You’re probably doing a lot of these things already. But there might be at least one more way to squeeze out a little more heating bang-for-your-buck.
For many people in the U.S., this winter has been one of the hardest we’ve seen in many years. And so far, weather forecasters are predicting that it’s not going to let up any time soon. The worst news, however, is that the average winter utility bill costs are 2 or 3 times higher than they were at this time last winter. Natural gas and electricity prices have increased considerably, and people who heat their homes with propane are especially feeling the pinch.
We’ve compiled the best ways for you to make sure that the heat you’re paying for stays in your home. Not only will these tips keep you comfortable for the remainder of this winter, they’ll also help you to waste less energy and save you money on your energy costs regardless of the season.
1. Maintain your furnace.
The best time for having an HVAC specialist come perform an annual maintenance check on your furnace is during the autumn. Replace furnace filters about once a month during the winter time.
Keep heating vents unobstructed.
Make sure that none of your furniture or draperies are covering any of the vents. Check your vents regularly and keep them clear of dust and debris.
Check your ductwork and fix as needed.
It’s not uncommon for ductwork to become damaged during home maintenance or home repair projects. Animals and rodents sometimes enjoy chewing on ductwork, and over time, ductwork can corrode.
A quick visual inspection of your ductwork could reveal large holes and tangled, or kinked flexible ducts. You might need to get creative to find smaller leaks. Turn your furnace’s blower on, then light a bit of incense and hold it near your ductwork’s joints. You’ll be able to tell if the ductwork is leaking when the incense’s smoke is wavering enough. When checking your ductwork, pay close attention to joints and connections, especially near vents and registers.
For small holes and leaks in your ductwork, use mastic sealant or metal tape. Don’t use ‘duct tape’ because it doesn’t last long enough.
Replace your furnace with a more energy-efficient one.
Knowing when to replace your furnace depends on several factors. But if you’ve taken every step imaginable to reduce your heating load and your heating bill is still too high, the problem could be your furnace. If your furnace can’t keep your home at a comfortable temperature or humidity level without breaking the bank, that’s a pretty good sign it could need replacing. The average life expectancy of a furnace is between 16 and 20 years. If your furnace’s age is approaching that, it’s probably time to start shopping. Be sure to hire a certified HVAC specialist with excellent references.
2. Lower the thermostat.
Lowering your thermostat by 1 degree immediately saves you an average of 3 cents on every dollar you spend on heating your home. If you lower your thermostat by 10 degrees at night when you’re sleeping and when no one’s home during the day, you’ll probably be able to reduce your monthly heating bill by about 14%. To make this procedure easy and automatic so you don’t forget, invest in a programmable or smart thermostat so you can set it and forget it.
3. Seal those air leaks.
Typically, there are so many air leaks in an average home that it’s almost like a window is being left wide open all the time. Check around your windows and doors, and repair or replace any worn weather stripping. Weatherize your windows and patio doors with plastic window film. Adjust door thresholds or place towels on the floor at the bottom of the door to prevent warm air from escaping. Use curtains, shades and blinds strategically. If you have windows that face the sun during the day, throw open the curtains on that side of the house and let all that sunshine in – It’s free heat! Keep them closed when the sun isn’t shining.
Electrical outlets are also a big source of leaks. Before working on sealing an electric outlet, be sure to cut off power to the outlet at the electrical breaker box. Remove your electric outlet’s cover plate. Fill small gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk. For larger gaps, use a foam sealant. Place a foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate.
Check your home’s exterior walls and plug holes and gaps created from any pipes, gas lines and cables. Seal these gaps with expanding foam. For water pipes, unscrew and pull back the escutcheon ring and caulk around the pipe.
Do you have a fireplace? Make sure to close the fireplace damper when you’re not using it. Sometimes, though, even dampers can’t prevent air leaks. You may want to use a chimney balloon, too. If you have a fire in the fireplace, be sure to lower your thermostat because the fireplace is actually sucking most of the room’s heat up the chimney.
4. Turn off exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathrooms.
When these fans are finished doing the jobs they’re meant to do, make sure to turn them off. Not only are they consuming electricity, they’re sucking all the heated air out of your room and sending it outside.
If you’re getting backdrafts even when the fans are off, consider installing an exhaust fan draft blocker, vent seal or a magnetic cover. Check vents occasionally to make sure they’re free of lint or other debris.
5. Use a portable space heater.
If everyone in the house is hanging out in one room, lower your furnace’s thermostat and use a portable space heater instead. Savings for heating can be significant depending on the type of heating fuel you’re using. Electricity is significantly cheaper than propane right now.
6. Use ceiling fans.
We all know that warm air rises. Once it hits the ceiling, it usually just stays trapped there. Adjust your ceiling fan’s settings so it can push the air down. Keep it on the lowest speed.
7. Boost your insulation.
Older homes usually can benefit from adding more insulation. Investing in insulation will eventually pay for itself over time. Be sure your home is properly air sealed before insulating.
8. Use energy-efficient appliances.
Choose appliances that perform the same amount of work while consuming less energy. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and products.
9. Practice good energy-efficiency behaviors.
Simple behaviors such as turning off lights, unplugging unused electrical devices, closing doors to rooms that aren’t used regularly and wearing more layers of clothing can significantly reduce your heating and energy costs over time.
Do you have any unique energy-saving tips to share with us? Be sure to comment!
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