Well, winter definitely arrived in Central Texas a couple of weeks ago, and it came in with a bang, but fortunately, it has warmed back up already. While we know that we will still have many warmer days this fall and winter, there will also be plenty of cold days before spring arrives, so anything that you can do to help to keep the heat in your home and the cold outside will make your family more comfortable , and will save you some money.
I’ve put together a list of some completely-free things that you can do around your home that will help you to save money on your home heating bills. I’ve also listed some things that you can do that will cost some money – most of them a minimal amount – that can lead to some savings that can really add up and help you to cut your heating costs this winter. I recommend that you start with the biggest problems when it comes to making your home more energy efficient. If you have an older, leaky, poorly-insulated home, then there should be several opportunities for improvements that can help you to slash your heating costs this winter. (And obviously your cooling costs in the summer). If you already have a well-sealed home, then your opportunities for savings will be limited, but there are still some things that you can do.
Keep in mind that there is something called diminishing returns. Once you have taken care of the major issues, any subsequent issues that are addressed will have less of an impact and may not even be worth the cost or effort, so plan wisely. Let’s get started.
Free Things You Can do to Save Money on Your Home Heating Costs
- Lower Your Thermostat Setting – Lowering your thermostat will save you up to 3% on your heating costs for every degree lowered for a 24-hour period, or 1% for each 8-hour period that it is lowered. If you will lower your thermostat setting by several degrees before going to bed and before leaving your house for the day, you can save up to 10% on your home heating costs. (A programmable thermostat which can be purchased for about $50 can greatly simplify this for you.)
- Make sure your fireplace damper is closed when you’re not using the fireplace. Leaving it open is like leaving a window open.
- A home loses as much as 25% of its heat through windows, so focus some attention on them. Open south-facing curtains during the day to allow the sun to help to heat your home. Close all curtains at dusk so they can help to keep the heat in the home. If you have any uncovered windows, placing blankets over them will also help to keep the heat inside your home.
- Use your ceiling fans. Reverse your ceiling fans in the winter time to help to circulate the air in the home. This will force the warmer air that normally rises to the ceiling throughout the room to help to warm the room. There is normally a small slide switch on the side of the ceiling fan that will reverse the direction of the fan. (During the winter, your ceiling fan should be turning clockwise as you look up at it. It should be blowing the air upwards instead of downwards.)
- Close doors to rooms that are not being used. If a room is not used at all, you may even want to close the air register in that room.
- Turn down the water heater temperature. Most people will normally run some cold water along with the hot when they’re washing dishes, showering, etc., so lowering the temperature by a few degrees really won’t be noticeable – you’ll just need to use less cold water when you shower, wash you hands and dishes, etc. A few degrees cooler water does not make much of a difference when washing clothes either. According to the US Department of Energy website, the average home can save between 4% and 22% by lowering the temperature setting on the water heater by a few degrees.
Some Low Cost Things You Can do to Save Money on Your Heating Bill
- Install a programmable thermostat as mentioned above to help to raise and lower your thermostat automatically.
- Find air leaks into your home. Every home has air infiltrating into it from the outside – some more so than others. Places where air infiltration commonly occurs are around windows and doors, as well as through electrical receptacles and light switches. You can use a match or candle and run it around your windows and exterior doors. If you see the flame moving, then that is an indication that air is coming through. You can do the same test around light switches and electrical receptacles, as well as anywhere that you suspect air is coming into your home. Once you have identified where the air is coming in, do what you can to stop the air. Add weather stripping to doors and windows, caulk the trim around windows and doors, add foam seals around switches and receptacles.
- If you have poorly insulated or leaky windows, you can install a plastic film over the entire window opening which will greatly slow down air infiltration and will also provide some amount of insulating value to the windows.
- Replace the filter on your furnace regularly. This will allow for maximum air flow and more efficient operation.
- Replace your regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). Incandescent light bulbs only convert about 10% of the energy that they consume into light. The rest of the energy is converted into heat. CFLs use 25% – 35% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and LEDs use 75% – 80% less energy than incandescent bulbs. According to the Department of Energy, the average home can save about $10 per month if all incandescent bulbs are replaced with CFLs. CFLs pay for themselves in energy savings after about 9 months. LEDs are more expensive and have a longer payback, so they have a higher initial cost. Due to their efficiency and long life (LEDs last 15 to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs), they are the most economical to use in the long run. The US Department of Energy website says that you can save up to $75 annually simply by replacing the bulbs in the five most-frequently-used light fixtures in your home with bulbs that have the Energy Star rating.
- Add insulation to the attic. This is one of the more costly things on this list, but it can pay huge dividends. (Some energy improvements may even be tax deductible.) This is not something that you would necessarily need to hire a professional to do. There are several home improvement stores that will loan you the machine to blow in the additional insulation as long as you purchase the insulation at their store. If you or your helper can crawl around in the attic without difficulty, and don’t mind getting a little dirty, then this is a pretty easy do-it-yourself project for a couple of people.
- Check the ductwork in your home for leaks. Almost all ductwork has some small leaks, but I have seen ductwork in attics and in crawlspaces with some serious leaks. You can use aluminum tape (not duct tape) to help to seal up leaks in the ductwork. You can also use mastic (a thick, pasty substance – similar to drywall compound) to seal leaks in your ducts and plenum. Sealing your ductwork will help more of the heated air to end up in your home – making your home more energy efficient and comfortable.
- Put an insulating blanket around your water heater. This is a simple thing to do, and can save you between $20 and $45 per year.
- Use a humidifier. Humid air holds heat better than dry air, so a humidifier can help to reduce your heating bill. More humid air will also provide other benefits such as reduced static electricity, less dry skin, and easier breathing.
Every house is different and has different needs. Evaluate your home and determine what the biggest needs are, and where you can achieve the biggest savings. Then all that is left is to get started and make the improvements. Keep in mind that after you have made the largest improvements that spending additional money may not result in savings that are worth the time or expense, so be wise as you plan the improvements that you will make on your home.
I hope that this information is helpful to you and helps you to save you some money this winter. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.
© 2019 Mike Morgan
This article was written by Mike Morgan, the owner of Morgan Inspection Services. Morgan Inspection Services has been providing home, septic and well inspection services throughout the Central Texas area since 2002. He can be reached at 325-998-4663 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Mike Morgan.