Although cooler weather can bring many beautiful days and lasting memories, it can also have the unfortunate side effect of bringing higher energy bills due to heating costs. High heating costs can lead to headaches and unwanted money-management problems that most people do not want to deal with at the end of the year.
Luckily, there are many steps you can take — both large and small — that will help reduce your overall energy costs throughout the winter. The more efficient your home is and the less energy that can be transferred from within to out, the less energy it will take to keep the home comfortable, even in the coldest part of the year. Implementing just a few of these tips can help reduce your heating bills and keep your money in your pocket this fall and winter.
Try implementing one or more of these winter energy saving tips and see how much you can cut down on your energy usage, and, in turn, save on energy costs this winter.
Sunshine is your friend in the fall and winter. While sunshine is bad for keeping your home cool in warmer months, sunlight is an excellent natural warmer for your home during the winter.
Open the curtains and blinds on windows facing west and east during the day to allow as much sunshine into your home as possible. This will naturally raise the temperature inside your home a degree or two, which can lead to significant savings on your heating bill.
Draw the curtains closed at night to insulate your home from the winter night chill for a similar warming effect on your home.
Check Your Insulation
Insulation is like the winter coat for your house. The heavier it is, the warmer your home will be.
If you know your house is poorly insulated, or if floors, ceilings, and walls feel cold to the touch, it may be time to add some extra eco-friendly insulation.
Adding it to walls will require cutting holes and renting equipment, which is best saved for spring when you can open windows. But you can add insulation blankets to the attic floor or staple insulation batting to the ceiling and walls of a basement to get you through winter.
Since your home’s hot water heater must work against the cold to keep water warm in winter months, it eats up a lot of energy on its own, so give it a coat of its own by wrapping it up in fiberglass insulation. The roughly $30 expense can save you up to 10% on your monthly electric bill.
Even if you have recently upgraded your home insulation, wear and tear can occur, leaving air space and holes that can lead to a loss of energy from the home. Checking this every year will allow you to keep an eye out for any potential losses of warmth and add more where necessary.
Not sure where to start? Check out our guide to Home Insulation.
A leaky house is a wasteful house, so finding those vulnerable areas of your home where cold air gets in and warm air gets out is a good place to start. But there are many sneaky leaks inside most homes.
The most likely culprits are unsealed doors and windows in your home. Check your doors and windows for a tight seal. If you can feel coolness or air near any window, it is likely that you have a leak in that area. Seal the leak with weather stripping to prevent warm air from escaping your home.
If you don’t have storm windows, cover windows and unused doors with heavy drapes to block out the cold.
The duct work of one’s home can also be a big drain on energy. The seals around these ducts can, over time, begin to degrade, allowing more airflow and reducing the efficiency of your home. By checking all your ducts each year and resealing where necessary, you’ll help reduce energy leaks from your home. This helps to improve efficiency and makes it so that your heater does not have to work as hard to keep your home warm.
Unused fireplaces in your home should also be covered to prevent the passage of air through the flue. If you do plan to use a fireplace, clean it at the start of the season to ensure safety, health and efficiency.
Leaks can also occur in other places in your home, such as plumbing lines, electrical outlets, and near room vents. Seal any additional unnecessary leaks with caulking, insulation, or weather stripping to insulate your home from the cold and keep warm air inside where it belongs.
Change Your Air Filters
The filter in your furnace will, over time, collect dust and other debris that reduces the air flow through the filter. This makes your furnace run less efficiently, which means it has to work harder to provide the heat you desire. Blowing air through a clogged filter means that much of the heat gets trapped and lost.
Ensure the system runs well throughout the season by keeping a close eye on air filters and changing them as soon as they’re dirty. A good rule of thumb is to change filters at least once a month if you run the heat every day.
By replacing your air filters often, you can ensure that your furnace in unobstructed and will run as efficiently as possible.
Turn Down the Thermostat
Just turning down your thermostat a few degrees during the day and night can make a significant difference in the amount of money you spend on your energy bills.
Perhaps the most energy-conscious choice a homeowner can make today when it comes to central heating is to have a programmable thermostat installed. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the unit to run at one temperature when you’re home and awake, another while you’re sleeping and yet another when you’re away from the house. That way, you’re never wasting energy by unnecessarily heating a space.
Adding a programmable thermostat makes the process easier, but you can easily manager your indoor temperature without one. Simply set the temperature of your home down about 8 degrees while away from home and at night. This can help you save up to 20% on your heating bills.
Bundle up with blankets and warm clothing to keep warm at night. If you can stand it, turning down your thermostat a degree or two while you are at home can help too. A humid environment also feels warmer, so make sure to make use of moisture inside your home with a humidifier to keep things feeling toasty even while you use less energy.
One effective way of keeping your home warm in the winter more efficiently is to switch to underfloor heating or a radiant heating system.
Underfloor heaters use radiant heating to warm the entire room from the ground up. The ground is always warm, which helps the entire room to feel warm. Heat also travels upward, which makes a floor heater more efficient than a heater with ducts placed nearer the ceiling.
Inspect Your Unit
Lastly, a well-maintained heating system will perform much better and provide greater energy-efficiency than an old, broken unit. Inspect your heating unit once a year to prepare it to face the upcoming cooling season. Replace any broken parts, clean out the filters, and clean the heater burners for best results. Only a qualified professional should attempt the repairs for safety reasons.
Winter does not have to strike fear in the hearts and wallets of homeowners any longer! All of these methods can help keep your family warm during the upcoming cold months. By reducing the ability of heat to escape through leaks, making sure your home has the proper level of insulation and changing your air filters to ensure that your furnace runs as efficiently as possibly, you will be well on your way to reducing your energy consumption over the winter months.
Follow one or more of the above tips and see if you don’t notice a pleasant change in your energy bills this winter.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.