For many, winter is the most wonderful time of the year. It is a season filled with holiday cheer, gatherings with friends and family and holiday magic that only happens when the temperature drops. This is also the time of year when your energy bill tends to climb as the air cools and need to keep yourself and your loved ones warm and cozy indoors. The good news is, there are things you can do to limit the increase on your energy bill and stay comfortable inside. Here are a few effective tips to save energy this winter season that will hopefully make the cold a little more bearable.
Tips to Save Energy in the Winter
Open curtains and blinds during the day – Keeping your blinds and curtains open during the day, especially those on windows that let the most sunlight in, allows the sun to naturally warm your home. In turn, your heating unit won’t need to kick on as often as it would have to if the curtains were drawn. To continue to save energy after the sun goes down, make sure to close the curtains and blinds to help insulate the windows and keep the heat in.
Insulate windows – Unless you have heavy insulating drapes that fit tightly on your window, closing curtains is not the most effective way to keep the cold air out. A more popular, cost effective method is to install clear plastic film around the window frame, creating an airtight seal. The film can be attached directly to the frame or onto the wall. After attaching, simply use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic to seal out the cold air that can seep in through your windows.
Check the fireplace – Traditional fireplaces create a warm, inviting atmosphere we all enjoy, but they need to be properly maintained to save energy in your home. The chimney and fireplace should be inspected once a year, kept clean and sealed. Many people don’t realize that while fireplaces may warm you in the room you’re in, they also suck the heat out of home making it feel colder in other parts of the house. When not in use, close the flue but only AFTER the fire is completely out and there are no smoldering ashes. Closing the flue too soon after the fire is out can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you want your fireplace to actually heat your home, call a professional to have it fitted with glass doors and an exchange system that pushes warm air into the home and pulls cold air into the fireplace.
Add insulation – Adding additional insulation to the external walls, basement and attic increases the heat retention in your home. You can install it yourself or hire a professional. A additional layer or two of insulation can save you a lot on your heating bills over the life of your home.
Lower the thermostat – It’s a simple thing to do, but very cost effective. You will save around 2% on your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat! According to the Department of Energy, you can easily save energy in the winter by setting your thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home. They recommend turning your thermostat back 7°-10° for 8 hours a day to see the largest energy savings.
Install a programmable thermostat – Programmable thermostats help manage energy usage when the heating system is needed most, plus they take the guess work and human error out of the mix. Always make sure that your thermostat has a fresh set of batteries. As stated above, for the most energy savings, set your thermostat at a lower temperature when you are sleeping or not at home.
Check your heating vents – Take a walk through your home to check that all vents are unblocked and have space to push warm air out. It’s inevitable that over time, furniture and toys may shift or be placed in areas that block vents. If the warm air is being blocked from getting out, your HVAC system will have to work harder to get your home to the temperature set on your thermostat.
Clean and maintain the heating system – An annual cleaning and inspection of your HVAC system can do wonders for the unit’s performance when it’s working hard to heat your home. A dirty system causes your unit to work harder, costing you more money, and can also lead to equipment failure. Continue to change your air filters monthly, or according to the manufacturer’s directions. The Department of Energy also reports that replacing dirty filters with clean air filters can reduce your energy consumption up to 15%. With your heating and cooling system being responsible for nearly half of your energy usage, you’re looking at a potential savings on your energy bill of around 7.5% every month.
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