Getting your home ready for winter can be easy and painless. By doing some simple things and spending very few actual dollars you could save hundreds of dollars back per year. That savings can go to things such as paying off debt, savings, or fun money. Let’s see what easy and painless ideas we have.
1. Change Furnace Filters
Your furnace filter (for forced air systems) should be changed quite regularly, especially during the winter months. If you have central air attached to your system you probably are already on a 90 day replacement system, if you have a standard furnace, but that may not be enough the first month or so you run your furnace each year. If you have a five-year filter like some high efficiency furnaces, check your filter before you switch on the heat. Clean filters help reduce the amount of air needed to heat your house and are relatively inexpensive.
2. Turn Down Water Heater
This can sound counterintuitive because you may be thinking that the water would be colder by the time it got to the spigot. You only need your hot water at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) for most household options and all that extra heat generated by the water heater could get it running more often than it needs as it radiates heat off of it.
3. Block Door Drafts
The largest source of heat loss is broken seals in your house. The largest ones are usually around the doors that open outside. Putting a draft blocker down on these doors can stop cold air that is outside from getting inside and, if the gap is big enough, keep critters from entering your home too. If you put your hand next to an exterior door and can feel cold air from the edge gaps consider getting draft stoppers immediately to see some not insignificant savings.
4. Seal Window Drafts
As you probably won’t be opening windows in the winter why not create the largest seal available? Plastic window tarps, weather stripping, low-expansion gap filling insulation, or just stuffing some fiberglass insulation around the edges can help minimize heating loss from the windows in your home, even if you have new windows. The older the windows are, however, the higher your likely savings will be from sealing them up. If your windows have storm windows available, consider putting them up too.
5. Give Your Furnace A Tune Up
If you have a furnace that is over five years old you should probably get it looked at by a professional to make sure it is running at optimal levels. Furnaces are, essentially, engines and over time they need to be subject to maintenance or they may break down. Not only can getting a tune up extend the life of your furnace it can save you money by making sure that it’s running at peak performance by cleaning, lubricating, and adjusting how airflow is managed.
6. Get a Programmable Thermostat
If you still use one of those basic analog rotary thermostats, chances are it’s costing you every season. Programmable thermostats are an easy upgrade to make sure you are effectively utilizing your energy. For example if you are gone every day between 9am and 5pm you could have your heat stop at 830am and kick back on, unless it hits a minimum temperature, at 430pm so it’s like you never left. You can also do the same for at night when you sleep to keep your bills down without much effort from you.
7. Turn The Heat Down
This one is more of a practical item than a step but it can save you money. By adding a sweater by taking the temperature down a degree you reduce the amount of heat needed to warm your house and most people can’t tell the difference of one degree. This easy and non-invasive practice can save you a lot of money as every degree added to your set daily temperature increases the amount of time your furnace is on by as much as 20 minutes per cycle.
8. Insulate Water Pipes
Whether for hot water lines between your heater and boiler or shower, or cold water lines coming in from your city hookup or well, insulating water pipes is an easy way to keep your costs down. Wrapping your hot water pipes decreases your radiant heating loss as the pipes travel through your house and keeps the water coming out of your faucet closer to the heater temperature. This is especially true if you have a boiler based home heating system. Insulating your cold water pipes will keep them from freezing up or bursting if the area your plumbing is drops in temperature too much which can save you tons of money in the event of a drastic temperature drop.
9. Wrap That Water Heater
We’ve talked about wrapping pipes, so why not wrap the biggest water storage vessel in your home? Putting a wrap around your water heater whether it be a blanket style or an electric one will help eliminate the amount of energy required to heat up the standing water in your tank as they usually have to fire up their heating elements quite regularly to keep it near your set temperature. Many utilities have programs where you can get these for free or a discounted rate so look and see if they are available in your area.
10. Stop Heat Loss In Ducts
Finally, we’ve mentioned the furnace a lot as it is a focal point to keeping your house ready for cold winter temperatures and is an inexpensive starting point to saving money on your energy bills. Whether you hire a professional to examine your duct work, probably the one that did your furnace tune-up can help, or you grab some reflective duct tape from the hardware store, you want to seal as many non-intentional gaps in your duct work as possible. There should be some place for heat to escape the duct work if your furnace is in a basement or near your water heater, but small cracks and gaps should be sealed immediately.