Winter is Coming: 10 Ways to Winterize Your Home
With the approach of winter comes colder temperatures and - unfortunately - higher energy bills. But don't despair – with a little bit of work you can save money all winter long and keep bill increases to a minimum!
Weatherproof Your Windows
According to the US Department of Energy, installing exterior or interior storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25 to 50 percent. Windows should be made of strong, durable materials, have interlocking or overlapping joints, and weatherstripping at all movable joints.
If storm windows aren’t practical for your home, consider insulating your windows with some plastic window insulation. Window insulation kits are cheap, and most hardware stores stock them.
Be Energy Smart About Decorating
LED holiday string lights are considerably lower wattage than traditional holiday lights (0.069 Watts vs 0.425 watts), making them highly energy efficient. What’s more, they’re safer, sturdier, longer-lasting, and easier to install than traditional holiday string lights. LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, making them much more resistant to breakage.
You can go even further by taking a look at your window treatments. Decorating with draperies is a stylish way to keep rooms warm. Most conventional draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room by up to 10 percent when drawn during cold weather. Hang draperies as close to windows as possible in order to reduce heat exchange, and try to choose drapes that are long enough to fall straight to the floor or windowsill. Hanging two draperies together will also maximize insulation and comfort, as the room-side drapery will maintain the same temperature (more or less) as the room.
Check out the US Department of Energy’s tips on energy efficient window treatments for more ideas for how to improve your home's energy efficiency.
Dirty, clogged up furnace filters reduce airflow and make your furnace work harder than it has to. To keep your furnace working in top condition, make sure to clean or replace air filters once a month during the heating season.
If you haven’t already, consider getting your furnace serviced by a professional at the start of the winter season.
Give Your Air Conditioner Some TLC
If you have any window air conditioner units, remove and store them away during the winter – this is important, in order to avoid drafts! Drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes before you put it away. Taking care of your air conditioner unit will help it stay in working order for as long as possible.
Be Water Wise
Take a look around your home to make sure that you don’t have any leaky faucets – according to ENERGY STAR, hot water leaking at a rate of 1 drip per second can waste up to 1,661 gallons of water over the course of a year, and waste up to $35 in electricity or in natural gas!
Don’t forget to take a look outside when checking for leaks. While you’re at it, turn off exterior water spigots, and make sure any hoses are drained and neatly stowed away.
One of the most cost-effective (and easiest) ways to improve the comfort of your home (and its energy efficiency) is to add insulation to your attic (including the attic trap or access door). As a general rule of thumb, if the insulation in your attic is less than R-30 (11 inches of fiber glass/rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose), it could do with an upgrade.
What’s more, adding insulation to your home will protect it from noise from outside – insulation muffles sound.
Don’t Duck on Ducts
Your air ducts are one of the most important systems in your home, and if the ducts are poorly sealed or insulated they are likely contributing to higher energy bills
Air ducts carry air from your home’s furnace and central air conditioning unit to the rooms in your home. If the ducts in your home leak heated air into unheated spaces they could be adding hundreds of dollars per year to your heating and cooling bills. This makes sealing and insulating ducts in attics or vented crawl spaces particularly cost effective. Keep in mind, however, that while minor duct repair is pretty easy to do, extensive duct sealing and insulating should be left to the professionals.
Turn Down the Pressure
Another way to cut the cost of your water heating bill is to reduce how much water you use. Installing an aerating, low-flow showerhead can save you up to $145 a year on electricity, according to ENERGY STAR.
Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances
The share that electronics and appliances take up of US household energy consumption is increasing steadily every year. More electronics and electricity-powered appliances means bigger electrical bills. You can minimize this by opting for the most energy-efficient models on the market. ENERGY STAR labels are awarded to hundreds of appliances and electronics available in the United States. While they will pay for themselves over the long run, a word of warning – an upfront investment is necessary. However, many utilities and local municipalities offer rebates for ENERGY STAR upgrades – check to see if such programs are available and if you qualify.
Check Your Chimney
While nothing may be cozier than a wood-burning fire, an open chimney can create major drafts. Make sure to close the fireplace flue damper when not in use. If you don't plan on lighting a wood fire this winter, consider closing the chimney permanently or installing a chimney plug. Also known as a chimney pillow or a chimney balloon, this is a large plastic bag that is inflated to block airflow through a chimney so that air neither escapes from nor enters the interior of the house. Chimney plugs cost about $60, but installing them could save up to $103 a month on your heating bill.