With winter quickly approaching, gas and electric bills are sure to increase. Make sure your home is winterized and prepared for the cold. Here are ten ways to make sure you keep some of that heat and money in your house.
1. Add Another Layer of Attic Insulation
Since the majority of homes built before 1980 are under-insulated, heat escapes through the ceiling, past the roof and into the atmosphere because of a lack of insulation in the attic. According to the Department of Energy, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs and make a home more comfortable is to add more insulation in the attic. As a general rule, if you have less than 11 to 12 inches of attic insulation, you probably need more…especially in colder climates like Cleveland, Ohio.
2. Turn on the Humidifier
It's not just the heat; it's also the humidity. If your furnace doesn't have a built-in humidifier, use a portable unit in frequently occupied areas such as the bedroom and living room. The additional moisture will increase the "heat index" inside your home, making 68° F feel more like 76° F. The relative humidity in the home should be between 20 to 40 percent. To help avoid condensation on windows, lower the percentage as the outside temperature gets colder.
3. Warm Yourself Before Heating the Entire House
Put on a sweater before turning the thermostat dial. Each degree you raise the thermostat on your heating system increases your fuel bill by 3 percent.
4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Why heat the house when nobody is home? A programmable thermostat can automatically lower and raise your home's air temperature when you are at work or sleeping. By simply turning your thermostat back from 72° F down to 65° F for eight hours a day, you can save as much as 10 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs. If used appropriately, the energy savings will offset the costs for a programmable thermostat (starting at $30) in less than one year.
5. Let the Sun Shine In & Replace the Windows (If Needed)
Open the window shades on the south and west side of the house during the day to maximize the warmth of the sun, and close them at night. If you, like half of American homeowners, have single-pane windows, consider replacing them with thermally efficient windows that use a special low emissivity (Low-E) coating on the glass that reflects heat back into the room during the winter months. Act soon to get a tax credit too!
6. Cover the Windows
If you can't afford to replace your single-pane windows right now, remember to use your storm windows or install a clear plastic film across the inside of your window and frame. The plastic becomes nearly invisible when you heat it with a blow dryer and is relatively inexpensive. The trapped pocket of air between the plastic film and window acts somewhat as an insulator, helping to reduce heat loss through the window. Of course, replacing those windows is still your best solution and much more efficient (not to mention it looks a lot better).
7. Change Furnace Filters Frequently
You can improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems by as much as 10 percent by cleaning air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed and changing forced air heating system air filters monthly. An alternative to swapping out the replacement filter is to use washable filters (around $20 each). With care, they can last up to five years.
8. Seal the Ducts
The most logical way to stay warm is to only heat living areas, not the attic or unfinished basement. However, in many homes, the warm air generated by the furnace often escapes into the attic or basement before it reaches its intended destination because of cracks or holes in the air ducts. As a result, the furnace works overtime to keep the rest of the house warm. Check your ducts for leaks each fall and use duct tape to repair and seal holes or sections that may have separated.
9. Plug the Drafts
The exterior of your house is your first line of defense against drafts, so caulk, seal and weather-strip around all seams, cracks and openings. Pay special attention around windows and where siding or bricks and wood trim meet. You can also reduce drafts from the inside by caulking, sealing and weather-stripping around windows and door frames, and near electrical boxes and plumbing penetrations.
10. Close Vents to Guest Rooms
Today's larger homes often have more rooms than family members to fill them. By closing the vents to one spare bedroom house, you can cut your heating bills. You can always open the vents when guests visit for the holidays.