Heating accounts for nearly half of the average U.S. homeowners’ energy bill — but improving your home’s energy efficiency can help reduce these costs when temperatures fall. Instead of cranking up the heat, consider winterizing your home to save energy and money during the cold months.
Preparing your home for cold temperatures doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Follow the tips below.
1. Complete a home assessment.
Conduct an energy assessment to determine where your home is losing energy and prioritize your winterization projects. Hire an auditor to do a professional assessment or perform a DIY energy audit. Before you start prepping your home for Old Man Winter, search the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to find out if there are incentives available to you.
2. Install a programmable thermostat.
With a programmable thermostat like the Nest, you can come home to a warm and comfortable home, while saving energy when you’re away. Most people set their thermostat at high temperatures in the winter, but 68 degrees is generally considered a comfortable temperature for waking hours, and you may consider setting it lower while you’re sleeping. A programmable thermostat will not only help keep your house a comfortable temperature as you come and go, it may also reduce your heating and cooling costs by 10 percent annually.
3. Caulk and weather strip.
Most homes have small cracks or openings around doors and windows that allow cold to enter and heat to escape. These little gaps may not seem like a big deal, but they can account for up to a third of your heating costs. Inspect your home for obvious places where air may be escaping — around windows, doors, baseboards, and junctures along your walls and ceilings. When you find leaks, seal them with caulk, expanding foam or adhesive weather stripping.
4. Block drafts.
Place draft blockers under drafty doors, like those that lead to a basement, garage, or outside. Not only do they make living areas more comfortable by keeping out cool air, draft blockers can also help prevent inaccurate thermostat readings. And it’s such an easy, inexpensive thing to fix. Here’s a magnetic one we love.
Or you can make one yourself using this tutorial via Courtlandt Place.
5. Adjust your water heater.
Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Water heaters are often set to 140 degrees by the installer, but your unit will use a lot of energy trying to warm up winter’s cold water — not to mention it’s a scalding hazard. Reducing your water heater’s temperature 20 degrees may save you $60 per year on your bill. Insulating your water heater can help reduce energy costs further.
6. Don’t upgrade your heating system prematurely.
Before you invest in a new heating system, improve the energy efficiency of your house. A more energy-efficient house may allow you to purchase a smaller heating unit, which will save you money on the initial purchase and reduce long-term operational costs. Your new unit may even qualify you for a federal tax credit.
7. Don’t turn off the heat in your home while you are away.
Turning the heat off during the day (or while you’re on vacation) and then turning it back on when you return home could cost you more than setting the thermostat at a consistent temperature. Plus, if you live in a region where freezing temperatures are possible, turning off the heat could result in your home’s water pipes bursting. In addition to being an inconvenience, broken pipes can result in thousands of dollars of water damage.
8. Don’t leave air conditioning units in windows.
As winter approaches, you no longer need your window A/C unit to thwart off a heat wave. Removing the unit does not take much time, and the energy savings is well worth it. Store your window A/C unit in a dry place during winter to help prolong its life and keep it working at its best.
9. Don’t use space heaters to warm up large areas.
A space heater can be an efficient and effective way to warm a small area of your home, like an office, but it isn’t meant for large, open rooms. Using a space heater in this way is not only inefficient, it can also drive up your energy bill. To avoid using a space heater altogether, seal up drafty windows, check your rooms for air leaks, and open curtains to let in natural light.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts household heating costs will be slightly less this winter than last. Using these dos and don’ts of winterizing can help you reduce your heating bill even further, and who doesn’t want that?