Your house may be leaking dollars you can’t even see. Getting prepared for winter can make your home more energy efficient and keep you from spending more than necessary during the coldest season of the year. Go ahead, cozy up to these winterizing tips for savings that will warm both your home and bank account.
Basic Maintenance: Similar to the car in your driveway, your furnace should get an annual tune-up if you want it to run its best (your utility company may help you find a qualified technician). In addition, get in the habit of changing your furnace’s filter once a month during the heating season to keep it running at maximum efficiency. Even better, switch to a permanent electrostatic filter, which will not only save you from having to remember the monthly filter change, but will also do a better job of catching dust, mold and other debris. Your best bet? HEPA filters that capture as much as 99 percent of airborne irritants.
If you have a working fireplace, make sure you have the chimney checked periodically (spring or summer, when chimney sweep service providers are not so busy, are ideal times to do this). Annual maintenance is even more important if you have a woodstove because creosote can build up quickly and create a fire hazard. Whichever fireplace you have, it’s smart to invest in a chimney cap with a screen to keep out birds and random objects. Lastly, keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use to keep winter winds from whistling and gusting down the chimney.
Invest in Energy-Efficiency: It may not be a particularly exciting or flashy investment, but the cost of installing storm windows and doors and beefing up your insulation (especially between walls, under the attic floor and on the basement ceiling) will come back to you in dollars and in comfort. While you’re at it, wrap insulation around your hot water pipes to prevent them from freezing in particularly cold temps. Be sure to look for insulation with the highest R-value you can afford.
Ceiling Fans: Fans that keep a breeze circulating during the hot summer months can also help keep your house warm in winter. Many ceiling fans these days come with a reverse switch that will help re-circulate the warm air that rises and stays pooled near the top of the room. Counterclockwise rotation creates the cool breeze you appreciate in the warm months; clockwise rotation pushes air back down, which can cut your heating costs by as much as 10 percent.
Draft Dodgers: Wonder where that cold breeze is coming from? One easy way to find out is to move a lit stick of incense slowly around the house--wherever the smoke moves, that’s where you’ve got a leak letting cold air in and warm air out, increasing your energy use by as much as 30 percent. Quick Fix: Lay a “draft snake”--a long sausage-like roll of fabric filled with sand or kitty litter--under a drafty door. For a more permanent solution, caulk along leaky joints and seams.
The Obvious: Differing opinions may have you confused about whether or not to turn down your heat when you’re away from home. Some experts suggest leaving the thermostat set at the same temperature to minimize how hard the furnace has to work, while others don’t see the point in heating an empty house. Whatever method you decide, set your thermostat at a comfortable, but modest temperature. Secondly, do you really need to run your hot water heater at 140 degrees? Getting in the habit of living at comfortable 69 degrees instead of 72 degrees can make a surprising difference in your heating bill, and reducing your hot water heater from 140 (the temperature most installers set) to a still toasty 120 degrees will save you serious money in the long run. And just like your mother told you--put on a sweater!