As anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area knows, the winters can be especially harsh, so as the cold season approaches it isn’t surprising that many families start to worry about how they’re going to be able to afford to pay their heating bills. Luckily it is possible to save energy and save money while staying comfortable even on the coldest days of the year. Here are some top tips to help you reduce your heating bill and to ensure you stay cozy when the snow starts to fall.
Keep Your Heating Costs Low This Winter
Focus On Your Windows
Your windows are the source of much of the heat loss from your home, but there are a number of steps you can take to minimize heat loss and maximize the sun’s warmth. Firstly, on sunny days, always open the curtains on all of your home’s windows that face south as this will enable the sun’s rays to heat your property naturally. Of course, you must also remember to close your curtains once more as the night starts to fall as this will keep out the chill of the cold glass.
If you find that drafts are still coming through your windows, you can use a clear plastic heavy duty sheet on a frame, or alternatively, tape some clear plastic film onto the inner side of the window frames during the winter. By sealing the plastic tightly to the window frame, fewer drafts will be able to find their way into your rooms. You can also reduce heat loss by installing insulating, tight fitting shades or drapes on your windows. This will boost the energy efficiency of your home helping you to reduce your heating bill and to reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
Make Some Temperature Adjustments
By using your thermostat properly you can slash your heating costs exponentially. If you are in the house during the day, turn down your thermostat to the lowest temperature that is still comfortable. If you are sleeping or away from home, you should turn down the thermostat to somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees for 8 hours of the day. This will cut about 10% per year off your cooling and heating bills. By investing in a programmable or smart thermostat, you can easily adjust your temperature in the most convenient way.
While nobody wants to stay bundled up in bulky coats and hats when they’re in their home, you can afford to turn your thermostat down a small amount and still be comfortable if you choose a setting between 60 and 70 degrees and keep a sweater on. Making a small sacrifice like this can cut your heating bill by up to a fifth, and that can amount to a pretty impressive saving.
Consider Investing In New Appliances
Although buying a new water heater or heating system might sound like an expensive waste of money, it’s important to consider the long term. Heating your home’s water accounts for as much as 11% of your utility bills and that means that changing your water heater for a more energy efficient one can make all the difference. If you have a traditional water tank heater, consider switching to a tankless one which only heats water as and when it’s required to avoid the additional energy consumption of heating water which is not required.
You should also take a look at your furnace. If you have an aging oil or gas fired furnace it’s important to be aware that their lifespan is only around 15-20 years and if your is approaching the end of its useful life it could be causing your energy bills to inflate. Replacing your older model with a new Energy Star certified unit could save you as much as 20% on your heating bills. If you’re planning to remain in your home for a few more years, making the up front investment will pay for itself in a short time.
Find Those Leaks
Leaks and cracks around your home are the source of unwanted drafts and also contribute to your property’s overall heat loss, resulting in you having to crank up the thermostat and increase your heating bills in order to stay warm. One way to retain heat is to find any air leaks around your home and to seal the gaps to prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from getting in. Check gaps around any recessed lights, chimneys, utility pipe cut throughs and any areas behind closets and cupboards for hidden cracks and then seal them. It’s also wise to use weatherstripping or caulk to seal any air leaks around your windows and doors.
Schedule A Heating System Service
The last thing you want is to wake up on the coldest day of the year to find that your heating system has broken down. While many people think that they can save on the cost of regular maintenance when it comes to their heating system, skimping on this essential service can lead to a much more expensive bill if and when the system eventually breaks down. By arranging an annual service for your heating system you can make sure that it is working at the optimal level and that any problems have been spotted and rectified before they get out of hand and cause a major problem. An annual tune up will ensure that all the components are in good working order and that the system is functioning most economically to save you money and to keep your home toasty warm.
Keeping Your Heating System Clean
If you have a heat pump or a furnace, it’s important to always replace the filter on a monthly basis, or more frequently if necessary. Maintaining your heat pump, boiler or furnace is vital to keeping it in good running order. If you have a pellet or wood burning heater, you should always take care to clean its flue vent frequently as well as cleaning the interior of the appliance periodically with a wire brush as this will ensure your home is being heated efficiently.
Reducing Heat Loss From Fireplaces
While a fire in the grate is a cozy image, if your home has a fireplace, this can be a major source of heat loss. Warm air is drawn upwards through the chimney leaving your room cold and uncomfortable whenever there is no fire burning, so it is always important to keep the damper firmly closed. If you allow it to remain open it is similar to leave a window open, allowing warm air to escape at an alarming rate.
Whenever the fireplace is in use, you can reduce any additional heat loss by keeping the damper open in the bottom of the firebox. If your fireplace does not have dampers, you can open a window very slightly instead (no more than an inch) while also closing all of the doors which lead into the room. You can then reduce the setting of your thermostat to around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another option for your fireplace is to install tempered glass doors as well as a heat-air exchange system. This will blow the warm air back into your room for a much more energy efficient alternative that will ensure your space stays extremely comfortable. You should also check the fireplace flue damper’s seal to ensure it is as snug as it can be to avoid drafts. Buying a grate which is made from C-shaped metal tubes will ensure that cool air from the room is drawn into the fireplace while warm air is effectively circulated back through the room.
On the other hand, if you have a fireplace but find that you never actually use it for its intended purpose it could be time to think of getting rid of it. If you plug and seal your flue, you’ll find that the room becomes a lot warmer but you won’t lose the attractive feature in your room.
Reduce The Cost Of Your Water Heating
Turning down your water heater’s temperature to “warm” or around 120 degrees Fahrenheit will make a big difference when it comes to saving energy and, as an added bonus, you’ll never need to worry about accidentally scalding yourself when washing your hands or running a bath.