Embrace Winter Weather With These Energy Saving Tips
Temperatures have plummeted across much of the nation over the past few days — a not-so-welcome introduction to the first official work week of 2015. While you may want nothing more than to hide under the covers, there are more productive steps you can take to mitigate the harsh impacts of cold weather.
The following tips will help increase the energy efficiency of your home and reduce your energy bills while keeping you comfortable and warm all winter long:
Heating accounts for about 40 percent of home energy use, so taking a few small measures to properly maintain your heating system will yield savings. Check your furnace filter monthly and change it when it’s visibly dirty or every 3 months, whichever comes first. Also consider getting a semi-annual “tune-up” to your heating and cooling system from a qualified contractor to ensure savings over time.
Finally, seal and insulate your ducts. In a typical house with a forced air system, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts.
If it’s time to replace your current system, consider ENERGY STAR-qualified equipment — certified gas furnaces are 12 - 16 percent more efficient than basic models and can save families anywhere from $36 - $94 annually.
Don’t waste money heating an empty home. You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. While this can be done manually, installing a programmable thermostat will allow you to auto schedule your home’s heat to a lower temperature when you are away or asleep and turn back up when you are returning home or waking-up. Smart thermostats (like the Nest) take automation a step further by allowing you to change settings remotely and learning your behavior patterns so it sets a schedule for you!
Whether or not you choose to purchase a new device, the Department of Energy’s thermostat guide is a great resource to help you understand the operation of both traditional and programmable models.
Cover Air Leaks
Warm air can escape not only through windows, but also through unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets, and in gaps around pipes and chimneys. Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and sliding draft guards under your doors and you can save up to 20 percent on heating costs.
After space heating, hot water is the second highest home energy cost, accounting for about 18 percent of energy consumed. Changing the temperature on your water heater to the “warm” setting of 120 degrees and insulating your storage tank will provide comfortable hot water with less cost and energy waste.
On the inside of your windows tape heavy-duty, clear plastic sheets on the window frames to reduce heat loss. Insulating drapes or shades can offer another layer of protection.
If you are in the market for new windows, consider high-performance ENERGY STAR-labeled windows which can cut heating costs by as much as 30 percent compared to single-pane windows, while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings. The Efficient Windows Collaborative offers more information on efficient window treatments and on the installation of new and replacement windows.
For more detailed tutorials on caulking, thermostat adjustments and other winter preparation strategies, be sure to check out the Alliance’s YouTube page.