Winter is here and the cold times have officially arrived. In many places snow has already touched ground and we’re retreating inside to find warmth. Unfortunately, not everyone has that warm and cozy house to retreat to. They turn the heat off or turn it down significantly to save money on their electric bills. Of course, turning the heat down will save money on the bill, but it doesn’t fix your problem. “What’s the problem” you ask? Well, many homes aren’t very energy efficient and all of them have the potential to save money each month by making a few simple adjustments to their heating system. Here are 5 simple steps on how to keep your house warm this winter:
Step 1: Evaluate Your Heating System
First thing’s first: what heating system do you have? If you don’t have one at all, we highly recommend you install a new heating system! Do some research and see if you have the best heating system for your dollar. Sometimes, there are much more energy efficient systems on the market now that are in your price range. Make sure you don’t miss out on these great deals.
Besides the main unit, inspect the rest of the unit and see if there are any leaks to the outside. One great way to do this is to simply buy a laser/infrared thermometer. This will tell you where the temperatures are lower and which are higher. They are only around $20-$30, so they are fairly affordable as well.
Step 2: Windows and Doors
Your windows and doors lose the majority of heat in your home. Believe it or not, approximately a third of energy is lost through windows alone! (Read up on it here: http://www.nrdc.org/living/energy/energy-out-window.asp) Take that infrared thermometer and walk around your home. Use it to find where your home is warmer and cooler and locate the leaks.
Step 3: Fix Those Leaks!
The 3rd step is sometimes the most important. If you didn’t find a leak in the first or second step, I recommend you repeat them again. In almost every home there is at least 1 leak in the basement or around the windows and doors, unless you’ve done this process or a similar process in the past. If you haven’t already, you should weatherproof your windows and doors by using weather-stripping, door sweeps, caulk, and curtains. Each of these minor fixes reduces the amount of cold air leaked in, and hot air leaked out. Always ensure that your windows and doors are fully shut and locked tight to prevent unwanted air flow.
Step 4: Maximize Efficiency
As a heating system installer, it’s a natural instinct to jump into heating system efficiency. Many homeowners flat out have no clue how to truly use their heating system to their advantage. Sometimes, your system is capable of saving you tons of money annually, but you’re missing out because you haven’t configured it right! Many thermostats have the ability to start and stop at set times. Set it to hold a temperature you find comfortable (most Americans choose between 68º-72º) for only the times that you’re home. When you’re not home, set it to hold a lower temperature, such as 50º. This way, when you’re not home it’s not running; however, when you’re home it’s comfortable like you want it to be. If you do not have one of these thermostats, I highly recommend you look into them. The amount of money they can save you when used properly greatly exceeds the cost.
Next up, remember the first step when you checked out the basement? It’s time to address the unit itself. Wrap the ductwork and other pipes to ensure the heat stays in and the cold stays out. Many homes still use older ductwork and it leads to loads of leaks. You can wrap these pipes in an insulation product, such as this foil pipe wrap insulation tape from Home Depot.
Step 5: Maintenance and Upkeep
In order for your home to truly keep warm this winter, you’ll have to truly pay attention to your heating system as a whole. I recommend at the start and end of every winter season (and whenever you find necessary) to have a HVAC professional come out and take a look at your system. It’s important to keep it in the most efficient condition possible. If you suspect any problems with your heating system, call a heating technician to have them take a look and fix any issues. Some upkeep can also be easily done by the homeowner though, such as changing/cleaning the filters of your furnace.
The last stage of maintenance and upkeep is to increase the amount of natural sunlight coming into your home. If possible, clear any trees out of the direction of the sun. The more the sun heats up your home, the better of your heating system will be. If you can’t or don’t want to cut trees down, I recommend you to at least trim the trees back to allow as much light to come in as possible.
Author Bio: Ryan Gavin is an associate with Comfort Pro, a heating repair and installation company in Reading, PA. Ryan wants everyone to be comfortable throughout the harsh seasons, so he writes on heating and cooling advice often.