Keeping Out The Cold
Though we've had a lot of nice weather so far this fall season, it's undeniable that colder weather will come, and about forty-five precent of the average energy bill goes to heating and cooling our homes. Turning down the thermostat 5° in the colder months could save up to 10% on those bills. Energy Star recommends setting your thermostat at 68° while awake and at home, and 60° while asleep or away from home (programmable thermostats are the easiest and most recommended way to achieve this and could save you more than $100 a year).
An estimated 10-30% of the energy being used to heat a home leaks out through duct surfaces, making your heating system compensate by working harder, using more energy and costing more money, so it's important to make sure it is working as efficiently as possible. This means sealing your ducts, cleaning and replacing your filters regularly, having a professional check your equipment, and possibly replacing it altogether if it is more than fifteen years old. To reduce or eliminate this leakage, begin with ducts located in attics, crawlspaces, garages, and unfinished basements, as these areas are most likely to be sources of heat loss. Then proceed through the rest of the house. If sealing the ducts yourself, simply purchase duct sealant or metal-backed tape and seal the seams and connections or wrap them in insulation. Several do-it-yourself guides for sealing your home are available at energystar.gov.
Windows and doors should be another important target of your heat-saving efforts. If you have south-facing windows, you can open your curtains or blinds during the day to let in heat from the sunlight, then close them at night. Also, you can use caulk to seal any drafts coming in through the windows, or cover them with plastic (kits are available at many stores). If you have blinds or thin curtains, consider switching to heavier drapes for the winter, as these will help block drafts. Similarly, weather-stripping your doors can help keep in heat and keep out the cold.
Aside from these methods, you can also install slow-moving fans to circulate heat, insulate your water heater (consult a heating contractor, as this is not always recommended), reduce your usage of exhaust fans to a minimum, and move furniture and carpets away from vents. Additionally, the Department of Energy suggests that those with radiators put up simple reflectors against exterior walls in order to catch and repel heat normally trapped between the wall and the radiator.
So, check your heating system, seal those leaks, put on a cozy sweater, and save a lot of money and energy this winter!