Just because the temperature drops doesn’t mean you have to abandon your hopes of keeping your home comfortable while remaining energy efficient. As the temperature dips, we are all tempted to crank up the thermostat, but there are many other ways to stay warm and stay in-control of your energy use and costs.
Clean and Service Your Furnace
To keep your appliances running efficiently, you should have them serviced and cleaned regularly. If you haven’t this year, consider a service call for your furnace and ducts. This service can make sure you are getting as efficient heating as possible, saving you on your heating bills, and your Utility provider may even offer rebates for customers committed to regularly serving their furnace.
Also, vacuum out vent covers and make sure ALL your vents, where you want heating in your home, as are fully open, for better heat distribution across your home.
Finally, replace or clean your furnace filter every three months or when they appear dirty. Clogged filters will cause your system to work less efficiently and results in less heated air delivered to the rooms across your home.
Use Your Windows and Curtains
Every day the sun is shining is a chance to naturally heat areas of your home. In rooms that get sunlight, open your curtains, and let the light it. Sunlight can heat those rooms at no cost. And, when the sun goes down, close those curtains, or better yet your pleated-blinds, as they can function as another layer of insulation on your windows. We have even seen that by closing pleated-blinds that fit with no more than a ½” gap on the sides of the blinds, you will raise the temperature of double-pane windows from the low 50’s (Fahrenheit) to within 1 or 2 degree of your thermostat’s set point (i.e., 66 degrees if you have your thermostat set at 67 or 68 degrees) when it is only 10 degrees outside!
Energy Star, a government program funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, notes that plastic window seals are worth the time and money if you have old, single-pane, or knowingly leaky windows. Read more about the benefits of DIY kits here.
As many of us are returning to the office, we can capitalize on not having to keep our homes heated all day. If you have forced-air heating (i.e., a furnace) instead of a boiler with radiant heating, you can buy and install a programmable thermostat in most homes for around $100. And once you have it installed, you can control the energy used to heat your home in the day and overnight.
Energy Star notes 68 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal temperature for comfort and efficiency in the winter. And when you are gone or sleeping, you can lower that another 6 to 10 degrees and for every 1 degree you set-back your thermostat, for a 7 to 8 hour period of time while you are away or are sleeping, you will save 1 to 2% on your heating bills So, if you set back the thermostat 6 degrees while you are sleeping each evening and then have the thermostat start rewarming your house ~1 hour before you get up, you will save 6% to 8% on your heating costs while maintaining the comfort in your home! More on that here.
Don’t go too hot or too cold, either. If you let the temperature drop too low, your furnace will have a lot of catching up, and you likely won’t realize any savings or efficiencies. The trick is to keep it cool, not cold, when you’re not around or sleeping.
Be very limited in where and how much you use a space heater. The 1,500 watts typically required to operate a space heater will cost you $2.20 (based on $0.12/KwH of electricity cost) for every 12 hours you operate the space heater. If you let it run 12 hours every day, just 1 space heater will cost you ~$66/month. So, use space heaters wisely by directing heaters towards people, not spaces, and keep flammable materials away from them.
Air Movement Across your Home
If you have ceiling fans, especially in rooms with ceilings taller than 8’, run it/them in a counter-clockwise direction to push warm air down from the ceiling to add comfort and savings. ENERGY STAR® rated ceiling fans offer the most efficient performance.
Re-Arrange Your Furniture
Just as we have “spring cleaning” at our house, we have “winter arranging” where we move furniture away from heating vents so we can get the benefit. There is no point in heating a bookshelf or sofa when we could be heating the air. You’ll also benefit by placing your favorite chair or beloved sofa near, but not covering, a supply register to have warmth directed to where you are most often sitting.
Keep an Eye on Your Chimney
If you have a wood burning fireplace in your home and don’t use it regularly, close the flue to keep heat from rising and escaping. It is even better if you go further by installing an inexpensive “fireplace plug” such as those from Battic Door. This is likely the most straightforward solution but is often overlooked.
If you do use your fireplace regularly, Energy.gov recommends installing “tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system. Learn more about making the most of your fireplace here.
One note: You must remember to open your flue and remove the “fireplace plug” BEFORE you start a fire in your fireplace. This is critical as there can be dangerous consequences if you fail to open the damper.
Energy Audit for Your Home
If you haven’t had an energy audit done on your home yet SCHEDULE ONE TODAY! Most utility companies offer low-cost services to help you find ways to improve insulation, air-sealing, heating equipment to heat your home this winter efficiently, making it much more comfortable and cutting 10% to even 50+% off your energy bills depending on how inefficient your home currently is.
Most energy providers can conduct this for you, and some can even do it virtually. Check out Xcel Energy’s Home Energy Squad. Yes, there is an expense associated with most audits, but you can recover that cost in utility bill savings. Your energy provider may even offer rebates for you. This is a smart move for anyone who wants to know ALL the ways to save money on your heating bills this winter as well as for years to come!
You can learn more about energy efficiency and ways to make your home greener by reading more of our updates here. And, of course, if you have questions, we’d love to hear from you!