Homeowner Hacks: How to Cut Down on Energy Bills During the Colder Months
Baby, it’s cold outside! The dog days of summer are gone and, with them, the brief annual respite of having to pay to heat your home. Most would agree that heating your home is a necessity and not a luxury, but that doesn’t make it any easier on your budget. If you’re looking for ways to keep a bit more of your hard-earned money in your bank account this winter, read on for helpful hacks that will save you money and leave you feeling toasty warm all winter long.
Turn It Down
Yes, you’ve heard this before. Turning down your thermostat by five degrees or so when you’re not at home and overnight is nothing new, but it can end up saving you quite a bit in heating costs over the course of the colder season. With programmable thermostats, you don’t even have an excuse for forgetting to do it—just set it and forget it.
There are a few ways to beat any drafts that are entering your rooms, but, first, you have to find them. On a cool day with a decent amount of wind, walk around your home with a lit candle, carefully moving the candle along the edges of windows and doors and in front of outlets and light switches. If the flame flickers, you’ve found a draft. Once you know where the drafts are, you can block them.
- For windows and doors, you don’t need to open until spring, use a removable weatherstrip caulk to seal where the operator meets the frame on the inside of the window. Double up on draft dodging by installing window insulating film, too. The double-sided tape is a real “treat” when it sticks to the wrong part of the film, though, and it can leave a sticky residue behind when you remove it in the spring. If you just can’t handle the tape, try a hot melt adhesive—it peels off more easily in the spring and will hold better through the winter, but be careful not to melt the film during installation.
- For windows and doors that will remain usable throughout the winter, block drafts with vinyl or foam weather stripping.
- For outlets and light switches, slip in some insulators.
- For interior doors, make your own draft stopper with an old pair of leggings and a couple of wrapping paper tubes. Cut off one leg from the leggings and feed both cardboard tubes into it. With the door open, place one tube on either side of the door— instant draft stopper!
Layer Upon Layer
Dressing in multiple layers creates multiple air pockets between your clothing, and air holds heat. So, the more layers of clothing, regardless of how thick they are, the warmer you will be. You can dress your house in layers, too. Throw blankets and area rugs help keep the surfaces of furniture and floors warmer. Hanging blankets or heavy curtains on particularly chilly exterior walls have the same effect as layering your clothing—a layer of air between the wall and the blanket helps keep the room cozy.
Let the Light Shine In
Solar gain is a wonderful thing. Pay attention to how the sun moves around your home and take advantage of every last drop of sunshine. Open your curtains or blinds when the sun is coming in and close them up as soon as the sun is off them. This allows the sun’s heat in and blocks out the chill. If you have a bit of room in your budget, consider building insulated window shutters for the same purpose. Because windows are inherently terrible at holding the heat inside, a few simple exterior insulated shutters can make a huge difference to your energy consumption.
Electric Blankets and Hot Water Bottles
Spread your electric blanket out over the couch and crank it up for a few minutes before you’re ready to binge on Netflix for the evening—if the couch is warm and you have a throw blanket, you won’t even notice if the air in the room is a little cooler. If you like that trick, take the clothes you’re going to wear for the day and roll them up in an electric blanket while you get ready in the morning for fresh-out-of-the-dryer warmth.
A hot water bottle under the covers at the foot of the bed makes slipping between the sheets sheer luxury, without the need to crank up the thermostat. While you’re at it, switch to flannel sheets for the winter to maximize your bed’s cozy quotient.
Only Heat Space You’re Using
Chances are you’re wasting a ton of heat—and money—by heating areas of your home that you really don’t need to. Close up the vents in the guest bedroom or the home office you haven’t stepped foot in for the past two months. If you spend most of your time in the living room, close the doors and use an energy-efficient space heater to keep that room toasty while the rest of the house is a few degrees cooler.
A Fan of Fans
If you have ceiling fans, don’t turn them off when the weather turns cold! Reverse their direction to clockwise, and they’ll push all of that rising warm air back down to where you want it.
Don’t use your kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans unless you really need to. These fans suck a ton of heat out of your home, plus you’ll be missing out on the humidifying boost all that shower steam can give to your dry inside air.
Clean the Works
Yes, you need to clean your furnace, filters, and ductwork, preferably with the work done by a professional. Not only will dirt and debris impair your heat circulation, but it can also make you sick and make your house dustier. Try to have them cleaned once every year or two.
Turning down the heat setting on your water heater by just 5-10 degrees can save you a bundle, and you won’t be able to tell the difference. You can save even more by insulating the outside of the tank to keep the heat where it belongs.
Shop Around for Better Rates
There’s lots of competition in the home heating fuel sector, and you should take advantage of that. Talk to your current provider to see if they can offer you a better rate, and then call their competitors to compare. Some companies offer better rates depending on if you “lock-in” for a year or accept a variable rate. If you’re considering a locked-in rate, shop around in the warmer months when fuel rates are typically cheaper.
Insulation is expensive but will pay for itself many times over in the long run. To get an idea of how much insulation you should have, check out the Department of Energy’s insulation tool. Prioritize the roof first (up to 25% of heat loss occurs through the roof). Insulating your ductwork is also an inexpensive way to reduce heat loss.