This time of year, heating bills always seem to be a big expense that no one wants to deal with. Sometimes you feel like you are throwing money out of the window, literally. Here are a few things that you can do to help keep your heating cost down.
Be on “Draft Patrol.”
Simple rule: If you feel a draft coming in, the heat is getting out. Take a walk around the house, paying close attention to the windows and the doors. Check them carefully and feel around for chilly air coming through. If you feel a draft around the windows, check the caulking because it may need redone. You can take it a step further and remove the molding to add expanding-foam insulation. Next, move on to the doors. If you feel a draft through the moldings, you can do the same as with your windows by adding expanding-foam insulation. Also check if your local hardware store has draft-blocking strips, those can help close the gap at the bottom of the doors. Remember heat rises, do you have an attic door that could be causing a loss of heat for the main floor? Or do you have a spare room that is not being used? Simply making sure the door is shut and that the draft is closed off can help save on heating costs.
Get your furnace serviced regularly.
Most of us do not think about our heating unit as needing maintenance, but it really is another piece of equipment that requires to be serviced. HVAC specialists recommend that you have it looked at regularly every fall, but it is never too late to have it checked. Regular maintenance and making sure that it is running properly can cost very little compared to having it replaced. It can also help lower your heating bill and help maintain the lifespan of your HVAC system. Forced air systems have filters that regularly need replaced, and air-ducts that need cleaned. This can also help reduce dust being blown through the system which can reduce allergy symptoms.
Consider a window insulation kit.
It is no surprise that windows are the biggest offender when it comes to heat loss. Frost on the inside of your windows is a sign that you have a big draft coming into your home. Insulating them with plastic from the inside is one of the most cost-effective ways to stop that draft and save on your heating bill. Window insulation kits are inexpensive and can be found at your local hardware store. They are simple to use and all you need is a heat gun or hair dryer. What is the downfall of this option? You cannot open the window without having to reapply the kit. However, this may not be a problem for attic windows, spare room windows, or those that aren’t opened & closed regularly.
Is it time to rearrange the furniture?
With all the design shows on TV and wanting our house to be our happy place, we all work hard to have it arranged in a way that makes us feel comfy and cozy. One thing to ask yourself is, could the way my furniture is arranged work against me as I’m trying to lower my heat bill? When you get a room arranged the way that you want, your heating vents and baseboards were probably not the first thing on your mind. Make sure that your furniture is not blocking the heat from circulating through the room. This is an easy way to save on your heating costs.
Is your fireplace helping or hurting?
We all love the look of a cozy, decorated fireplace, especially around the holidays. Did you know that an open wood burning fireplace may cause more heat being lost than added to your home? Also make sure your damper is shut so that your warm air is not escaping through the chimney. If you do not think you can live without the flames, consider converting to an open fireplace with a glass-doored insert that will make it more efficient and reduce heat loss.
Update your thermostat.
Now that we can do most things wirelessly and from a cell phone, why not add your home thermostat to the list? Upgrading to a programmable or smart thermostat might be a big upfront cost, but it will help save you money in the long run. Why have the heat running if no one is home? While everyone is at school or work, turn the thermostat down a few degrees so your heater isn’t turning on and therefore, running less. Having your furnace working less often can extend the life of your furnace. For example, if you normally keep the temperature in your home at 70 degrees, program it to 67 degrees when no one is home and then return to 70 before you & the kids get home. You can even try this overnight while you are sleeping but remember that turning it down too far can have the opposite effect. Your heating unit will have to run much longer for the rooms to get back up to temperature and ultimately cost you more.
Use your ceiling fans.
We tend to think that we only need our ceiling fans in the summer months to add a cool breeze to the house. However, they are also designed to keep the warm air circulating so you should consider running them in the winter. Take a look at your ceiling fan, there should be a switch to reverse the direction that it spins. In the winter, the fan should be spinning clockwise so that the blades pull the air upwards and the warm air that is trapped near the ceiling travels down the walls. If you are not sure if they are spinning the right way, just stand underneath your fan and if you do not feel a breeze then it is spinning in the right direction.
Add in a humidifier.
Why do we need a humidifier and a dehumidifier? Because moist air holds heat so of course in the summer you want to get rid of it with a dehumidifier. In the winter, you might want to do the opposite and add the moisture back in. It is an inexpensive way to help lower your heating bill. It also has other benefits, like reducing static electricity in the house and helping with dry skin that most of us experience in the winter. You can also find one that has an aromatherapy tray to add essential oils. Not only can you give your house a pleasant scent, but some essential oils can help family members feel better when they aren’t feeling well.
Adding insulation and sealing heating ducts.
We all know that insulation helps keep the warm air in and the cold air out. If your insulation needs updated this can be considered a tax-deductible home improvement. The most overlooked area that can save you money is the basement. Make sure that the insulation you’re upgrading to is tax-deductible. Sixty percent of your heated air can be lost before it reaches the outlet. In a lot of cases, your non-insulated heating ducts travel through unheated spaces, like your basement or attic. Using special duct insulation can help reduce this loss of heat which will save energy and money over time. Also, most heating ducts have small leaks that allow your heat to escape slowly and go unnoticed. So, check to make sure that they are sealed properly, paying special attention to sections with kinks, bends, breaks and disconnections. If you do find a leak, you can use a liquid or aerosol sealant, which works best but can be a little messy. You can also use metallic tape, but not duct tape because it can degrade over time which will leave you redoing this project every few years.