Here's How to Save Money on Your Home Heating Costs This Winter When the Temperatures Drop
Following these simple tips can help you keep your power bill from going way up when the outside temps go way down
It's a simple fact. Your home heating bill will increase as the outside temperature decreases. But you don't have to let the cost of heating your home drain your wallet each time the temps start to fall. If you put in a little bit of effort and a small amount of money, you can save some serious cash each winter on your home's heating costs. If you're ready to save some money, consider these tips.
- Set your thermostat a little lower.
- For your whole-house fan, use the 'auto' setting instead of 'on' for power savings of up to $15 per month.
- Have your furnace serviced each year.
- Seal and insulate leaky ductwork.
- Clean or replace furnace filters once a month or as needed.
- Install a programmable thermostat.
- Close your foundation vents.
- Don't close off too many rooms in your house.
- Make sure the fireplace flue is closed if you aren't using it.
- If you installed press-on window tinting on windows that receive a lot of sunlight, remove the tinting in the winter to let heat in.
- Don't use portable heaters often, if at all.
- Consider adding additional insulation to your home.
- Allow ceiling fans to shoulder some of the work.
Lowering your thermostat temperature by just a few degrees can save a lot of money over the cold weather months, especially if you use electric heat or if your system is old and inefficient. After a brief adjustment period, you probably won't even notice the difference! For each degree you lower the thermostat, you can save 1% to 3% or more.
Additional tip: Have you ever noticed how warm your house gets when you're cooking something in the oven? Lower your thermostat several degrees about an hour or two before cooking or before guests arrive. You won't overheat the house that way!
With the whole-house fan on, you're pushing air through the ductwork in the attic or crawlspace. When you push air through unconditioned space, its temperature will drop slightly and slowly cool the rooms in your home. This means your heat will turn on more often to maintain the desired temperature. Even if you have high efficiency filters, the central air moving through your home doesn't do that much to keep your breathable air clean. It just keeps contaminants from entering the system. If you're worried about indoor air quality, run the vacuum more often, which does far more for indoor air quality than the furnace filter will ever do.
Servicing the unit will maintain efficiency and can help prevent catastrophic failures and carbon monoxide buildup (gas units) caused by lack of maintenance. Compare it to changing the oil in your car and you can understand the importance of doing it! If your unit is quite old or needs a lot of repairs, it could make much more sense to replace the system with a new one. It will cost a little more upfront, but it will save money each month.
Sealing any duct leaks and insulating ductwork does a lot to ensure that the air moving through your system goes where it's supposed to go and stays at the desired temperature. Leaky ducts push your conditioned air into unconditioned spaces, such as the attic, garage, crawlspace, or any other location where the ducts are routed. Compare it trying to pull water through a straw with tiny holes in it. It doesn't move efficiently. Ductwork that isn't insulated or has tears in the insulation can cause the temperature of the air passing through it to drop.
A restricted filter can drastically reduce efficiency. Dirty filters can increase operating costs by 20% or more, increase the time for rooms to reach the desired temperature, and make it much harder for the system to do its job. A system that works harder will use more energy and will fail sooner.
There is a lot of debate about the type of filters you should use in your system. Manufacturers are pushing pricey high efficiency filters as a means of removing contaminants from the air. But these filters drastically reduce the amount of air flowing through them and only pick up the containments that are actively pulled through, which is only a fraction of the containments in your home. On the other hand, less efficient but inexpensive filters allow much more air to flow freely, but only pick up the larger containments These filters are usually fine for most systems, especially during the winter.
You can save money by keeping your home cooler than normal when you're out and setting it to increase the temperature just before you get home. It is also wonderful to set it to increase the heat just before you get out of bed in the morning! Even better, smart thermostats can be controlled from an app, which means you can set your thermostat from anywhere. Even better, there are many options out there that can automatically set your thermostat to away mode if you travel outside a particular area.
Close your foundation vents in the fall if your home has a crawl space. If you don't, freezing cold air will flow underneath your house, cooling it down. If your heating system is routed through this crawlspace, you will lower the temperature of the air flowing through the ducts, reducing overall efficiency.
There is something to be said for reducing airflow to rooms you don't use regularly. But don't close off too many vents. Heating and cooling units work best with adequate airflow. If the proper amount of air doesn't flow through the system, overall efficiency will be reduced, leading to increased energy costs and possibly damage to your system. Also remember that the walls inside your home are not insulated, which means that heat will transfer even if rooms are blocked off.
Fireplaces aren't very efficient, but they look nice. They can lose up to 90% of the heat they produce, which means that $100 of wood will only get you about $10 of heat. So if your fireplace isn't being used, close the flue to make sure your warm air isn't flowing out. Also consider investing in glass doors to close off the fireplace further.
Window tinting works wonders to keep the summer heat out. But it can hurt you when you want to let the sunlight inside to warm up the house in the winter. If the tinting is removable, take it down in the winter. You can put it back on during the summer.
Portable electric heaters are convenient, but they're expensive to operate. Running a portable electric heater constantly, for example, could easily cost $100 - $200 or more in energy use per month. A whole house heating system is significantly more efficient, especially if you use gas heat.
Insulation can be blown into walls or layered in the attic or crawlspace areas. Doing so can create a thicker blanket for your home. Attic insulation is by far one of the best defenses you can have against heat loss and gain, whether in the winter or the summer. R-19 or higher is recommended and an investment of a few hundred dollars for extra attic insulation can pay for itself in as little as a year.
Ceiling fans circulate air, which helps rooms feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter by almost three degrees. It may be even more noticeable if you have high ceilings, which trap a lot of heat high above you. Use the fan to push warm air back down to the floor and closer to the people who want to be warm.