If you’re like most homeowners, you’d probably jump at the chance to reduce your winter heating costs, if only there were a way to do so without having to wear ten sweaters just to stay warm. As it turns out, there are ways to minimize costs and you don’t have to freeze all winter long in order to conserve energy and lower your utility bills. Of course, you may have to spend a little initially, or adopt a DIY attitude in order to ensure savings down the line. But you could improve your home in the process, and the savings you’ll see over time could pay for your initial expenditure and then some. The trick is to understand which tactics are going to give you the most bang for your buck and deliver the savings you seek. Here are just a few ways to minimize your heating costs for winter.
- Program your thermostat. This is the number one easiest way to properly regulate the temperature in your home and still save money. If you’ve bothered to install a programmable thermostat, you’re definitely on the right track. And even if you fail to set it up, you could still save a little just because it’s more accurate than your old dial. However, if you want to maximize your savings you’re going to have to schedule your thermostat to compensate for times when your family is away, asleep, or otherwise failing to utilize the heat that your furnace is pumping out. The Department of Energy guidelines suggest a temperature setting no higher than 68? Fahrenheit in the winter. But you should know that you could save anywhere from 5-15% on your heating bill by dialing it back 10-15 degrees during the 8 hours a day you’re at work. And since it’s programmed to return to normal by the time you get home, your system can slowly build to the desired temperature without wasting excess energy on an immediate 10-degree bump.
- Add weather stripping. You may or may not know that wood swells and shrinks depending on temperature and humidity. During the winter, shrinkage is more likely, and the result could be gaps around windows and doors that lead to chilly drafts, not to mention your bought air escaping to heat the outside. For just a few bucks you can find suitable weather stripping at your local hardware store to address this issue. And during the summer, temporary products are easily removed.
- Use storm windows. Double- or triple-paned glass is ideal for helping to insulate your home in the winter, but you might not have the cash on hand to replace all of your windows. In this case, consider using storm windows instead as a way to protect your home from harsh, winter weather and add additional insulation. Not only does the glass add an extra barrier against the cold, but if they’re seated properly, these windows can trap a layer of air (much like double-paned glass) to act as a third layer of insulation.
- Get a home energy audit. If you’ve added weather stripping and storm windows but your house is still chilly and your bills are sky high, you might want to consider a professional home energy audit. An experienced technician can inspect and test your entire home to tell you where leaks are occurring and whether or not your insulation is doing its job. This will give you the opportunity to address problem areas, boost your energy efficiency, and potentially save on your heating bill for years to come.
- Service your HVAC. Most homeowners can spare some expense of purchasing and replacing filters on their own. And if you’re handy and you enjoy the tutorials, you could even learn how to inspect, maintain, and repair your furnace so you don’t have to pay a professional HVAC technician to do it for you annually. But there may come a time when your furnace craps out and you have no choice but to replace it. In this case, you’ll want to look for an energy-efficient unit (the Energy Star label helps) that is going to return some of the up-front costs thanks to less energy draw during usage. And you might want to look into tax credits for heating upgrades, as well.