During the winter months, many homeowners are looking for ways to keep their energy bills down, while still keeping their homes nice and toasty. With 50% of the average homes’ energy usage going toward heating and cooling alone, the winter months provide an opportunity for considerable savings. Listed below are some helpful tips for lowering your home heating bills while Jack Frost is in town.
Maintain Your Heating Unit
Did you know that proper maintenance of your heating unit will help ensure its efficiency, and may save you up to $400 a year on heating bills? Oil heaters and heat pumps should be professionally cleaned and serviced once a year and gas systems should receive maintenance once every two years. In addition, during periods of high use, such as winter and summer, homeowners should inspect the filters on their furnace monthly. Since a dirty filter will block airflow and decrease the furnace’s life expectancy, it is recommended that you replace the filters when they first appear dirty or every three months at a minimum. Replacing the air filter is a simple but often forgotten maintenance step, and costs under $20 to do it yourself. If your furnace is over 20 years old, consider replacing it with an energy efficient model. Running an older furnace will cost significantly more in the long run, than upgrading to a newer, more energy efficient model.
Did you know that lowering your thermostat by just one degree can reduce your heating-related energy costs by about 4%? With this in mind, installing a programmable thermostat in each zone of your home is a wise investment. These units allow you to automatically control the temperature of your house on a set schedule, so you no longer have to remember to turn the heat down before running out the door. And you can program the temperature to rise again about an hour before you come home so it adjusts to your liking before you arrive. For additional savings, consider turning the temperature down again when everyone goes to bed for the night. The average cost per programmable unit ranges from $30 to $100 depending on the model. However once installed, they can save homeowners up to $180 per year in heating and cooling costs.
Fixing Air Leaks
Did you know that 20-30% of the heat that is lost in a home occurs through air leaks? To identify these leaks, consider having a professional home energy audit done on your home. A “blower door test” is a useful diagnostic tool that can help locate and measure air leaks in your home. After performing a set of tests and measurements, a professional home energy auditor will be able to help you determine which improvements will have the greatest impact on your home. At a minimum, treat the drafts around your doors, windows and light fixtures. Sealing these areas appropriately with caulk, spray foam, or weather-stripping is an efficient and economical first step. This can generally be done very inexpensively but will have a significant positive impact on your wallet.
Did you know that a typical house that uses a duct system for heating and cooling loses about 20% of the air that moves through the system, due to leaks and connections that are improperly sealed? Although ducts that are concealed behind walls and between floors are difficult to fix, exposed ducts in attics, basements, crawlspaces and garages can easily be repaired by using a duct sealant. Another option to help conserve energy is insulating the ducts in these spaces. The attic is usually the least expensive place to start if you’re looking to add extra installation to the shell of your home. A quick test for determining if you need more is if you can see rafters or floor joists – if the answer is yes, then it is advisable to install additional insulation with a rating between R-38 and R-49. For most Washingtonians, after air- and duct-sealing, a layer of blown-in cellulose is the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to add insulation. There are other options available, such as fiberglass, rigid foam board and spray foam, and your home remodeling contractor can typically recommend which is the best type for your home and budget.