Winter is an expensive season, largely because of the cost of keeping the home warm. Fortunately, there are a lot of small, low-cost things you can do on your own to reduce seasonal heating costs, from tightening up your house before the weather hits to finding cost-effective options for home heating fuel.
These ideas are simple, but they can significantly reduce your home heating expenses:
CLOSE AND LATCH YOUR WINDOWS
This seems so simple but you would be surprised at how many people forget to latch, or even close, their windows when the cold weather sets in. We welcome those surprise warm days in the fall when we are able to open the windows for fresh air, but then forget that they aren’t completely closed and latched when the temperatures drop. When you start regularly using heat inside the house, walk from room to room and from floor to floor to close and latch every window. And don’t forget those doors you may not regularly use.
CLOSE THE ATTIC HATCH
Here’s one that a lot of people miss! Make sure your attic hatch is closed, latched, and weatherized. If you rarely use your attic, this can be a one-time effort.
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EXAMINE YOUR HOUSE FOR DRAFTS AND LIGHT
Walk around the inside of your home and feel around windows and doorways for drafts. It will be easier to feel drafts when it is colder outside, but you should be able to locate some problem areas in early fall. Also note any areas where you can see light coming through spaces around doors, windows, and other openings. Spend some time in the basement to see if there are penetrations (like a hose bib, or utility chase), because if the light is coming in, so is cold air. Use caulk or weather stripping in areas where you find drafts and/or light to reduce air flow.
If your old or aging home is plagued by drafty windows, or if you have a few doors that won’t be opened for the season, apply rope caulk to fill in around the casing (this caulk is often applied in the fall and removed in the spring).
CAULK EXTERIOR CRACKS
Now walk around the exterior of the house and use caulk to fill in any noticeable cracks or holes. Attend to uninsulated areas around dryer vents, outlets, and other openings.
CLOSE AND WEATHERIZE UNUSED DOORS
If you tend to close off certain rooms in your house, so as not to waste heat in those spaces, close the door tightly, apply weather stripping and door sweep, and tighten hinges to eliminate air flow.
REMOVE YOUR AIR CONDITIONER
If you have an air conditioner in your window, the outside air has an easy route in. Some people purchase air conditioner covers to reduce airflow, but it is best to remove the unit completely and secure the window.
PLUG THE CHIMNEY
If you don’t use your chimney as a vent for your wood stove or furnace, it’s just venting the warm air from your house. Use a chimney balloon to keep the warm air where it should be—in your home.
INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT
A programmable thermostat will ensure that you’re not using your heating system to heat an empty house and that you’re not coming home to a cold house. You can program it to keep the house cooler when you’re sleeping and to vary in temperature based on how much you expect to be in the house over the weekends or during the evenings. These tools are best suited to a home heated with a central heating system like an oil- or propane-fired furnace or boiler. You can even find thermostats that allow you to control your heat from your cell phone. Proper use of a programmable thermostat can save up to $180 annually on heating costs.
Install storm windows: One of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your home energy bills is to use your storm windows. If you don’t have storm windows, consider interior storm windows like ‘Indows’ or, if you are handy, a DIY version.
INSULATE WINDOWS AND OTHER OPENINGS
This project is for those who are a little more comfortable with do-it-yourself projects. A lot of heat loss happens around windows and other openings in the wall (like dryer vents or outlets) because few windows or doors are air-sealed around the trim. To reduce airflow, remove the window trim and use spray foam to insulate the space. Be careful to use low-expansion foam around windows and doors, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and do not install a product that may void the manufacturer’s warranty on your windows.
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