Ready or not, winter is on its way. With all its polar vortexes and general unpleasantness, winter weather can leave you wanting to turn the heat up inside your home to keep things nice and cozy. Unfortunately, that often brings unpleasant energy costs as a result. These great tips can help keep you nice and warm without forcing you to rob your piggy bank.
1) Program Your Thermostat for Big Savings
Setting your thermostat for cooler temperatures during the night while you sleep and while you’re out of the home at work during the day can net you significant energy savings. The Department of Energy suggests that by adjusting your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees cooler for eight hours each day you can save between 5 and 15 percent on your yearly heating bill (check out our Green Savings Calculator for more thermostat savings ideas).
2) Convert to Tankless Water Heaters
While it is an upfront investment, the energy savings for making the switch can be substantial. Unlike traditional water heaters, that heat a large amount of water continuously throughout the day, tankless water heaters heat the water on demand.
The Tennessean reports this can save up to 25 percent on your annual heating bill. Another benefit worth considering is that tankless heaters never run out of hot water. This means you won’t find yourself taking a cold shower in the heart of winter because the person before you was inconsiderate.
3) Maintain Your Heating System
Whatever type of heating system you have in place, routine maintenance is necessary in order to maximize efficiency. Getting a yearly checkup and cleaning doesn’t hurt either. At a minimum you should replace the filter monthly, and consider having the heating vents throughout your home inspected and cleaned out yearly in order to avoid inefficiencies that result in higher than necessary heating costs.
4) Harness the Power of the Sun
While solar collectors are great, they aren’t the only way to harness the power of the sun’s warmth in winter. Instead, consider opening curtains and draperies on southern-facing windows throughout the day to allow the sun to come into your home and deliver its own warmth. Just remember to close the curtains at night in order to reduce the chill coming in.
5) Reduce Use of Exhaust Fans in Kitchens and Bathrooms
While they are incredibly useful for drawing moisture out of the home, they also pull out a large amount of warm air from your home rather quickly. It would be like opening the door and walking away for a while.
6) Switch the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans
Set ceiling fans to move in a clockwise direction in order to keep warm air circulating inside your home. Most homeowners set them to a counter-clockwise motion during summer months to push cool air down. In winter, you want to switch it in order to draw cool air up.
7) Install Radiant Heat Flooring
Warm feet – warm heart, right? There is some truth to the saying. When your feet are nice and warm, you feel warm all over. Radiant heat flooring keeps the floors of your home warm throughout the winter season and does so in a more energy efficient manner than baseboard heating and often beats forced air heating, according to the Department of Energy, due to its elimination of duct losses.
8) Use Carpets and Rugs
If you’re looking for something more convenient or cost effective than installing radiant heat flooring, consider throw rugs, area rugs, and carpets. These provide some degree of insulation and warmth to the room. They also aid in heat retention, largely as a result of their insulating abilities.
9) Use Blankets
Blankets add warmth and they are simply cozy in winter. They are also great for bringing family closer together, which adds the additional warmth of bodies in close proximity, to share nice warm blankets.
10) Arrange Furniture to Avoid Covering Vents
Aside from moving furniture so that vents are unblocked, consider using air vent extenders or deflectors if the size or shape of a room prevents this as a viable option. This allows the warm air to flow out into the room rather where you can feel it rather than being absorbed by furniture.
11) Update Your Insulation
ABC News reports that upgrading insulation begins at a cost of approximately $500, but the savings can easily exceed 20 percent energy savings making it possible for the update to pay for itself within one year – making it a highly cost effective upgrade to consider. Upgrading your insulation offers the dual benefit of lowering utility costs in the winter and summer months.
12) Adjust Door Thresholds
While you do not want door thresholds high enough that they interfere with your ability to open and close doors, you do want them high enough that you’re not seeing sunlight coming in beneath your doors. If you’re seeing sunlight coming in, after all, there’s room for warm air to flow out.
13) Plug Holes
There are plenty of areas to check for and plug holes that allow cold air to invade your home while letting costly warm air escape. Windows and doorways are the most common culprits people think about, but don’t forget the area around your pipes and plumbing too. Other areas to keep in mind when plugging holes are gas lines and electrical cables. Even if they’ve been sealed before, caulk and other materials used to seal them crack and peel over time and need to be resealed against weather and other perils (such as mice and insects).
14) Invest in a Pellet Stove
A pellet stove adequate for a 2,000 square foot home can be purchased for under $2,000 at many big box home improvement stores. While this is a sizable investment, wood pellets that are used for fuel costs around $6 for a 40-pound bag and can easily save you 50 percent or more on your heating costs. This is an investment This Old House claims will pay for itself within three to five years.
15) Use Barriers on Windows and Patio Doors
Plastic film may not look like it accomplishes all that much, but it can lead to savings of about 14 percent on your heating bill according to Popular Mechanics. Over the course of a winter, that can be significant – especially for an investment that often costs less than $10 or $15. The beauty of this simple fix is that it still allows sunlight to stream in, is easy to do, and is simple to remove when spring rolls around.
16) Fluff Your Attic Insulation
Reader’s Digest recommends fluffing attic insulation to at least 12 inches of depths in order to decrease the amount of heat escaping your home through the attic and roof. Don’t forget to include insulation over the attic door (or hatch). You can easily stick a plastic sheet below to catch the insulation when it falls if you’re using loose insulation or opt for an insulation sheet to cover the door without creating a mess.
17) Upgrade to Energy Efficient Appliances
Look for appliances with the Energy Star seal. Items carrying the Energy Star seal are items the EPA has certified as offering superior energy efficiency. By saving money on energy costs elsewhere, you’re freeing up a little budgetary wiggle room to devote to keeping your home warmer throughout the winter.
Just so you know, Energy Star isn’t limited to appliances. Also look for LED light bulbs that have the Energy Star label. These bulbs are long-lasting, produce bright light, and will save you money month after month on your electricity bills.
18) Use Smart Power Strips and Sleep Settings on Appliances
Televisions and many other appliances in your home utilize electricity even when turned off. To combat this, many manufacturers offer sleep settings to power down when not in use. Smart power strips also offer different methods, such as timers, current sensing, and occupancy sensing in order to determine whether the strips should power down so that no electricity is wasted.
Once again, this method lowers utility costs for electricity so that the additional heating expenses of winter don’t pinch the family budget quite as hard. Energy Star recommends checking with your local utility company to see if they offer discounts or rebates for using smart power strips before you buy one.
19) Conduct an Energy Audit
According to the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, an energy audit helps reduce homeowners’ energy costs by 33 percent (once adjustments are made). Many of the recommended adjustments from energy audits qualify for rebates of some of the expenses involved – netting even bigger savings for homeowners who take advantage of the suggestions.
20) Close Your Fireplace Damper
Obviously you want it open when fires are burning, but anytime you don’t have a fire going, the damper provides yet another avenue for warm air to race out of your home.
Any one of these changes can provide you with significant household energy savings over the course of the winter. When you use all of them in conjunction with one another, though, the savings really add up!
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