Key Homeowner Winter Energy Savings Tips
There is no substitute to being prepared when cold weather arrives. The winter energy savings tips below can help you not only plan for cold weather but can help you thrive during the winter season. If the temperatures have already plummeted, these tips will definitely help you save energy which typically means more money in your pocket. That is a win-win!
When winter arrives we typically turn up the heaters and watch our electricity or natural gas bills go up proportionally. The need to stay warm and comfortable necessitates that, but there are a bunch of free or inexpensive things we can all do to follow best efficient energy practices and reap the rewards of improved efficiency and cost savings.
The average household uses 200 more kilowatt-hours of electricity during the winter. This translates into much higher electricity bills, especially for those living in the southeast where a central heating system is most often used for heat. In other parts of the country where furnace’s and natural gas fireplaces are the norm, the cost of gas or oil can change from year to year, but in colder climates the costs can be significant.
The good news is that it does not have to be this way. Yes, we need to keep warm during the winter but there are several easy ways to cut down on power usage and get energy savings. How? By getting efficient devices and following smart practices we can all experience more winter energy savings.
Below are several ways to see home energy savings during the winter and cut your home expenses at the same time.
Conduct a Home Energy Audit
A home energy audit will reveal where your home is losing energy and what you can do to mitigate this loss. While you can do much of this yourself, it is often more prudent to hire a professional who will perform an in-depth analysis of your property and identify opportunities to help you conserve energy.
If they do not mention a blower door test, request one. It is used to depressurize your home. By using an infrared camera during the test, they will be able to quickly identify potential air leaks. The last thing you want is a drafty home so have the test performed to find out if/where you have unseen issues.
Although not all-inclusive, here is a list of things you can typically expect an energy auditor to check:
- Coils/Filaments (if applicable)
- Crawl Space
- Electrical Outlets/Switches
- Furnace (to include filter)
- HVAC System
- Light Receptacle
- Water Heater
- Windows (inside and out)
Two additional tests the auditor may perform include a thermographic review to measure surface temperatures throughout your home. If there are deviations or large temperature swings, thermography could indicate there are air leaks, a lack of insulation, or potentially issues with your roof. The second test is a Perfluorocarbon Tracer Gas inspection that identifies long-term air infiltration issues. It will not identify where the problem is, only that there is one. Either/both of these test can be conducted during the blower door test to provide a more definitive analysis of your home’s energy consumption and energy efficiency (or lack thereof).
Your home energy assessment will provide a roadmap to how much energy your home is using, where heat loss (or cold air invasion) is occurring, and potential solutions you can employ to attain energy savings in your home. If unsure who to use, ask your local utility company for references and whether rebates are available for this service.
Did you know…Heating and cooling make up more than 50 percent of the average home’s utility expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Inspect Your Insulation
Inspect insulation in the attic to make sure it is deep enough for the current recommended insulation level based on climate zones, as determined by the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Energy Conservation Code. You should also inspect wall insulation by removing electric outlet covers to see if there is visible insulation.
Other places to inspect insulation include basements, crawl spaces, garages and utility closets. Add insulation where needed and see your home heating bills shrink as you more effectively keep the heat from escaping.
According to energystar.gov, 29% of your annual energy bill goes to heat your home. The more energy efficient you are, the more cost benefits you will see, and the more comfortable your home will be…it really is that simple!
Check for Air Leaks
It is vitally important to check for air leaks around door and window frames, inside and outside light fixtures, plumbing cut-throughs, dryer and oven vents, behind cupboards and closets, and any other areas in the home that have openings, gaps, or cracks. A goal should be to ensure your home is cozy during the coldest time of the year.
If you have an unfinished basement, do an inspection of the sill plates and rim joists as they are often air leak culprits. Check in the attic and locate existing gaps and possible locations you may be losing heat from such as recessed lights. Also, wherever you have piping entering your property should be thoroughly analyzed as these areas are often overlooked and are key sources where air leaks can occur.
Once you find the leaks (they will exist so if you do not find any you are not looking hard enough), seal the cracks with caulk or foam sealants and other weatherproofing materials.
It is important to understand that you will make your home more energy efficient by fixing issues from inside your house, not outside. While resolving outdoor problems can help, the main benefit here is keeping water and moisture from entering your home.
Examine Heating Equipment for Energy Efficiency
It is surprising how many consumers do all the little things when trying to be more energy efficient but fail to check their heating equipment to ensure it is well maintained and in top working condition. At a minimum, you should inspect filters, sheet metal, coils, and vents on furnaces and other types of heating equipment.
It is equally important to perform regular maintenance and make sure equipment such as furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and even wood burning stoves, are free of clutter that block flues, vents, motors, and compressors. Replace air filters on a regular schedule as they can get clogged or saturated with debris and decrease efficiency. If your equipment gets too hot because of clutter or clogging it may become a fire hazard so ensure areas where air needs to circulate are clean and unobstructed.
If you are unsure what to do or how often it should be accomplished, hire a professional to service the equipment and provide you with peace of mind knowing your heating equipment is ready for the long winter that awaits. If you need to purchase new equipment, ensure it is energy-efficient rated. It may cost a little more upfront, but in the long run, it can save you hundreds of dollars.
When you follow this blueprint, you will be amazed at how much money you can save, and how much more efficiently you will use energy in your home during wintertime.
Review Your Utility Bills
What do most of us do when we get our utility bill (hopefully we pay it on-time!)? We check to see what the cost for that period is and either file away the invoice or throw it away. However, to fully understand what is happening and to determine if there are trends during specific times of the month or month, it makes sense to read through three to five years of past utility bills, looking for times when usage was at its peak.
Ask your utility company if they provide energy saving audits or any other resources for saving energy and reducing your heating bill. If you do not ask you will not know what options are available to you, often free of charge too.
Also, make it a goal to employ home energy conservation measures during those peak times and see if your utility costs drop as a result of your efforts (I bet they will).
Still Using An Analog Thermostat?
If you have one of the older analog thermostats, do not fret, you can still lower your energy consumption. For starters, it beats not having one in your home! Simply stated, this device is one of the best ways to get energy savings, especially if you judiciously track the setting and ensure the heating unit only comes on when necessary.
By dropping your thermostat setting by at least 1-3 degrees while home and awake and 8-15 degrees while sleeping, you can potentially reduce your energy bill by 3 to 5 percent over the course of the year. Food for thought…A lower setting also helps your freezers and refrigerators as they do not have to work as hard to keep food cold.
If your home does not have a thermostat, or you want to replace your old analog model, you can expect a decent return on investment if you install a programmable digital thermostat. They are incredibly convenient and you will also be surprised how simple they are to program.
Upgrade To A Programmable Digital Thermostat
One of the biggest benefits of switching to a programmable digital thermostat is the ability to pre-set times when you want your heating to turn on or off and what temperature you desire during those timeframes. They typically have the ability to have multiple daily settings and can be manually changed without affecting future settings. They are designed to aid you in achieving optimal temperatures which can lead to utility bill savings.
You can get a very good model for under $250 and can easily recoup that money in heating cost savings in as little as seven to ten years depending on your heat settings. They also now come standard with a WIFI control so you can adjust, set, or remove a setting right from your smartphone.
Regardless of the type of thermostat you use, it is key to avoid frequent setting changes. Large swings in temperature over a short period of time forces your heating system to work harder, negating any savings you may have otherwise received. Keep that in mind as you prepare and maintain your daily heating plan and you will reap the rewards with winter energy savings.
Save Energy With New Lighting
Switching from ordinary incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) or preferably light emitting diodes (LED) is one of the best ways you can conserve energy in the winter. CFL’s use around 30% less energy than ordinary bulbs while LED’s save up to 75%. They both last considerably longer too which equates to more money in your pocket and increased energy saved.
While a little more costly, LED lights are the way to go if you want the most long-term savings. They are a lot brighter, they also consume far less energy than other types of lights, and there is no delay to allow them to warm-up. The fact you can leave them on for extended periods during the winter, and your bill stays reasonable, make them the go-to lighting option for every type of home.
Be Smart With Christmas Lights
Christmas and winter are inseparable. One of the things that makes winter special is the Christmas lights that we put up. They fill us with a warm and fuzzy holiday feeling. But did you know these Christmas lights can run up your electricity bill because the lights are often on for long periods of time. That is why it is key to switch to energy-efficient lights.
Fortunately, there are plenty of LED Christmas light choices for both indoor and outdoor use. Again, you can expect a higher expense upfront but the savings over time make them the right choice for all of your holiday or theme inspired displays.
Install Solar Panels For Renewable Energy
One of the best ways to save utility costs this winter (and throughout the year) and generate renewable energy, is by switching to solar panels. Why spend for energy, when you can harness the power of the sun? They create electricity from the sun’s light (not the heat), and with slight adjustments to the panels in the winter (to capture more light), they can actually be more efficient during the winter than during the summertime, as long as they remain free of snow or other debris.
Setting up a solar panel system will take some upfront homework to determine if the initial cost will be recouped while you live in the home. If you decide to install a system, you can expect your energy costs to go down, way down. Enjoying the comforts of a warm home during winter and saving both money and energy sounds like something worthwhile to invest in.
Renewable Energy is growing by leaps and bounds as more consumers take advantage of the tax credits while they last. In fact, under current legislation, the solar investment tax credit is still available for the next 2 years for residential systems.
Consumers can save 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021 of the cost of the system on their federal taxes. If you are considering installing a solar panel system, now is the time to do so, as current laws do not provide a tax break for residential users beyond 2021.
Work With or Replace Your Windows
Quite often when discussing how to save money on your winter utility bills, the topic of window replacement comes up. That’s because you lose up to 25% of your home’s heat through the windows. While it can make good sense to replace single-pane windows with double-pane low-emissivity windows, you really need to take a long look at the costs to make sure the benefits outweigh the expenditure. Gas filled windows are often used in colder climates to help reduce heat loss.
You can also install storm windows over your existing single-pane windows to improve window insulation, provide another level of security, protect against storms, reduce outside noises, and help reduce winter energy costs. They are relatively inexpensive but do scratch easily and get a yellow hue to them over time so know that before you buy.
If your analysis does not warrant replacing windows, or if you just want to utilize more cost conscious techniques, here are a few ways you can still decrease window energy loss this winter…
Caulk – Caulk around the window frame and any exposed screws to eliminate air gaps are quick and smart ways to cut down on air drafts. You can also replace old weather-stripping to make your windows more air tight and energy efficient.
Plastic Film – Another technique that can help is to weatherize your drafty windows with plastic film insulation. You can get rolls at your local hardware store for a reasonable price. This heat shrink film will help limit condensation which will aid in keeping your panes warmer. There are several types (clear poly sheeting, plastic film insulation, heat shrink, UV reflective film, etc.) so choose one that fits your specific needs.
Open Curtains – In the wintertime, if the sun is shining, opening curtains, blinds, or shades will allow the sun to beam through, improving the temperature of the room. This is especially true for south-facing windows. Obviously, in bad weather or as nighttime approaches, closing the drapes will help slightly decrease the effects of colder weather.
Thermal/Insulated Drapes – You can also utilize thermal curtains or heavy insulated drapes to minimize heat loss. They provide another level of insulation and are designed to deflect heat back into a room. They also have block-out qualities and restrict air flow which acts as a barrier keeping cooler air out and warmer air in the home during the winter.
Are Your Air Ducts Losing You Money?
Your air ducts are leaking…there I said it. Nearly every consumer with air ducts in their home will experience some heat loss. Whether you use a boiler, central furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning system, you can expect some leakage to occur. However, there are things you can do (and some you should avoid) to prevent unnecessary heat loss.
It is a good idea to insulate your heating ducts in areas that are typically unheated like attics and crawlspaces if you have one. It acts as a cold barrier and will help lessen the impact of leaks if you have them in these unheated areas (chances are you probably do).
If you find leaks, use a mastic sealant, metal tape, or aerosol-based sealant to resolve the issue. You want the repair to last as long as the ductwork does so using “duct tape” is never a good choice. This method works best in areas where you have direct access to the ducts such as attics, basements, crawlspaces, and garages.
It is also imperative to ensure all vent and register connections are sealed. If the room does not feel comfortable, you may find a leak where the connection meets the ceiling, floor, or walls or may find the ductwork is partially disconnected. You may also need to call in a professional to adjust the airflow to each room to balance out how much air is passed through those ducts.
Should you close off registers to rooms you are not using? Absolutely not. It will not make your unit run more efficiently and it will not force more area through the registers in the rooms you want more heat in. It will actually push air out through the leaks which will make your heating unit work harder to try and heat the home. Also, for areas with extreme cold weather, you may experience duct freezing if you are limiting air flow through vents.
Water Heater Efficiency
Regardless if you have an electric, natural gas, oil or propane, solar unit, indirect, hybrid, heat pump, integrated combo, or go with a tankless system, it is important to keep your unit(s) maintained and working efficiently to both save you money and conserve energy.
For the majority of homes where the water heater is located inside the property, there will be some type of exterior ventilation (atmospheric or direct/power venting) to keep toxic gases from entering the home and harming or killing you. If you have to replace your existing unit, it is wise to go with a system that vents the way your current system does to keep installation costs at a minimum.
Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to water heaters. In fact, the smaller the tank is the higher the efficiency rating will be (the energy factor is based on the assumption you will use 64 gallons of hot water per day).
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends water heaters be set to 140 degrees or higher to minimize micro-organism growth. Optimum water temperature is a personal decision so adjust the settings until you feel the water temperature is right for you. Keep in mind that you can save up to 5 percent annually on energy costs by dropping the water heater temperature down 10 degrees Fahrenheit. While not a significant savings, it is an additional $20 back in your pocket for other needs/wants (Starbucks, gas for the car, going to a movie, new LED bulbs, etc.)
They work quietly and effectively until they don’t which makes it easy to neglect regular maintenance on them. However, it is prudent to annually schedule a technician to inspect your water heater or do-it-yourself if you have the skills. Here are a few of the things that should be reviewed and possibly replaced on your water heater:
Pressure Release Valve – Lift the lever to test it. Place a bucket below the discharge pipe and if water does not release through the pipe, replace the valve.
Drain Tank – This will remove sediment from the bottom of the tank. Perform this each year and you can potentially lengthen the lifespan of your water heater and keep it running both smoothly and efficiently.
Discharge Pipe – Inspect and replace if it is worn out or has begun cracking or leaking. Ensure you use plumbers tape when you screw the pipe back into the unit.
Vent Pipe – For gas units, check the vent pipe for cracks. Replace when necessary, to include vent duct if applicable, and caulk around any openings to eliminate air leaks.
Insulation – If you are using insulation on piping, ensure it completely wraps around the area you want to be insulated. Replace as necessary.
The last thing you want is a leak or for the water heater to burst. Take the time each year to inspect your unit, and have peace of mind knowing it is working as intended, as well as significantly reducing the risk it will cause serious water damage or release toxic gases into your home.
If you have a new water heater chances are it came wrapped with insulation already, but if it did not, or you have an older unit, wrapping your unit can reduce your carbon footprint. You can also purchase a water heater insulator kit or insulating blanket at your local hardware store. They are reasonably priced and will pay for themselves quickly as your utility bill costs drops.
Fireplaces as a Heat Source
Both wood burning and gas fireplaces can make a room feel cozy but are they an effective heat source? It depends on several factors, so have a clear understanding of what your goal is (aesthetics or heat source), to improve your chances of heating your home and not inadvertently sabotaging your energy conservation efforts.
For instance, with a wood burning fireplace it is important to keep the flue damper closed when you are not using the fireplace to minimize losing heat through the chimney. If never used, you should consider sealing the flue altogether. You should also caulk around the hearth and investigate any masonry cracks you find (both inside/outside the home).
For those looking to utilize their natural fireplace as a heat source, you should consider adding a heat-circulating system and tempered glass doors (with venting) to improve efficiency. Also vital is ensuring the flue damper seal fits snugly. Otherwise you may find that instead of providing necessary heat for the home, you are instead losing heat through the chimney, and decreasing your energy efficiency.
Gas fireplaces need to have the flue slightly opened when not in use if you decide to keep the pilot light running. That means you will have some heat loss through the chimney so you will need to determine the best option for your home and family. These typically come with fake logs or inserts and newer models are designed with heating efficiency in mind. To maximize efficiency, you should consider adding airtight doors to keep released heated air from escaping through the chimney.
Pellet and Wood Burning Stoves
Wood and pellet burning stoves can be a viable heat resource, in fact, newer models may be a better whole home heating solution than having a fireplace. They typically lose less heat through the chimney (if used as an insert) and spread heat throughout the house more efficiently than a fireplace does. Moreover, they are a renewable energy resource and can be a cost effective option for homeowners. However, like fireplaces, you need take some measures to ensure the unit works efficiently or you will lose the war against heat loss.
For wood burning stoves, it is vitally important to keep the flue vent, connecting pipe(s), and air inlets free of debris so periodic cleaning is necessary. The inside of the stove will also need to be periodically brushed out to remove soot. If your model has a catalytic combustor, it should be regularly checked to ensure the catalytic cell is still operating at recommended levels.
Keep in mind that wood burning stoves do produce large amounts of air pollutants that potentially can be harmful to humans/pets and the environment. Ensure you understand the rules, laws, and ordnances governing their use in your area before having one installed.
Pellet-fuel stoves produce very little air pollutants and are typically run from pellets made from wood, corn kernels, or nutshells although other organic materials can be used. If you use a direct-vented model, you will not need a chimney or flue to operate the system, which means you will receive an upfront cost savings. However, you will need an electricity source to operate the computer-based controls, fans, and feeder system.
Like wood burning stoves, pellet systems can be either stand-alone or used as a fireplace insert. Having a model with fans will ensure the warm air is disbursed where you want it, which is especially important if you want/need to heat more than one room. Non-direct vented models will require a flue and all models necessitate periodic transfer of pellets to the fuel hopper.
Because they can be more techy with all the available options, a pellet system will require more maintenance than a wood burning unit. Understanding how to clean and resolve issues with the hopper/storage system, feeder device, pipes, flue, vents, thermostat, control unit (on newer units), and fans is crucial for safe operation and heat distribution. Fortunately, they are very efficient at fuel burning so there is often very little debris/soot left for cleanup after using the unit.
Specific Room Heating and Uncovering Vents
Many of us spend the majority of our time in only a couple of rooms in our homes. Call it creatures of habit or just functional living, but many of us have rooms we barely use. It sounds reasonable to only heat specific rooms and leave those we do not utilize unheated, but is that really the best approach?
If you have checked out the main supply trunk on your home’s ductwork (typically in the attic, basement, or crawlspace) you may have noticed dampers (metal handles) on the various ducts leading to different areas of your home. You can adjust these dampers and control how much air passes through that particular duct, providing more heat to certain areas of your home (those rooms you use the most). If you do not have dampers, you should be able to balance the airflow at the register itself to get the amount of airflow you desire.
As mentioned above when discussing air ducts, there really is no advantage to closing registers and completely shutting off heat to a specific room or area in your house. It actually makes your heating system work less efficiently. However, if you are adamant about going this route, check with a heating specialist to determine the best approach to accomplish your goals.
You should never cover the air vents in your home if they are active and open. Your heating system will continue to try and push air to the vent which can make the system work harder and actually increase your heating bill.
Make sure you periodically check to ensure debris, furniture, rugs, and any other obstruction is removed from over/in the vent to ensure airflow continues. You can however put items like dressers or beds over the vents as long as they are raised off the floor (i.e. via legs or bedframes) and are not restricting air from entering the room via the vent.
Wear Winter Clothes and Save Energy
You may be frugal, looking to cut utility bill costs, or are on a strict budget which necessities keeping rooms a bit cooler during the winter. Whatever your rationale, you can wear warmer clothing, layer up, or even use blankets or throws to keep the chill off and save energy.
There is nothing wrong with being comfy by wearing your PJs, warm socks, even earmuffs or mittens if the conditions warrant it. The key is to not let your home get so cold it compromises your health or safety or causes your heating equipment to work inefficiently or break down altogether.
It is also a good idea to warn any guests who may be coming over that you keep your home at a particular heat setting. That way they can come prepared and enjoy the visit or extended stay. No one likes to be too hot or too cold so be considerate of any special needs your guests may have (babies, older visitors, medical reasons, etc.).
Turn Off Exhaust Fans to Avoid Heat Loss
Exhaust fans like those installed in bathrooms or on oven hoods are great to have around. They help remove moisture and odors, and they keep your house comfortable. But come wintertime, you may want to regulate your exhaust fans. This is not only because they use electricity, but also because they suck up warm air as well. This is why if you keep your exhaust fans running, your heater will once again have to work harder to maintain the temperature.
That’s why it is wise to avoid using your exhaust fan during wintertime, if possible. Yes, you should turn it on when necessary. But always remember that this will have a slight impact on your electric bill and make your heating system work harder than usual.
Use Energy Star Appliances to Improve Energy Efficiency
No one wants to shell out money on new appliances if they do not need to. However, if you have older appliances or have outgrown your existing models (more mouths to feed could mean you need a larger refrigerator), it may be a good idea to consider upgrading to Energy Star rated units sooner rather than later. Energy Star rated appliances will save you money on your electric bill (in some cases up to 20% savings) and are considered energy efficient devices as they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While many people equate Energy Star products with those appliances typically found in the kitchen, there are numerous devices around the home that can be upgraded to help you achieve energy savings this winter. They include:
Some of the common household appliances/devices you can upgrade include:
- Ceiling Fans
- Central Air Conditioner
- Digital Media Players
- Pool Pumps
- Roofing Materials
- Smart Thermostats
- Storm Windows
- Washing Machine
A more comprehensive list of Energy Star products can be found at energystar.gov.
It is also a good idea to unplug any appliances that are not in-use to slightly reduce energy costs in your home this winter. Items such as coffee pots, computers, microwaves, printers, toasters, etc. only need to be plugged in while they are being used, not around the clock. While chances are slim your home will be hit by lightning or experiences a power surge, if it does occur, you can rest easy knowing any appliances not plugged will work as intended when the event is over.
Check Out Different Energy Plans
If you live in an area with more than one electricity provider, there may be a cheaper energy plan in your area than the one you are currently on. Visit energysavings.com to compare plans and learn about rate options such as:
- Fixed rate plans – You pay the same rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) used for the life of the plan.
- Green Energy Products – The use of geo-thermal, hydro, solar, and/or wind energy. Is is a renewable source.
- Indexed rate plans – The price per kWH can fluctuate. The rate is determined by a pricing formula tied to a public index.
- Prepaid plans – Consumer pre-pays for units of energy. Essentially a pay-as-you-go option.
- Time-of-use plans – Lower rates for a certain number of hours per day then increased rates during peak times.
- Variable rate plans – The price per kWH can fluctuate. Based on current market prices your energy supplier pays to supply you with natural gas/electricity.
Check with local energy providers to determine what they offer and which option makes the most sense for you, your budget, and your home.
Other Ways To Generate Winter Energy Savings and Go Green(er)
Advanced Power Strips (APS) – Several items are plugged into a single APS with one of the items designated as the control unit. The other devices are plugged into the switched outlets. When the control unit (such as your tv) is turned on or off, the same thing happens to your switched devices (Blu Ray unit, cable box, gaming system, etc.). You save money and energy especially when a lot of items are plugged in, get surge protection to your valued devices, and have a one-click power on/off mechanism for all the units.
Ceiling Fans – Switch the rotation of your ceiling fan blades to clockwise. This will push the rising hot air back down to help keep the room cozy and warm. This simple change can help improve your winter heating bill so make the change now and reap the rewards throughout the season.
Doors – Replace worn out or non-fitting weather-stripping to ensure air gaps are eliminated. If door bottoms and thresholds are old they may be ineffective and will need to be replaced with pliable sealing gaskets for a firm seal. The goal is to not find any gaps that show the outside when looking at your door from inside your home. It is always a good idea to use insulated doors, especially on entrances, where the risk of losing heat to the outside is greater.
Faucet Aerators/Low-Flow Showerheads – Cutting down on your water consumption will help reduce energy costs as your water heater will not have to work as hard to keep the water heated. Since the beginning of 1994, they have been mandated to use no more than 2.2 and 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) respectively. To achieve WaterSense labeling, and achieve 20% less water usage, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, faucets must have a flow rate of 1.5 GPM or less to qualify.
Furnace Filter – If you are like me, you may forget to change filters on a regular schedule. Add a filter alarm to your furnace and get notified (the alarm will whistle) when the filter becomes dirty and needs to be replaced. If you have a Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, you should periodically (monthly is good) inspect the HVAC filters to determine if they need to be cleaned and/or replaced.
Garage Door – Keep it closed when not in-use so it will provide a buffer against the colder air on the outside of your home. Otherwise, it will pull warm air out and push cold air into your home, reducing your home’s heating effectiveness.
Infrared Thermometer – Check your home with an infrared thermometer if you home feels cold all the time. You can also use a thermal leak detector to do the same tests. Both are available from local hardware stores and are reasonably priced. These hand-held devices will find areas that are warmer or colder than the surrounding spaces which means you either have poor insulation or an air leak.
Rugs – Waking up in the morning and walking on cold floors is not fun! You can help alleviate that by adding area rugs to cover your floors. Not only will they help insulate the floor but they also help with noise reduction too.
Seal It – Do not be surprised if utility cut-throughs for pipes/wiring, recessed lights, soffits over cupboards, dryer vents, and even gaps around the chimney have been overlooked as heat losing sources. For under $10 you can stop the leaks and see impactful winter energy savings on your utility bill!
Space Heaters – If you spend most of your time in only a couple of rooms in your home (like your kitchen or bedroom), it may make sense to invest in a space heater to keep those rooms at an optimum temperature. Just remember to turn them off when you are not at home or before you turn-in for the night to eliminate a fire hazard.
Unplug Appliances – To avoid energy drain, it is a good idea to unplug any appliances that are not in use. This includes cell phone chargers, computers/accessories, coffeemakers, radios, and even things like towel warmers when they are not being used. The same can be said for lights…if you are not in the room, ensure the lights are off or on a timer.
Choose the Right Heating Contractor
You have read all the tips, made a few changes on your own, but still believe there is more you need to do to get your home working at optimal energy level. It may be time to call in a heating contractor, if your budget allows, to resolve any outstanding issues or to replace or refurbish existing equipment.
Here are a few tips to help you make the right decision and hire the best contractor for your winter energy savings needs!
- They should be licensed and insured
- They should be refrigerant handling certified (mandatory since 1992)
- They should have verifiable sources (preferably from previous clients)
- They should be reachable and prompt
- They should perform a thorough inspection
- They should provide a detailed bid to include any labor/material costs
- They should provide a detailed contract of work to be performed, equipment to be installed, etc.
- They should provide installation documentation and an equipment maintenance overview
This list will grow and change based on your specific requirements so do not be afraid to request more detailed information from contractors. You want a valued service for what you are paying for with the end goal of a well heated home that saves you money and provides energy savings as well.
Final Winter Energy Savings Advice
While there are a few pricey things on the list above to improve your energy usage and efficiency, many of the fixes are relatively cheap (or free), and can help you attain large and near-immediate winter energy savings. A home that retains heat at a reasonable price is one that reduces your carbon footprint and conserves energy.
Assuming you take to heart the advice and install these simple winter energy savings tips, you will be pleasantly surprised when your monthly electricity bill arrives! Also, you will find you have more jingle in your pocket to save or to get out of the house and have more fun when springtime arrives.
More Energy Saving Resources
These resources will help you save money and lower your energy bill this winter, so I encourage you to apply these principles and techniques and reap the monetary and energy saving rewards!
As always, if you found this article on how to achieve winter energy savings helpful, please share it so other consumers can also benefit from the information. ~ Anita ~
Tips to Achieve Winter Energy Savings
Video used with permission by the U.S. Department of Energy.