy plastic and wood-framed storm windows on the outside of your home, or you can insulate the windows from the inside with temporary plastic coverings. DIY instructions and videos are available online!
9 – Install draft stoppers for doors. The little bits of daylight between your doors and floors are letting out warm air, while letting in drafts of cold air. The drafts may even be strong enough to feel while standing near the door. You can easily find affordable draft stoppers that attach directly to the door. Or you can purchase another type that goes under your doors and easily slides in and out of place.
10 – Turn down the temperature of your hot water heater. If going tankless isn’t an option, simply turn down the heat a bit. Chances are good that it’s set too high anyway, and for much of that time, it’s heating water that isn’t getting used.
11 – Seal holes in exterior walls. Think about all the pipes and cables you have going in and out of your house – water pipes, gas lines, satellite dish cables, Christmas light cords, etc. Apply expanding foam to any areas where the seal isn’t completely shut, and you’ll see a significant increase in your energy efficiency.
12 – Have your furnace or heat pump properly maintained. Check filters once a month, clean or replace them when they’re dirty. Keep the areas around your outdoor units clear of debris, and get a tune-up each spring and fall. When your heating system works at maximum efficiently, you save the maximum amount of money. This is undoubtedly one of the most effective methods of saving money on heating bills. If you have any questions regarding this step, visit our maintenance page here.
13 – Get a humidifier. Moist air holds more heat, so you might consider purchasing a small humidifier for the rooms you spend the most time in, or even install a whole-house humidifier. And if you don’t want a humidifier, you can always substitute it with some house plants. Plants also release moisture in a process called transpiration, and have proven to help maintain warmth during the colder months.
14 – Limit use of exhaust fans. Exhaust fans are great for removing odors and chemicals from kitchens and bathrooms, but they also let out warm air. Consider limiting the use of exhaust fans, especially if you’ll be taking long showers or cooking for extended periods of time, but still make sure you remove enough steam to prevent significant condensation on surfaces inside your home and to remove dangerous byproducts of cooking with gas.
15 – Keep heating vents clear. Don’t cover or block any of your vents in the winter. This includes parking furniture in front of vents or placing rugs on top of them. In addition, make sure they stay clear of dust, dirt, and cobwebs. Covering vents in any way can lower your energy efficiency and also leave you susceptible to fires.
16 – Mind your fireplace. If you have a cheap (or free) supply of wood, utilizing your fireplace more often will allow you to keep the thermostat at a lower setting. But when you’re not using it, make sure the flue is completely shut. If that seal isn’t tight, you can always purchase a fireplace blanket or an inflatable chimney balloon. (Yes, these are real things!)
17 – Use space heaters strategically. An energy-efficient space heater often costs less to run than a furnace. And it’s portable, which means you can turn down the heat in the rest of the house, but still stay warm in whatever room you’re in.
18 – Accessorize! Wear more layers, thermal underwear, hoodies, and footie pajamas. Purchase flannel sheets and electric blankets. And get some insulated curtains for your windows, especially if you don’t feel like shrink-wrapping them.
There are numerous ways to save on heating costs. And while few people will follow all of these suggestions, doing just a few could make a big difference on your energy bill. If you’re concerned about the efficiency of your home or workplace heating system, contact Comfort Monster Heating & Air at (919)-666-7837 for an on-site consultation.