With winter not quite over yet, many of us (myself included), are looking for ways to not only keep the house warm, but to also save a few bucks in the process. Sometimes striking the right balance between saving money on heating costs and maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home can be quite the balancing act, especially with older homes that are less insulated, but utilizing the tips below will certainly help you achieve that balance.
1. Install a programmable thermostat. This will keep your bill lower and efficiency higher. This Old House recommends the following programming schedule to those with empty houses during the day. While some of the recommended temperatures may seem a bit extreme, they can certainly be adjusted to reflect your level of comfort.
6:00 am to 9:00 am = 68 degrees
9:00 am to 5:30 pm = 60 degrees
5:30 pm to 11:00 pm = 68 degrees
11:00 pm to 6:00 am = 60 degrees
*55 degrees when on vacation
2. Let that sunlight in! The sun is free source of heat and even on cold days, the sun is still warm. Open up the curtains before you leave the house for the day and capture as much of that free heat as possible. If an area of your house does not receive direct sunlight, there is no need to open those curtains.
3. Don’t let that warm air out! All those curtains you opened before you left for work? Keep them closed at night. While insulated curtains will do the best job in keeping that warm air from escaping through the windows, any curtains you may have, and blinds for that matter, will do a much better job of trapping heat inside the home if they are closed at night.
4. Don’t be afraid to use your ceiling fans. Many ceiling fans sit dormant during the winter months, but by simply flipping the switch on your fan to allow the fan to spin clockwise will allow the fan to redistribute the warm air sitting at the ceiling (hot air rises, cold air sinks) back down the sides of the walls. Although the majority will agree that summer = counter clockwise and winter = clockwise (looking up at the fan), some will argue the proper direction to achieve this effect. However, feel free to experiment to find what may work for you. Just remember to keep the speed low to avoid cold drafts.
5. Make sure your vents are not covered. Many of us unknowingly, and sometimes knowingly, often for lack of space, place furniture in front of vents. Check around the house to make sure every room is at its full heating potential, as blocking return vents could also cause air pressure issues.
6. Seal leaks and drafts. Doors and windows are the most notorious offenders of leaky gaps, causing unwanted cold air to sneak into your home. However, do not neglect attics, basements, and even kitchen hood vents for other sneaky high-draft areas. Visit Energystar's website for a handy resource in attending to leaks and drafts.
7. Close doors. If you have a room that you frequent often, close the door to trap heat inside, creating a sauna-like effect. The opposite holds true as well. If you have a room that sits dormant for most of the winter, maybe while offspring are away at college, close the door to that room and close the vent to lower the square footage that your furnace is trying to heat. This will also help to bring that bill down slightly.
8. With caution, utilize space heaters. This could work particularly well if the room that was referenced in step seven was a home office rather than your college co-ed’s bedroom. If you find yourself using a room just a few times a week, keep the vent and door closed to give the furnace a break and utilize the space heater for the few hours you are in there.
9. Use the oven. Baking, convecting, and broiling will warm up the house a bit, so don’t be afraid to turn the thermostat down a few ticks when roasting that chicken or cooking that turkey for hours on end. The flip-side is to limit long-term oven use in the summer months.
10. Wood floors are great, but… according to the National Energy Foundation, uninsulated wood floors can account for up to 10% of a home’s total heat loss. Carpets and rugs keep rooms warmer and trap heat. Not to mention, they make things much cozier in the winter!
11. Be mindful of wood-burning fireplaces. While they are romantic on a chilly evening and can be glorious to snuggle in front of, heat is being exhausted up through the fireplace and pulling cold air in from other areas of the house, which brings us back to those pesky drafts and poor seals we discussed in section six. This is due to a physics principle known as the “stack effect” and besides sealing drafts elsewhere through the house, using glass in front of the fireplace will help mitigate this effect.
12. Be selfish! Outside of the tips outlined here, keep in mind that this all about keeping the individual warm, not necessarily the house. Your house doesn't mind if it is feeling a little chilly, so be selfish and put your needs first. Whether it is sweatshirts, sweaters, heavy blankets, or a steady diet of hot tea and coffee, don’t be afraid to keep your house on the cool side if you are more comfortable getting wrapped up and cozy. Just don’t let the temperature dip too far, you have pipes that can freeze and burst, remember!?
References: nfpa.org / thisoldhouse.com / energystar.gov / artofmanliness.com