How to Save on Heating Costs in the Winter
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With winter just around the corner, monthly expenses are starting to increase. Between poor insulation, old windows, inefficient appliances, and tons of air leaks, heating a home can get expensive. That’s why it’s important to minimize these problems. In order to do so, some small fixes need to be made and you’ll be on your way to a more comfortable, affordable home.
How to Save on Heating Costs
Several of these tips on how to save on heating costs are very inexpensive, quick ways to reduce your monthly heating expenses. Just implementing a few changes will yield noticeable results, both in the comfort of your home and your wallet.
Here are my top tips on how to save on heating costs.
1. Install a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats are incredibly useful and make heating and cooling a home incredibly efficient. Not only that, but they’re extremely convenient.
I highly recommend the Nest Learning Thermostat, as that’s what we have in our home. The Nest Learning Thermostat has the ability to learn your habits, making it easier on you. By this, I mean if you set the heat to 60 every night before bed, the Nest will learn that and automatically start doing it for you. And if you always turn the heat up in the morning, the Nest will do this for you so you can wake up to a warm house. This can also be applied to your A/C system if you have one.
Another great feature about the Nest Learning Thermostat is it’s ability to track your energy usage. In the Nest app, it shows you exactly how much energy you use each day. This helps you see when you’re using the most energy to help you use less.
The Nest can also determine if you are home or not and turn the heat or A/C on or off, depending on how you have it set. You can also control it from your smartphone. This allows you to change the temperature in your home when you’re at work or out of town.
By figuring out when you need the heat or A/C on and when you don’t you can conserve energy. This allows you to save money on electricity and heating and cooling costs. According to Nest:
Independent studies have proven that the Nest Learning Thermostat saved an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. That means in 2 years, it can pay for itself.
Not only is the Nest Learning Thermostat efficient, it’s also great for dealing with the heating schedule so you don’t have to! Since installing ours a month ago, we haven’t had to change the temperature ourselves. The Nest does it for us, which honestly is very convenient and well worth the price.
Note: You may be eligible for a rebate on a smart thermostat from your energy provider. Be sure to check with yours! It makes them way more affordable. Also, make sure to check the wiring diagram before purchasing, as it’s not compatible with every system.
2. Redo Inefficient Duct Work
A contributor to poor air flow and rooms not heating properly is improper HVAC duct work. One of the most common errors is with flex ducts. If installed incorrectly, your rooms won’t heat up the way they should. This leads to cold rooms which in turn leads to you turning the heat up.
You should also make sure your register boxes are properly seated and sealed with the rest of the ducting. Otherwise, you’re losing heat to random spaces that should instead be going to specific rooms.
We had improperly installed flex ducts in our crawl space so our dining room never got warm. Once we redid them with metal duct pipes, the air blowing from the vents feels 10X as fast and warm. And the furnace isn’t working any harder to provide us with that.
Make sure that your duct work is installed properly in order to maximize the air flow reaching your rooms.
3. Replace Furnace Air Filters
It’s impertinent your HVAC air filters are changed regularly. There are several different reasons for this.
First and foremost, a dirty or clogged air filter makes air passing through extremely difficult. This in turn leads to your furnace working harder, thus using more energy.
Secondly, a clogged air filter means all the other dust and allergens need to go somewhere, so they get built up in your furnace. This can lead to parts failing or a broken furnace, which gets extremely expensive.
In addition, the filters allow you to breathe cleaner air, so it’s important they are changed regularly. This is extremely important if you or your family have allergies and/or asthma.
The time frame to change air filters depends on the furnace, but it’s usually every 2-4 months. You can always quickly pull the filter out to see if it needs changing yet or not. Just make sure it’s changed regularly! It’s important for your health, as well as your budget.
4. Use a Wood Burning Stove
In most cases, wood is cheaper than other heating options, such as natural gas or propane. There are several ways you can get firewood, either for cheap or free!
One option is through places like Craigslist or local Facebook Groups. You can either create an ad looking for free or cheap firewood, or search through local firewood listings.
Another source of free firewood is pallets. A great place to find these for free is at car dealerships. You will have to break them up, but free is free, right? While this is a cheap way to get firewood, it might not be the best option for heating a large space.
Lastly, you can harvest the firewood yourself. This requires a little work on your end, but it can save you a large amount of money. Obviously, there are other means of attaining firewood, you just have to look around. Either way, it’s most likely cheaper than other fuel sources.
If you have a wood burning stove and use a regular furnace, you should consider switching. Or, if you’re in the market for a new furnace, consider getting a wood burning stove. It might end up saving you more than you know what to do with it.
5. Insulate and Air Seal Your Home
Insulating and air sealing a home is very important, both for your comfort and wallet. The purpose of air sealing your home is to stop air from flowing in and out. Insulation helps reduce heat loss, but it doesn’t stop air flow. That’s why it’s important to air seal AND insulate your home.
You want all of your doors and windows to be sealed properly, as they are very common places that air enters and escapes. In addition, any holes in your attic or basement also need to be sealed. Another place to seal is all of your outlets and light switch electrical boxes. Air can move through the walls if they aren’t insulated or have poor insulation, so it’s important to seal these.
A lot of the times, caulk or spray foam is the way to go. You can also purchase draft guards to place under your doors. These definitely help reduce leakage and help keep your home at the right temperature = great money saving tips.
6. Seal Leaky Windows
Old, leaky windows are a huge source of heat loss and therefore, your empty wallet. It’s important to minimize the escaping warm air so you’re not heating the outdoors. Replacing windows can get expensive, so it’s not always an option. Thankfully, there’s an inexpensive short-term fix to help with heating costs!
To help minimize heat loss, I recommend putting plastic around leaky windows. This keeps the warm or cool air inside while keeping the opposite outside. Make sure to stick painters tape on the wall and attach duct tape to the plastic and then the painters tape. You don’t want to put duct tape directly on your walls. Otherwise, you could end up ruining them.
Like I mentioned above, this is a short-term fix that will certainly help with the comfort of your home. Some of the windows we haven’t replaced yet are sealed up this way and it has noticeably helped with our heating costs.
7. Replace Old Windows
The effects new windows have on a home, both aesthetically and comfort wise, is incredible. If it’s in your budget, the best way to prevent drafts and air leakage is by replacing old windows. We’ve had about half of the windows in our house replaced and it has made a world of difference.
Note: You may be eligible for a rebate through your energy provider for installing new windows. You might also qualify for a tax credit, so be sure to look into it!
8. Install Energy Efficient Curtains
Whether your windows are new or old, energy efficient curtains are the way to go. No matter how new your windows are, there is always going to be some heat transfer taking place (because nothing has 100% efficiency). Due to this, installing some energy efficient curtains will help minimize heat transfer, either from your warm air escaping in the winter or warm air entering in the summer. This in turn requires your furnace to run less, thus conserving energy.
9. Seal, Seal, Seal!
As mentioned above, proper air sealing is extremely important when it comes to energy savings. If there are other areas that need sealing in your home, you have a few options to choose from.
Caulk: If you have any gaps between your window trim and wall, you can fill it with some backer rod and then caulk the rest of it. We did this when we got our new windows installed and it has sealed them very nicely. You should also caulk any other cracks between the window and trim, as air can still enter and escape through here.
Door weather stripping: For gaps around doors, install some weather stripping. This helps seal the door so that air can’t escape through the cracks freely and enter the outdoors. In addition, the warm air from outside will have a harder time getting in past the weather stripping, as it’s blocking the gaps. The weather stripping is relatively inexpensive and simple to install and will help seal your home better.
Spray foam: Using spray foam really depends on the area that needs sealing. If you have any holes in your basement or attic or some place similar where the other options won’t work, spray foam might get the job done. The nice thing about spray foam is that once it dries, you can cut it down to an appropriate size so it’s not protruding. You can pick up a bottle from Home Depot or your local hardware store.
10. Turn Your Water Heater Temperature Down
Most water heaters are set to 140°F from the manufacturers. However, this is slightly higher than necessary, with the recommended temperature being 120°F. This is for efficiency purposes, as well as a safety precaution.
By turning your water heater temperature down, you’re saving money in a few ways. First off, you’re not losing as much heat to the surrounding area your water heater’s in. Second, the water heater requires less energy to get the water to the right temperature since it’s 20°F cooler.
This is a very simple change to implement and you won’t really notice it at all. It might mean you don’t turn on as much cold water to get the temperature right for you, but that just means you’re using even less water. So really, it’s a win-win situation.
11. Flush and Clean Your Water Heater Regularly
I cannot stress enough how important water heater maintenance is. It should be done at least once a year, if not more if your water is full of minerals.
The purpose of emptying and cleaning a water heater is simple: to reduce the sediment buildup and ensure a longer appliance life. Otherwise, the sediment will buildup at the bottom, blocking the heating element from the water. This in turn leads to your water heater working harder to heat the water. It can also cause parts to fail.
This article walks you through the steps necessary to drain a water heater. Once you empty it, you might notice some sediment in the tank. It’s important to get it out so it doesn’t keep building up. If you don’t feel comfortable performing this routine water heater maintenance, hire a professional to do so.
Trust me, this isn’t something you want to skip. We drained ours a year after moving into our house and it was so full of sediment that the water wouldn’t even drain. Needless to say, we had to buy a new one. However, since installing our new water heater, our electricity bill has gone down $20 a month.
Note: If your water has a high hardness and you don’t have a water softener, you should consider installing one. It will lead to less sediment buildup in your appliances, as well as in your faucets.
12. Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes
This is a very quick and cheap way to improve the efficiency in your home. All you have to do is pickup some of this pipe insulation and wrap it around your hot water pipes. It helps keep the warmth from the water inside the pipe, as opposed to being transferred to the surrounding air.
Not only does insulating pipes reduce heat loss, but your water will also get warmer quicker. We replaced the majority of our copper pipes with PEX and insulated them. Since doing this, we have noticed how much sooner we get hot water. It’s amazing what a little insulation can do!
Now that you know how to save on heating costs, you can start saving some money! If you found these tips helpful, please share this post. 🙂