With the cold temperatures dropping below zero outside we seek shelter in the snug coziness of home. But how snug is it? Does your home’s warmth begin to sneak away the moment the furnace cycles off? Where is that warmth going, and how can we entice it to stay awhile? Short of an expensive weatherizing remodel, there are plenty of simple, affordable (or free) tricks to make your indoor refuge tighter and more fuel-efficient.
- Use blinds or curtains and the sun to your advantage
Open any curtains or blinds on south-facing windows during the day to light in the sunlight and naturally heat your home – even the little bit of winter sun can make a difference. Cover all windows after dark to create a simple but effective insulating layer. The thicker the coverings, the more effective the insulation. Window treatments can also reduce heat gain in summer by up to 45%, slashing air conditioning costs. If you buy dual shades (reflective white on one side, heat-absorbing dark on the other) they can be reversed seasonally to soak up that winter sun and repel summer heat. If you have particularly drafty windows you may want to consider covering them in a heavy duty, clear plastic sheet to help keep out the cold.
- Adjust the thermostat
If you program your thermostat down 10 degrees during the time you’re sleeping or not home, you will save up to 15%. Yes, the furnace must briefly work hard to return to the target “comfort zone”, but the down-time while you’re sleeping or absent more than offsets those short bursts. If you’re still adjusting your heat by hand and trying to remember to turn it down when you go to work every day — who needs another task to remember when you’re rushing out the door? Install a programmable thermostat, your new thermostat should last for decades, saving you money every day.
And when you’re home, consider challenging your usual comfort-zone habits. Within the 60-70F zone, each degree you lower your thermostat setting will save you about 2% on your yearly energy bill: that’s 10% between 65 and 70F! More Americans are choosing to wear an extra sweater around the house as energy-conservation awareness grows, not to mention tighter budgets in many homes. Warm slippers and comfortable fleece are some of the best energy-savers you can wear. The fuel we save today will be there to keep us warm tomorrow.
- Raise the humidity
The winter air is very dry, we get chapped lips and dry skin, but did you know that the dry air can make you feel colder. By increasing your home’s humidity to a comfortable level, you can make 68F feel as comfortable as 75F. You’ll also be decreasing your susceptibility to winter colds and sinus infections: dry air makes your mucus membranes more vulnerable. Easy non-technological ways to increase humidity include adding (well-watered) houseplants, using indoor drying racks for laundry (adding to your savings by reducing dryer use), and placing shallow containers of water on heating elements such as radiators and wood stoves. Even leaving a water-filled baking dish in an unobtrusive spot such as on top of the refrigerator will help — you might be surprised how quickly evaporation empties the vessel.
- Eliminate the drafts
A little bit of spray form and some weatherizing caulking can help to keep out the cold. Remember to check around your attic door, all electrical outlets, door thresholds, plumbing entrances, window frames, and chimneys.
- Don’t forget your furnace maintenance
Remember to check your filters monthly and replace them anytime they look dirty; clogged filters can greatly reduce your furnace efficiency. Also remember to have your furnace serviced yearly, a yearly cleaning will make sure your system runs smoothly and there are no sudden emergencies. If you have an older furnace you may not be ready to replace it, but an inexpensive parts-upgrade can make a big difference: if yours uses a standing pilot light (burning fuel uselessly for hours while your furnace is resting), switch it out for a spark igniter. In an oil furnace, installing a flame retention burner can improve efficiency by 10-15% by itself!
Winter is here and many people are using the heating system to beat the chill, but most of us make the same mistakes by not applying the useful tips to save the energy and cut down the electric bill. This article shares some of the useful tips to save energy.