Would you like to save money on your heating bills this winter? (Who wouldn’t?!)
For most homes, heating accounts for nearly half of total utility costs. In fact, “heating your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home—typically making up about 42% of your utility bill,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many things you can do to reduce how much you spend to keep your home warm. Try these 12 ideas for better home heating efficiency this winter:
- Conduct an Energy Audit
The first step in boosting your home’s heating efficiency is performing a home energy audit to determine where it is losing heat. “When walking through your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found,” advises the DOE. “This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.”
Problems to look for during your inspection include indoor and outdoor air leaks, less than recommended levels of insulation in the ceiling and walls, as well as issues with your home’s heating equipment and ductwork.
For those who aren’t do-it-yourself types, consider hiring a professional home energy consultant to perform an assessment for you.
- Make Your Home Airtight
Any air leaks found during your energy audit should be properly sealed to prevent heat from escaping your home. Air leaks are especially common around windows and doors. In such cases, replacing worn weatherstripping usually solves the problem. This chore may need to be tackled every few years due to wear, advises Brett Martin in an article for Popular Mechanics. “Replacing it is typically as simple as pulling off the old and tacking on the new,” he writes.
Electrical boxes also are common culprits when it comes to air leaks. To stop these leaks, Martin recommends the following actions: “Remove the cover plates and fill small gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk. For large gaps, use foam sealant. Then place a foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate.”
In homes with forced-air heating and cooling systems, air leaks in the ductwork that distributes conditioned air throughout the house can be particularly problematic. In fact, according to Energy Star, a typical house with forced-air heating loses about 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. This heat loss can be prevented by properly sealing any gaps or holes. “Place a mastic sealant or metal tape over any leaks to seal them,” Martin suggests.
- Take Advantage of the Sun
Use sunlight to help heat your home for free. “Open the curtains on your south-facing windows during winter days to bring free heat into your home,” advises Niccole Schreck in an article for U.S. News & World Report. “Close your window coverings when the sun goes down to keep the heat inside.”
- Turn the Heat Down
During the winter, the DOE recommends setting your thermostat “as low as is comfortable,” when you’re awake to reduce energy costs. Around 68 degrees is ideal for both savings and comfort. You can save even more money by reducing the temperature when you’re asleep or out of the house: “Turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours (a day) and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills,” advises the DOE.
Upgrade to a programmable thermostat to make adjusting the temperature in your home easy, so you don’t have to remind yourself to turn the heat down every time you leave the house or go to bed. “Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program,” says the DOE.
While your home will obviously feel a bit chillier with the heat turned down, consider dressing in warm clothes and adding some cold-weather accessories to your home to help keep you comfortable. “Instead of turning the heat up, put on a cozy winter sweater and warm socks,” advises Schreck. “Keep throw blankets on your couch, and add an area rug to insulate the floor.”
- Minimize Use of Exhaust Fans
Use the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom sparingly to prevent as much heat loss as possible. These fans, which are designed to remove odors and humidity, also suck up warm air, so turn them off as soon as they’re no longer needed.
- Use Ceiling Fans Correctly
While ceiling fans are perhaps best known for cooling your home in the summer, they also can help warm your home in the winter. In fact, ceiling fans can help save “up to 2 percent on heating costs for every degree the thermostat is lowered in winter,” according to Leslie Plummer Clagett in an article for This Old House magazine.
The key to saving energy with ceiling fans is to make sure your fans are spinning in the right direction for each season (counterclockwise for summer and clockwise for winter). “The clockwise movement breaks up the warm air that collects at the ceiling and pushes it down into the room…,” Clagett writes. “This can be especially effective in rooms with a very high, angled ceiling or cathedral ceiling that collects a lot of heat.”
- Get a Humidifier
In the winter, the air inside your home can become very dry. Adding moisture to the air makes it feel warmer, allowing you to turn your thermostat down and save money on heating costs.
A whole-house humidifier is an ideal option for many homes. Ask one of our sales representatives for more information about our selection of products by Aprilaire Whole House Air Solutions, or visit our Indoor Air Quality page.
- Cover Drafty Windows and Glass Doors
No matter how well you caulk and weatherstrip around windows and glass doors, they may still be drafty. Try installing insulating curtains or shades to hold in the heat. “Some carefully selected window treatments can reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer,” according to the DOE.
In addition to adding window treatments, the DOE suggests covering drafty windows with heavy-duty clear plastic sheets or clear plastic film during the winter. “Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration,” advises the DOE.
- Give Your Heating System Some TLC
If you want your heating system to operate at maximum efficiency, then it’s important to properly maintain it. If you haven’t already, schedule an annual inspection and tune-up of your heating system. Our expert service team will address any potential problems they find and ensure that your system is running smoothly and at peak performance levels.
In addition to scheduling an annual tune-up of your heating system, you also should be performing regular maintenance tasks. If you have a furnace, for example, you should replace the air filter at least once a month. For wood and pellet-burning stoves, the DOE advises cleaning the flue vent regularly as well as periodically cleaning the inside of the stove with a wire brush.
Consult the owner’s manual for your heating appliance for instructions on how to maintain it.
- Add Insulation
By investing in approximately $300 of insulation, you can save up to 30 percent on your home’s heating and cooling costs, according to an article by Keith Pandolfi for This Old House magazine. Add the insulation to your attic as well as to other drafty areas of your home. “We tend to focus on the attic, but it’s also wise to see how much insulation you have in crawl spaces, ceilings, basement walls, and around recessed lighting fixtures (just make sure those fixtures are designed for direct insulation contact),” writes Pandolfi.
- Consider Space Heating
For homes with inadequate or expensive heating systems, space heating can be a viable option for improving comfort and energy efficiency. Simply turn down the thermostat for your home’s main heating system, and rely on a space heater to warm only the room you’re currently in or those you use regularly. Space heaters can be powered by electricity, propane, natural gas, and kerosene. Wood and pellet stoves also are essentially space heaters, according to the DOE.
Space heating can amount to serious savings on your utility bills. “By using a space heater in the rooms where you need it and setting the thermostat to 62 degrees, you can save approximately $200 each year,” Schreck writes.
- Upgrade Your Heating System
If you’re relying on an outdated heating appliance, such as a 15-year-old furnace, you can significantly improve your home’s heating efficiency by upgrading to a newer model.
Consider investing in a heating system that has earned the Energy Star label—these appliances boast the highest efficiency ratings on the market and are vastly superior to older appliances. Energy Star qualified furnaces, for instance, are 15 percent more efficient than most older models, while Energy Star qualified heat pumps can save up to 20 percent on heating costs.
At Sunfire Energy Solutions, we carry an extensive selection of top-of-the-line heating appliances, including Trane and Luxaire HVAC systems as well as stoves, fireplaces, and fireplace inserts by Quadra-Fire, Heat & Glo, Jotul, and other popular brands. Visit our showroom at 301 East Stephen Street in Martinsburg today to start shopping.
Sunfire Energy Solutions is a one-stop shop for grills, outdoor furniture, hot tubs, hearth products, and HVAC products and installation. We serve customers in Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties in West Virginia, as well as in nearby counties in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.sunfireenergysolutions.com.