Save Money This Heating Season, pt. 1
Tips to Prepare for the Fall and Winter
Winter is coming...
Though you might still be enjoying the changing colors and mild weather associated with fall, it’s important to take steps to ensure your home is ready for the colder months ahead this heating season.
In order to save you money on your heating bill this year, we've compiled the following tips so that you may live in cozy comfort all winter long.
Change Your Filters
You've heard it a million times, but changing your air filter really is the easiest and cheapest way to save on energy bills almost instantly.
Out of sight, out of mind.
While you don’t see them everyday, filters keep the air in your home clean by preventing potentially dangerous particles from floating around. However, the more particles they trap, the less efficient they become. This causes the blower motor to work much harder and keeps the heated air from circulating freely.
Some air filters need to be cleaned or replaced more often than others. If you don't have pets and only a few people in your household, you would change the air filter less often than a household of more than 3 people that have pets.
As a guideline, a small household should change them at least every 3-4 months and larger homes with pets at least 1-2 months. If you or a family member suffers from allergies, changing the air filter every month is recommended.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
There’s no easier way to make sure you’re saving energy all day long than to do nothing. That is, why bother remembering to adjust your indoor temperature settings when your thermostat can manage it for you?
When you’re away from home or sleeping, there’s no need to pump up the heat since you won’t feel the difference.
Instead of needing to remember to make those adjustments yourself on a daily basis, use a programmable thermostat to set the temperature ahead of time.
Thermostats like the ecobee 3 Smart Thermostat and the Nest Learning Thermostat are even able to be programmed wirelessly from your smartphone, tablet, or computer for incredible home comfort flexibility and savings.
Schedule a Boiler or Furnace Maintenance Call
Unless your boiler or furnace is fresh out of the box, it’s probably been used quite a bit already.
Just like any other piece of equipment, with extended use comes a little wear and tear. It could be that everything is just fine, but if something isn’t quite right, it’s better to find that out and get it fixed now than when the weather is colder and you’re much more dependent on your heating equipment.
Plus, it might be easier to schedule a technician since it’s not quite the busy season for fixing broken heating equipment. Even if there isn't anything seriously wrong, an annual cleaning maintains the efficiency of your unit, which will help you save energy and money.
Dress for the Weather
Why waste energy on heat when you already have what it takes to get warm? Try dropping the heat a few degrees and compensating with some warmer clothing, like socks or a sweater. It’s easy, comfortable, and saves you energy and money.
Don’t forget that there are lots of ways you can generate heat inside without upping the thermostat, such as taking a warm shower or cooking a meal. However, never heat up your oven solely for heating purposes, as it can be very dangerous for your health.
Use a Humidifier
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that temperature is the only thing that keeps you comfortable inside. Without proper humidity control, not only will you drive up your energy costs, but you may be damaging your property and personal health.
It is typical to have much drier air in the winter than in the summer (dry and crackly skin, anyone?). This can lead to nose or throat irritation, shrinking and cracking of wood floors or furniture, static shocks, and feeling colder than you would expect given a certain temperature.
Since you feel colder, you’ll likely want to turn up the heat. Since the wood frames around your doors or windows might shrink, gaps can form and let in cold air. Both of these can lead to greater energy costs that are completely unnecessary.
Therefore, make sure you’re using a humidifier throughout the winter to maintain control over your health, indoor temperature, energy costs, and the quality of your property and personal belongings.
Check Your Venting
Make sure that your heating equipment is properly vented. You can do this on your own or have the technician inspect it. Leaky vent pipes can cause dangerous pollutants to fill your home. Dirty vents, pipes, and chimneys can also disrupt the efficiency of your system.
Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector
You cannot put a price on happiness or the peace of mind that comes with protecting your loved ones. And, speaking of leaky pipes, it is incredibly important that you purchase a CO detector and alarm if you don’t already have one.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless deadly gas that, on average, claims 430 lives per year in the US.
Did you know that 39 states in the US have laws regarding the installation of CO detectors? That’s because it is an incredibly dangerous gas that is impossible to detect on your own.
CO comes from combustion processes, which commonly take place in heating systems, such as boilers and furnaces. If there’s a problem with your heating equipment, it could lead to a potentially deadly situation, in which case a CO detector could save your life.
Check Your Insulation
It doesn’t make much sense to spend tons of money heating up your house just to have all the heat escape. Before you start heating your house, make sure your insulation is in good shape, especially in the attic, since heat rises and will want to leave through the top of the house.
If you’re buying new insulation material, make sure to check the R-value. This is the number that will tell you how well a given material prevents heat transfer (i.e., how well it keeps heat inside), and it doesn’t always simply correlate with how thick a material is. Remember, the less heat can escape, the less heat you need to produce.
Seal Any Air Leaks
Heat won’t only escape due to lack of insulation material. There could be even easier routes, such as open holes or cracks in your walls, windows, and doors. Not only will you lose heat, but you might feel the cold air coming in, too. The opposite will happen when it’s warmer out and you are cooling your home, so this is important regardless of season or climate.
Scan your walls, especially around the floor, windows, and doors, with a lit candle. You might not feel the draft, but you’ll definitely see the smoke from the candle moving horizontally instead of vertically. Once you find a leak, make sure you seal it up right away with some caulk or weather stripping.
Use Your Blinds
Another common source of heat loss is through your windows. Often, upgrading to double-pane windows can help keep heat inside, but a cheaper and simpler method involves adjusting your blinds.
During the day, leave your blinds open to let the sunlight in and naturally heat up your home. During the night, close the blinds to keep your precious heat inside.
Switch Your Ceiling Fan Settings
Many people think of ceiling fans as a great way to help you cool down when it’s just too hot to deal. However, you can also use ceiling fans to spread heat effectively around your home.
When using a fan to cool, you want the fan to push the air straight down, creating a wind-chill effect. However, if you set your fan to spin in the reverse direction (i.e., have the leading edge of the blades be lower than the trailing edge), you can pull the cool air up from the bottom of the room and push out all the hot air sitting at the top down the walls of the room.
This way you keep the hot air spread around your room rather than just sitting at the top.
Close off Unused Areas
Here’s another tip that’s good in any climate. Make sure that whether you are heating or cooling your home over the next several months that you close off any rooms that aren’t being used, such as guest rooms or storage spaces.
It’s easy to forget to close doors, especially within your own home, but imagine how much energy and money you could save by not conditioning the air you don’t need!
Rather than spread the hot (or cold) air around and dissipate, keep it contained where you want it. Bottom line: you’ll condition the air more quickly and spend less energy doing it.
Drain and Store Your Hoses
Water is a very unique liquid for many reasons. This is especially important to remember going into heating season because, unlike most liquids, water expands when it freezes.
That means that if you have any leftover water in your hoses or outdoor pipes, the cold outdoor temperature puts the hoses and pipes at risk. If the water freezes and expands, not only will the exit openings be blocked, potentially causing back-up issues, but the hoses and pipes can burst, as well.
By draining your hoses and storing them away from the cold and precipitation, you can keep yourself from needing to buy new ones in the spring.
Consider a Heat Pump
Depending on the climate and your current heating system, it may be worth exploring the option of adding a heat pump to your home. Heat pumps are incredibly efficient and can end up saving you a great deal of energy and money.
Since they work by taking heat from the outside air (there’s always some amount of heat, or else it couldn’t get any colder), they can be a complete solution for a home in a place where it’s warm all year round.
In places that experience a colder winter, a heat pump paired with a furnace can be an excellent option for saving energy. In this case, the heat pump provides heat until it gets too cold for it to be efficient (around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on various factors), and the furnace takes over from that point on. And the big bonus: a heat pump functions as a central air conditioner in the summer, too!
Hopefully these tips will help make your heating season a little bit more comfortable. It’s always best to stay a step ahead of the game, and there’s no better way to do that than to start preparing now for the cooler months ahead.
Believe me – they’ll come sooner than you think! For more information on energy-efficient heating equipment, speak with the experts here at eComfort.com.