With the arrival of colder weather and Christmas just around the corner (can you believe it?)
Heating bills will be substantially higher this year and may be quite surprising for new homeowners. While there’s no way to escape having to heat and light up your home, there are many things you can do that will lower costs even substantially depending on the condition of your home. Listed here are some projects you can take on with minimal effort or investment that will make your home more comfortable, more efficient and save you money.
These aren't just for summer! Most fans have a reverse or seasonal setting intended to use both warm and cold months. In reverse, ceiling fans circulate the warm air accumulating at the upper levels of your room to make the temperature more uniform and comfortable. They also help prevent condensation from building up on windows.
In many homes I've noticed the vents/radiators are blocked by bookcases, sofas, and chairs. To maximize the efficiency of these heat sources, keep these clear to enable your heating system to get the heat into your living space. Now may be a great time to rearrange some of your furniture!
A key factor to furnace/boiler efficiency is servicing. A well serviced furnace is not only more efficient, it's also safer! Not only will a furnace tune up increase the efficiency of your home heating system, it will also increase its lifespan and help prevent surprise breakdowns. Don't forget to replace furnace filters every few months (more if you own pets or have done extensive renovations).
A draft lets cold air in and warm air out — and that certainly doesn't make for a comfortable home. You may be surprised how many locations in your home contribute to air leakage. Ductwork, plumbing for the garden hose, and holes for cable and wires could also be letting cold air into the home. Find them and seal them with caulk or fill them with spray foam. Wall plate insulators are an easy way to seal electrical outlets on outside walls. Windows may have gaps as well but are easily sealed with caulk. Bathroom and kitchen fans are essential for dissipating excess moisture and unwanted smells, but they can also carry away a high volume of heated air. While using fans remains essential, it's easy to forget they are on and left running for extended periods of time. Consider adding fan timers, or simply remember to turn them off when they aren't needed. Lastly, if you have a wood burning appliance your chimney flue is a high volume conduit for warm air to escape to the outside if the damper on your chimney isn't working or is left open by accident. Have your chimney function checked by a qualified sweep … and have it cleaned for safety too!
Did you know, by lowering the temperature even 1 degree for an 8-hour period per day, you can save as much as 2% on your heating costs! Using a programmable thermostat can help even more by automatically lowering the temperature when you leave and raising it again just before you return. You get the benefits of efficiency and still return to a warm home!
Most of us enjoy a good soak in the tub or a nice long hot shower, but it'll cost you! Did you know heating water can account for more than 10% of your utility bills? So, manage your hot water use carefully. If you're in the market for a new water heater, consider an “on-demand” version. These will cost more upfront, but can provide considerable savings over their life span as they do not store heated water. They are also believed to last longer than traditional water heaters.
Winter dries air out and dry air is not able to carry heat as well as more humid air. Moist air feels more comfortable and may help to lower your thermostat setting. More humid air also reduces typical winter static. Be careful not to over humidify as doing so can create very serious moisture problems including rot and mould. Maintaining a humidity range between 30 and 40 percent will increase comfort and avoid problems with excess moisture.
How does that old song go? Let the sunshine in! Passive heating using available sunlight can substantially lower demand on your heating equipment. It will also help brighten your day (pardon the pun). Open curtains on south and west facing windows when the sun is shining to take advantage of the sun's free energy! Close them again at dusk to help insulate your rooms.
How about a sweater!
Layering is popular for a reason. It works! By wearing more long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, and warm socks, you'll feel a lot warmer without having to turn the heat up high. As some of you may know, I am the Queen of Cozy Comfy clothes so this one is easy for me! The same goes for bed … thick blankets, and cozy flannel sheets will keep you warm and happy while you sleep.
Now, with all the comfort you can gain from these tips you may not want to leave your house … but that's a nice problem to have!