Regardless of what the weather brings this winter, heating your home efficiently is probably something on your mind. Keeping your home a comfortable temperature when the weather turns bad doesn’t have to be a financial drain. Here are some places to start:
Stopping Air Leaks
The first step to making your home more heat efficient is to identify air leaks. Common air leak sources such as recessed lights, attic entrances, doorframes, window frames, ducts (which we’ll cover next) and electrical outlets can be a big drain of heat and money. You can check for air leaks yourself by walking through your home with a lit incense stick (horizontal smoke indicates a leak), or you can hire a technician for a more thorough inspection. Simple fixes like sealing around outlets and switches, caulking gaps in the framing, and plugging gaps surrounding pipes will typically result in noticeable savings.
One of the most important systems in your home may be quietly wasting your energy dollars. Often overlooked, typical duct systems lose 25-40% of the heating or cooling energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner. Common duct system problems include:
- Leaky joints or visible holes in the duct surface
- Disconnected ducts that have fallen away from each other
- Inadequate or poorly finished duct work
- Un-insulated or poorly insulated ducts in attics and crawlspaces
Most duct repairs should be made by or with the help of a trained professional contractor, especially those that will take place in unconditioned spaces. A qualified pro can also help you more accurately assess the duct problems that you have. If you decide to make minor duct repairs on your own, keep in mind that duct tape is usually only intended as a temporary fix. Silicone caulking or cement with mastic are better sealing options. Improving your duct system efficiency can cut your annual utility bills by as much as $300, and will improve the overall air quality in your home.
Keep your Home Insulated
Properly insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut down on your energy loss. Improving the insulation in your home can cut your heating and cooling costs by as much as 30%, and will create a more uniform, comfortable temperature in your home. Better insulation will also help decrease outdoor noise. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if they meet recommended standards for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values: the higher the R-value, the less transfer of heat through the material. Typically the easiest and most cost-effective way to improve your home’s insulation is to add insulation to your attic.
Despite their undeniable aesthetic appeal, fireplaces are not desirable in terms of energy efficiency. Only about ten percent of the wood’s energy is transferred to the room as heat, the rest escapes up the chimney. When in use, the fireplace also pulls cold air into your home through cracks and leaks, and when not in use the brick and stone mass of most fireplaces readily conducts heat from your home to the outside. To minimize energy waste from the fireplace in your home, make sure the damper or flue is shut tightly when the fireplace is not in use. Consider the benefits of things like tempered glass doors, fireplace inserts that seal dormant openings, and heat exchangers that recover some of the energy that would otherwise be lost.
That little box on the wall can be a tool for big energy savings. You can save up to 3 percent for every one degree that you lower the temperature in your home over a 24-hour period in winter. You can also save up to 10% annually in your heating and cooling bills by adjusting your thermostat down 10% to 15% for an 8-hour period each day. Turning the heat down while you sleep or while you’re away at work is a simple and logical energy efficiency solution. If the prospect of waking up to a chilly house doesn’t excite you, buy a programmable thermostat. They are inexpensive and adjust the temperature in your home based on the schedules you determine.
While most people think if ceiling fans as a cooling solution, they can also help maintain a warm temperature in your home during winter. Running a ceiling fan in reverse circulates rising warm air back down to living areas. Consider ceiling fans for your home, particularly if you have rooms with high ceilings that seem to stay colder. Ceiling fans vary in price depending on things like material and size, but many are inexpensive and easy to operate.