Energy Saving Tips for Winterizing your Home
Save money and remain cozy throughout winter by acting now
before the bitter cold arrives
Dodge the draft
Problem: Cold air is rushing in from underneath your door, and warm air is rushing out. Make sure drafts aren't giving your thermostat a false reading, too
Solution: The draft snake, adopted during the Great Depression era, is one of the easiest ways to cut back on energy waste. A draft snake which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or make a more attractive DIY draft snake with googly eyes, felt tongues and the like. You can use any scraps of fabric, even neckties, and fill with sand or kitty litter for heft. Or you can buy one pre-made.
Money/Energy Saved: According to the U.S Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30% of energy use per year.
Bubble wrap your windows
Problem: You suspect your windows are as old as your grandparents and cold air is leaking through the cracks.
Solution: Tape bubblewrap on your windows to trap the pockets of air that cool down your home. Although it may look funny, the bubblewrap will still allow light to come through and you'll be saving some major dough, advises.
For just a few dollars, pick up a window insulation kit at your local hardware or discount store. Don't worry, properly installed window plastic is essentially invisible. Adding a buffer against drafts and extra still air space can give a nice boost to your home's ability to hold heat. Save even more by hiring a pro to install a high-tech "low-e" film directly to the window glass.
Money/Energy Saved: Taping up bubblewrap can avoid drafts which waste 5 to 30% of energy usage per year, according to the U.S Department of Energy
Caulk any gaps
Problem: Little gaps in windows, doors, or cracks in the walls are letting cool air in, raising your energy bill.
Solution: Test to find out where to seal these gaps: Have a friend stand outside the suspected window/door/wall with a blow dryer while you hold a lit candle inside. If the dryer blows the candle out, then it's time to seal those cracks using caulk. Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit, and along the foundation. Use the incense test: Carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammables) move a lit stick along walls. Where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in, and heating or cooling sneaking out.
Also, check the caulk around your doors and windows outside to see if they've deteriorated over time.
Money/Energy Saved: Sealing up drafts will save you to up to 30% of energy use annually, according to the U.S Department of Energy
Change the direction of your ceiling fans
Problem: The air in your home feels hot and trapped, but turning on a fan only produces cool air. Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades.
Solution: . Air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space—cutting your heating costs as much as 10 percent! If you have any ceiling fans inside your home, know the rules: Counter-clockwise rotation produces cooling breezes and clockwise rotation produces warmer air.
Money/Energy Saved: This method will cut your heating costs by 10%.
Install storm doors
Problem: The cracks in your door are increasing the air flow in and out of your home, letting warm air out and cold air in.
Solution: Installing a storm door can seal those drafts and help reduce air flow.
Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Look for Energy Star-certified models.
Similarly, storm windows can make a huge difference when the cold wind starts blowing. It may be a pain, but it is well worth it to get them out of the shed or attic and install them for the season. (Make sure each is securely shut—they don't do much good if you leave them in the up position by mistake!)
Money/Energy Saved: A storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45%.
Control your thermostat
Problem: You want your home warm so you keep the thermostat high, but your wallet is suffering from the high-energy bill.
It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out 50 to 70 percent of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses?
Solution: Set your thermostat to 50 or 55 degrees when you go to bed and work. You won't enjoy the warmer temperature while you're asleep or away from the house, anyway. You can also purchase a programmable thermostat.
Money/Energy Saved: For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3 percent of your heating bill. Make it easier with a programmable thermostat. They are widely available for as little as $50, and the average family will save $180 a year with one.
Go a step further and ask your local utility for a smart meter if it's available in your area.
Pile up on insulation
Problem: Heat is rising right out of your home, leaving you cold and miserable.
Solution: Loading up on insulation is one of the best ways to save your energy bill so add more between your walls, attic floor, and basement ceiling to stay toasty.
Money/Energy Saved: An insulated home loses a quarter of its heat through the roof.
Get rid of that window A/C unit
Problem: You suspect cool air is sneaking through the cracks of your window A/C unit.
Solution: During winter, you most likely won't be using your window A/C unit so remove it from your window or purchase a quality tarp to cover the outside of the unit.
Money/Energy Saved: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30% of energy use per year.
Turn off your A/C water valve
Problem: A/C unit holds water in the hoses and air conditioner pipes and you may have excess water pooled in equipment.
Solution: Your A/C should have a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off. Make sure any hoses are drained and stowed away neatly.
Money/Energy Saved: Doing this during the winter will save you from having to buy a new A/C unit next summer.
Lower your water heater's temperature
Problem: You've unknowingly kept your water heater on the default setting.
Solution: Conventional water heaters are typically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but most households only need a setting of 120 degrees to be comfortable. Check your water heaters and lower them to 120 degrees.
Money/Energy Saved: Lowering it by 20 degrees will save about 6 to 10% on your bills.
If you start to wonder why you need a tank at all, then you may be ready for a tankless water heater, or to go solar. If you are in the market for a new water heater, take advantage of the federal tax credit, which pays 30 percent of cost with no upper limit. Tax credits for Solar Energy Systems are available at 30 percent through December 31, 2019.
Other Winterizing Tips
Change Furnace Filters
Yes it's easy to forget, but it's important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Here's a worry-saving tip: Mark a monthly check on your calendar.
Also consider switching to a permanent filter, which will reduce waste and hassle. Did you know that disposable fiberglass filters trap a measly 10 to 40 percent of debris? Electostatic filters trap around 88% and are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen that cause illness and irritation. They cost $50 to $1,000 or more. Another good choice is a genuine HEPA filter, which can remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles. HEPA filters are based on Department of Energy standards. But avoid "HEPA-like" filters, which can be significantly less effective.
If your entire furnace needs replacement, it will cost a lot more—but replacing an inefficient burner for a modern machine will save you every month through the heating season.
Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up
You probably already know that cars need periodic tune-ups to run their best. Well, the same is true for heating equipment. Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use, saving up to 5 percent of heating costs.
The good news is many utilities offer free annual checkups by qualified technicians—but you often have to call early, as HVAC crews get backed up once heating season starts. Some furnace manufacturers and dealers also offer free or discounted inspections.
If your entire furnace needs replacement, it will cost a lot more—but replacing an inefficient burner for a modern machine will save you money every month through the heating season.
Put on a Sweater
Make like Jimmy Carter and dress warmer for winter, even inside. Gone are the days (for most of us at least) when we can afford to lounge around in our underwear while it's frosty outside. Remember what we said about each degree on the thermostat costing you money?
Roughly speaking, a light long-sleeved sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth, while a heavy sweater (even the ugliest of ugly sweaters) adds about 4 degrees. So cozy up and start saving.
Insulate Your Pipes Pay less for hot water by insulating pipes. That can also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing, which can be disastrous. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation. (Use the same method to determine if your hot water heater would benefit from some insulation.)
You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power. Pipe insulation is often R-3, or, for batt styles that you wrap around, a stronger R-7.
Seal Those Ducts
Move even deeper into a home's infrastructure, and one encounters ductwork. Studies show 10 to 30 percent of heated (or cooled) air in an average system escapes from ducts.
Therefore, it could pay to hire a professional technician to come out and test your duct system and fix any problems. Properly sealing ducts can save the average home up to $140 annually, per the American Solar Energy Society. Plus, you'll have better protection against mold and dust.
Many utilities offer incentive programs for duct improvement. Be wary of "duct cleaning" services, however. Absent an air quality problem, most homes don't need their ducts cleaned.