As winter sets in, many homeowners find their energy bills skyrocketing as they try to keep their homes warm and comfortable. With the right strategies, however, you can maintain a cozy home while still conserving energy and saving money. The key is finding small ways to retain heat while reducing energy waste. From sealing off drafts to utilizing space heaters, little adjustments around the house can lead to big savings. Even simple steps like weatherstripping windows, closing interior doors, and dialing down your thermostat can make a difference. With some clever tweaks, you can outsmart Old Man Winter without breaking the bank on energy costs.
Before exploring winter energy tips, let’s consider one of the biggest energy drains in most homes – the furnace. As your primary heating system, an inefficient or faulty furnace can waste huge amounts of energy trying unsuccessfully to warm your home. Simple furnace repairs like replacing filters or servicing your unit can optimize efficiency. Alternatively, upgrading to a newer, high-efficiency model can drastically reduce your heating costs over time while keeping you cozy. Assess your current system and consider tune-ups or upgrades if needed. Investing in furnace repairs and maintenance makes an excellent starting point for winter energy savings.
Your Comprehensive Winter Guide to Energy Conservation
When the freezing winter temperatures arrive, adopting these expanded energy-saving practices can lead to noticeable savings on your heating bills.
1. Harness the Power of the Sun
The radiant heat from the sun is an abundant and free energy source that can be harnessed in the winter months. Open all curtains and blinds on south-facing windows during daylight hours to allow the sun’s warmth to permeate into your home. Position chairs, sofas, and beds near these solar-catching windows to immerse yourself in the sunny warmth. Keep the window coverings open, even on cold but sunny winter days, to maximize solar heat gain. Install thermal curtains to trap heat in at night. Strategically using sunlight can reduce reliance on your heating system during the day for substantial savings.
2. Zone Heating with Space Heaters
Rather than heating your entire home, zone heating concentrates heat where you need it most. Switch off central heating and use a space heater in frequently occupied rooms like living areas, home offices, and bedrooms. This focused heating allows you to lower your thermostat significantly while still feeling comfortably warm. When purchasing a space heater, choose an energy efficient model with safety features. Position the heater near seating areas but away from foot traffic to maximize efficiency. By only heating rooms in use, you can realize drastic reductions in energy consumption.
3. Embrace Thermal Layering
Warm indoor clothing allows you to maintain comfort at a lower ambient air temperature, reducing the energy burden on your heating system. The key is thermal base layers that trap body heat and insulating outer layers that prevent heat loss. Natural materials like wool, cashmere, and fleece work best. Thermal leggings, tops, socks and slippers should be your new winter wardrobe staples. Lounging under a blanket adds another layer of trapped warmth. Keep your thermostat set 5-10 degrees lower than usual and let your cold weather ensemble keep you cozy.
4. Curb Exhaust Fan Use
Venting warm household air outside through stove hoods, bathroom fans and dryer vents requires your heating system to work harder to restore lost heat. Limit use of these exhaust fans to the minimum time necessary. Turn off kitchen and bathroom fans immediately rather than letting them run unnecessarily. When showering, keep the bathroom door closed with the vent fan on, then switch it off as soon as you’re done. Reduce loads in the clothes dryer to shorten running times. Every minute of exhaust fan use requires replenishing that lost warm air. Keep a vigilant eye on unnecessary use.
5. Plug Air Leaks
Even small air leaks can have an outsized impact on home energy loss. Drafts through poorly sealed windows, doors, attic hatches or electrical outlets draw precious warm air out while allowing cold air in. This makes your furnace work overtime with little temperature gain. Caulking and weatherstripping are inexpensive but highly effective draft stoppers. Seal window and door frames, baseboards, cracks or gaps around pipes and wires, attic hatches, fireplaces, outlet covers and more. Stop heat loss through glass windows by installing insulating window film kits or heavy-duty plastic sheets. Evaluate entryways and determine if you need to upgrade exterior doors. Solve draft issues early to prevent wasted energy all season long.
6. Contain Heat Room by Room
When not gathering as a family, close doors to unused rooms to isolate heat to occupied spaces only. This reduces the burden on your heating system. For rooms briefly unoccupied, keep doors shut to retain existing warmth. Place rolled towels or draft stoppers at the base of closed doors to contain valuable heat. In homes with multiple levels, close doors at the top and bottom of stairs as an extra barrier. Zone your home by closing doors in unused areas and you may be able to turn your thermostat down a few precious degrees.
7. Strategically Control Thermostats
Make small thermostat adjustments tailored to your daily activities and schedules to conserve fuel. When actively using main living areas, maintain the temperature at the lowest setting you find comfortable. Set programmable thermostats to automatically dip 10-15°F lower during normal sleeping hours. When away from home for over two hours, turn the thermostat down to 55-60°F to conserve energy without allowing freezing. Smart thermostat apps give you remote access to make these changes from anywhere life takes you. Carefully tracking activity patterns and body heat output throughout your day enables you to strategically heat only when and where you need it.
8. Transition to Efficient LED Lighting
Now is the perfect time to swap out all outdated incandescent bulbs for energy sipping LEDs. Because they consume at least 75% less power, LED lights cut lighting-related heating loads dramatically. This savings adds up quickly, especially when used for outdoor winter holiday lighting. Choose ENERGY STAR-rated LED products in the soft white or warm light tones for optimal ambiance and efficiency. Take advantage of winter sales to replace all non-LED fixtures at once for instant energy and cost savings that you’ll appreciate all winter long.
9. Optimize Fireplace Efficiency
Fireplaces seem cozy yet can pull precious warm air right out of your home if not used judiciously. Keep the fireplace flue tightly sealed with the damper closed when not in use to prevent room air being sucked out. If building a fire, open the flue in advance so smoke does not spill into your home. While a fire burns, open nearby windows an inch while keeping interior doors near the fireplace closed. The supply of fresh oxygen avoids wasting room air while containment prevents whole house heat loss up the chimney. Set your furnace thermostat lower to capitalize on the fire’s radiant warmth. Use a fireplace fan to redistribute heat into the room. Glass doors, heat exchangers, or an insert can vastly boost efficiency as well.
10. Lower the Water Heater Thermostat
Turn down the temperature dial on your water heater to 120°F to save on water heating energy while still providing comfortable bathing and cleaning warmth. This reduces fuel usage, saves money on bills and prevents scalding accidents. Insulating exposed hot water pipes adds savings by reducing standby heat loss.
11. Detect Hidden Heat Loss
Even well-insulated homes can harbor hidden gaps allowing precious warm air to escape in winter. An inexpensive infrared thermometer scanned along interior walls quickly reveals these problem cold spots you can’t feel or drafts you can’t see. Compare surface temperatures around windows, outlets, ceilings, doors or attic hatches to pinpoint locations losing disproportionate heat and likely hiding leaks. While the thermometer doesn’t indicate exact solutions, it directs further weatherization efforts. Seal leaks to end waste allowing room warmth to dissipate outside.
12. Boost Attic Insulation
Heat rises, and much of it escapes through poorly insulated attics carrying huge heat loads straight outdoors. An energy audit assesses current insulation R-values and compares to recommended levels for your region which can payback through energy savings in just a few years after installing upgrades like additional blown-in cellulose. Unlike batts which compress over time or have gaps around complex framing, this loose fill insulation works into every nook and corner exceeding rated thickness for maximum efficiency. Hire a professional installer ensure proper density and an even layer free of gaps that undermine performance. Proper attic insulation makes a world of difference in winter warmth.