If you feel a shiver each time you open your utility bill, your house may be too cold. More likely, however, you're paying more than you should to heat it. In either case, you can make changes now that will give you economical ways to keep your home warm. They're easy-to-do and inexpensive techniques. The most complicated will take a weekend afternoon, and many take little time and don't even require the purchase of materials, only changing a habit or two.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat allows you to preset temperatures for different times of the day because you don't need to keep your home at 68 degrees Fahrenheit around the clock. Choose a setting on the low end when you're sleeping or are away and go with a higher setting at other times (see table below) for savings of between 10 and 20 percent of your bill. Some units can store up to four temperature settings each day, e.g., morning, day, evening, night. All have a manual override switch. You can generally install a new thermostat yourself. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions, but typically you remove the old thermostat and unscrew the wire leads attached to the terminals on the back.
Heat Temperature Settings
- 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 68 degrees
- 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 60 degrees
- 5:30 to 11 p.m. = 68 degrees
- 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 60 degrees
- It's Closed-Flue Season, so Minimize Those Romantic Fires
An open fireplace damper lets the same amount of heated air escape up the chimney as a wide-open 48-inch window lets out. Make sure your flue is closed when you don't have a fire going. It is an excellent idea to reduce the number of times you use your fireplace. Sure it feels warm by the fire, but every BTU goes up the chimney, and warm air is replaced by cold air pulled into the house elsewhere. And all that cold air has to be heated, a costly prospect. Just closing the flue gives an effective and inexpensive way to keep your home warm.
- The Spin on Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are everywhere in warm-weather climates. Spinning counterclockwise, they move cool air around the room. Not all energy experts feel it's a good idea to use them in the heating season (doubters say they cool the air too much), but the fans do help bring heated air down to earth in rooms with cathedral or high-sloped ceilings. However, that's only if you slide the reversing switch on the motor housing to the winter (clockwise) position. Then run the fan at its slowest speed. If you can't reverse the blade rotation, or if you think the fan is cooling off the room too much, leave it off.
- Move Furniture Away From Vents, Registers, and Radiators
This sounds like a no-brainer, but many times a couch, chair, or bed moved during the summer stays there in winter, blocking the flow of heat into the room. This wastes money and leads to cold rooms. With a forced-air system, blocking a supply or return vent can cause a house-wide pressure imbalance that disrupts the whole system’s heat flow. To help clean the area after sliding furniture around, hire Rain City Maids to help manage the dust bunnies.
- Stop the Draft, Close the Door
Light a match, and the rising hot air will draw nearby cooler air into the match flame. Heat a building, and the rising hot air will pull cold air from outside into the house. To defeat it, cut down on spaces, cold air can enter your home, like under a door to the outside. You will need economical ways to keep your home warm; seal this gap with a "door snake," a long thin cloth sack, like a bean bag. Fill it with dried peas or rice, something to make it heavy enough to stay in place. You can sew one using scrap fabrics. You can also keep the heat where it's needed by making sure some interior doors, such as those leading to hallways or near stairways, are kept shut. This closes off natural air passageways so they can't act as chimneys, allowing warm air to escape up through the house.
- Install a Door Sweep
If you feel cold air seeping beneath a door leading outside and find that using a door snake is inconvenient (see item #5), install a draft-defeating nylon door sweep. This long, thin broom-like vinyl-and-pile attachment gets installed along the inside bottom edge of the door. Cut the sweep to fit with a hacksaw and keep it in place with four or five wood screws. If you heat the garage, check to see if cold air is infiltrating along the door’s bottom edge. Rubber garage-door gaskets, nailed in place with 1 in. nails, can stop that frigid cold air. They are inexpensive, costing approximately $8 each for a door-bottom sweep and a garage-door gasket.
- Quick-Seal Windows
Dead air is a very effective insulator, and you can create a pocket of it by installing transparent plastic film across the inside of your windows. Available in kits that contain plastic film and double-sided tape, the plastic becomes nearly invisible when you heat it with a blow-dryer. If you find it unsightly, place the film on windows and patio doors selectively or only in unused rooms.
Measure your window before buying; kits vary in size, and they work only with wood, aluminum, and vinyl-clad molding. Payback is fast on this inexpensive technique because heat lost through windows accounts for 10 to 25 percent of your overall heating bill.
Cost: $4 to $6 per window, $15 for a patio door
- Work the Drapes
Got drapes or curtains that block sunlight? Open them during the day to get free solar heat (make sure windows are clean). And then close the curtains just before sunset. Also, consider insulating curtains (around $100 per window). As a general rule, each square foot of window you insulate at night saves about one gallon of oil or nearly 1.5 cubic feet of gas a year; this means that insulating curtains pay for themselves in around seven years. It is making for an economical and efficient method.
- Change Your Furnace Filter
If you have a forced-air system, changing the furnace filter can save you some energy (up to 5 percent) and keep the dust down in the house. The system will last longer and be less likely to break down. The most popular 16 X 20-inch duct filter costs around 50 cents when bought by the box. Change them monthly during the heating season. Measure your air filter before shopping; they range in size from 12 X 12 inches to 30 X 30 inches. An alternative to swapping out the replacement filter is to use washable filters (around $20 each). With care, they can last five years. Cost: Under $15 per year, an effective and inexpensive way to keep your home warm.
- Lower the Thermostat
Each degree you lower the thermostat on your heating system decreases your fuel bill by 3 percent. Going from 72 degrees down to 68 degrees doesn't matter much in terms of comfort, but it can save up to 12 percent on your heating bill.
If you're using a coil-type thermostat, you'll get more accurate readings if you clean it. Pop off the thermostat cover and blow or gently wipe away the dust to keep it working effectively.
Need more guidance on saving energy? The U.S. The Department of Energy's website provides tons of easy and budget-friendly home warmers and energy-saving tips for your home. If you are looking for a thorough and convenient home cleaning, check out Rain City Maids.