Turn Up The Heat, Turn Down The Meter
The cold months of the year are normally when keeping the house comfortable can cut into your spending plan BIG time. So I will try to come in and save the day, and go over some things that can be done to aid in lowering heating cost. Hopefully I’m not too late. Some of these things are common sense, but not often thought about, and some are a little tricky so to speak. First up…
PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!
For crying out loud. On average you save 3% on your heating bill for every degree you turn your thermostat back, but that is easier said than done, and no one wants to sit in the house shivering. Hot months can change to cold without us realizing it. It’s time to switch to long pants and long sleeve shirts. Your head and your feet are two primary thermal indicators for your body, so one thing you can do to really stay warm, is to wear a knit cap and some thicker socks. With your head and feet warm you will be able to turn that thermostat down considerably.
Hold Your Breath!
Leaky windows can be a major culprit in high heating costs, so if this is a problem, you will want to take care of it right away. One way to know if you have a problem is to light a candle and hold it near the edge of your window. If it flickers then you know you have a draft problem.
You can use caulking to cover cracks in windows. You can also use plastic sheeting kits. You can use the plastic on the inside or outside of your windows to reduce costs.
One of the things you can use to seal your unused doors is clear tape. It keeps a lot of air from blowing in, and it is easy to apply and remove.
You can also use weather-stripping on your doors and windows that lead to a garage or a basement. You can weather-strip most doors for $15 or $20 but you will save much more than that over the winter.
You can also use something like a draft guard to keep cold air out.
Whenever you use a bathroom or a kitchen fan, you are sucking the heat out of your house. While breathing is a beautiful thing, I’m sorry that I’m going to have to advise you to choke your house. Ventilation fans can greatly increase your heating costs.
You can get an anti-fog mirror in your bathroom if you don’t like your bathroom mirror steamed up after a shower. You can also turn on a hair dryer and dry your mirror streak free when it fogs up, and that will avoid heat loss.
Basements and Attics
Make sure that your basement and/or attic is insulated well. This can save you hundreds of dollars every single year in heating costs.
You can use a can of expanding insulation foam and go through you attic and basement sealing all of the small areas around your pipes. Covering your hot water pipes with cheap foam can also help cut down on heat loss.
Do you have a fireplace? A glass screen or front can reduce fireplace heat loss. You can also purchase a draft stopper (an inflatable pillow that you insert into the flue) and seal off your fireplace from heat loss very effectively.
Put a vent seal in your clothes dryer opening to keep heated air from leaving your home, and make sure that it stays closed when the dryer is not in use. This works better than metal flappers.
Check the ducts in your home to make sure that all of the crevices and cracks are properly sealed off, so that the heat from your house is not spilling into your walls or into your attic (if you have one).
Cover all drains. Yes ladies and gentlemen. Your drains will also suck heat out of your home. So whatever drains that you have, you should cover them when you aren’t using them. You can purchase rubber drain covers really cheap at your local hardware store.
Another avenue for hot air to escape your home is electrical outlets. You can cover your unused outlets by putting in child safety plugs.
If your house is on a slab foundation, insulating around the base of your home can save a lot of money. You can do this a number of ways; foam boards, foam spray, etc. If this is expensive you can always improvise and shovel some snow against the base of your home (if it is available).
Open up the curtains and blinds on the sunny side of your home when the sun is shinning and close the curtains and blinds on the shady side of your home so that the radiant heat comes in but does not escape. Then close the sunny side curtains when the sun goes down. If applicable, you can prune branches from bushes and trees to allow more sunlight into your home.
You can also reduce heating cost by getting some curtains made from the heavier materials as they can keep air from leaking in and out of your house.
Close off unused spaces (attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms, and storage areas) and use space heaters in the rooms that you use and lower the heat to the rest of the house. Do you have a second floor or a basement that you don’t normally use during the day? Then don’t heat it till you need it. If there are vents in your heating system, close them off in those unused rooms.
Warning: Before you close any vents, get the advice of an expert on whether it is safe to do so (I had to throw the disclaimer in there).
Cook in and don’t eat out. When you cook, you save money on restaurant bills or convenience foods, and you also heat your house at the same time. Use this to your advantage.
Not only does cooking heat your house, but drying your clothes does also. So if your dryer is located around where you are during the day, then your dryer cycle can be wonderful at supplying excess heat while your heating system is turned off.
While airflow is bad when it comes to heat escaping your home and cold air coming in, it is good when it comes to your heating systems. So…
Change your furnace filter. This will increase your heaters airflow and efficiency. You can get filters for a very low cost from your local hardware.
Vacuum and dust your radiators and heating vents often. The dust that builds up on these surfaces reduces airflow, and subsequently the amount of heat that can get into your rooms.
Do you have a service contract with your heating system provider? It will often include a yearly check and tune up. Get in contact with them (because I’m SURE they won’t contact YOU) and make sure you get your money’s worth, and save your moneys worth.
Insulate your water heater tank to increase efficiency by wrapping it in an insulation blanket available at hardware stores. Don’t cover the thermostat. Drain water from your water heater to remove sediment. Sediment slows down heat transfer and therefore lowers the heaters efficiency. If you have an owner’s manual it should show you how. Turn down your water heater thermostat to about 120 degrees. Some thermostats are as high as 140 degrees.
Use light-emitting diode-or “LED”-holiday light strings, and reduce the cost of lighting your home during the winter holiday season. LED bulbs use a fraction of the energy of conventional lighting.
Check with your local utility company for an energy audit. Some energy saving devices may be provided and installed free for low income families.
Drinking warm fluids will also keep you warm and allow you to turn your heat down.
Speaking of fluids… Here is an innovative way to keep warm at night while the thermostat is down. You can boil (or almost boil) some water on the stove or in a microwave. Put that water in some sort of sturdy container, wrap it in a pillowcase or some sheets until it’s just nice and warm but not too hot. Then put it under the covers five minutes before you get in bed, and sleep with it under the covers. This will warm your bed up. You can do this with a rice heating pad or a hot water bottle.
On The Other Hand
Many people like the idea of using an electric blanket in the winter. But on the other hand, is it safe ?
Turning down your thermostat at night is a good thing, but on the other hand, turning it down drastically (in contrast to where it is during the day) may not save you as much as you think. The contents of your home have to be reheated, in addition to the air, when you turn the heat back on.
A lot of people like to turn their heat off when leaving on vacation (no need to heat the house while you are gone), but on the other hand, you may not want to let your house go below 40 degrees because your pipes might freeze and burst.