Saving energy is a priority year round, but when the temps start to dip, and those 24-hours-a-day heating bills kick in, finding ways to conserve takes on new urgency. A few tips can make a big difference in keeping your home, your energy usage, and your bank balance, comfortable.
Use the Earth's natural heater
In the summer, it's all about keeping the heat out by drawing blinds and curtains. But, in the cooler months, using the power of the sun can help you warm your home and keep your heating costs down.
"Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows," said Energy.gov.
Check for leaks
Do a walkthrough, looking for spaces where air can be escaping or getting in. The space under, over, and around doors and windows is an obvious spot. Also look for gaps near chimneys, recessed lights, behind and inside cabinets and closets, and around areas where plumbing pipes make contact with walls and other parts of the home. This Old House provides guidance on how to self-check for leaks. Or, you can hire a professional to come do a home energy audit.
Insulate the windows
Light, gauzy window coverings may look great, but they could be contributing to a cold home and a waste of energy, especially on windows that are not receiving direct sunlight. If you've addressed leaks and the area close to your windows still feels cold, insulated drapes should help.
Check your heating system
"Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating system failure," said Huffington Post. "If your heating equipment is more than 10 years old, now is a good time to schedule a season checkup with a licensed contractor to make sure your system is operating at peak performance." You also want to make sure you're regularly checking and changing the air filter - at a minimum of every three months, they said.
Turn down your thermostat
Turning the heat down by 10–15 degrees "when you are asleep or out of the house" can save about "10% a year," according to energy.gov. Using a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature when everyone is out of the home is key. But a smart thermostat ups the ante. Our favorite is the Ecobee3, because it features a remote sensor you can put in another room to regulate the temperature throughout the house, as well as a touchscreen that makes using it even easier.
Take a look at your fireplace
A crackling fire may make the room nice and toasty when you're in front of it, but what about when you don't have a fire burning? Keep your "fireplace damper closed at all times unless fire is burning," said Delfera Heating & Cooling. "Keeping the damper open causes the warm air to go up the chimney instead of heating your house. If you no longer use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue to ensure maximum energy efficiency."
Lower the temp on your water heater
If you can stand a shower that's not scorching, lower the temperature a bit and you'll see a big return. Typical water heating "accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home," according to Energy.gov. Turn it down "to the warm setting (120°F) to save energy," said Delfera.
Don't heat unused spaces
If you have rooms that aren't being used all the time, close the vents and shut the doors. This will help the heating system run more efficiently by pushing air only to the spaces that need it.
Consider your holiday lights
If it's been a while since you changed out your Christmas lights, it may be time to consider a new approach. "For some, LED lights may be the way to go," said USA Today. Frank Skinner, marketing director for ChristmasLightsEtc.com, told them that, "For the most part, all LED lights use up to 90% less electricity than their incandescent counterparts. So right off the bat, there are some savings there with energy.''
They may cost a bit more upfront, but will pay off (literally) in the long run.