Because the winter season is about to pummel us with yet another round of frigid temperatures and piles of snow, heating bills are about to kick us all in the wallets again, and that usually hurts. Devote some thought to the following, and you’ll likely soften the blow this winter!
Snuggling by the fire might not be the best choice
Not much is better in the winter than curling up next to the fireplace with a hot cup of tea and a warm pet on your lap. Many fireplaces burn wood, so they should warm up the room and give the furnace a rest, right?
Nope. Wood-burning fireplaces tend to make other areas of your home colder. Why? Since your thermostat is usually in the same main room as your fireplace, the warm air in that room fools the thermostat into thinking the rest of your house is warm as well, when it’s not. Fireplaces are also the worst offenders when it comes to particle air pollution, so there’s that to consider.
Fireplaces draw air from heated rooms to obtain oxygen to fuel combustion. As it turns out, burning wood is the least-efficient heating option available. Gas fireplaces – and even new ethanol models – are much better, but they still produce some pollution. Even chimney-less models will release combustion products back into your house along with heat. Wood burning stoves and fireplaces are still very popular, though, but they are far less efficient than electric heat. Also, the smoke and ash they produce are even worse than the particle pollution that your local power plant emits.
If you’re still interested in curling up by the fire, consider placing space heaters (see below) in areas of your home that other members of your family are occupying while your fireplace is in use. Otherwise, to be energy-conscious, you might want to spend more time watching the Yule log on TV, instead of in your fireplace this winter.
Get rid of that antiquated thermostat
Many people believe that keeping the house a constant temperature is more energy-efficient than continually raising and lowering the heat. This isn’t necessarily true.
In fact, it takes much less energy for your furnace to work hard for an hour to bring your home’s temperature back up than it does to maintain a constant temperature all day long. To save energy by using less heat overall, try using a modern programmable thermostat instead of an old manual one. A new unit’s advanced controls can automatically adjust the temperature based on preset programs for the time of day and what day of the week it is. Some units even allow you to control the temperature from an app on your smartphone! Once you’ve programmed your thermostat well, you’ll never notice that the heat was turned down while you were gone.
These thermostats are very flexible and can be programmed in advance or as needed. They’re great for those of us who habitually forget to adjust the heat when we leave the house, go to bed, or wake up.
Space heaters – not just for the garage and basement
Similar to task lighting – keeping only the lights on that you need – space heating reduces energy consumption by heating only the sections of a building or home you’re occupying. For example, if you’re not using your guest rooms, close the doors to these areas and put an energy-efficient space heater in the main bedroom. Closing off unused rooms reduces the volume of air circulating throughout your home, and that means your furnace will keep the rest of the house warmer, and with less work.
If you have only one central thermostat, you can use a space heater to keep the room you’re using warm while turning down the main heat a few degrees – using less energy and saving you money. If you have zonal heating (that is, separate thermostats upstairs and downstairs), you can shut off the upstairs heat and still stay comfortable. A long as you’re not roaming the house, space heating should keep you warmer than your furnace alone does.
Window treatments do more than just look good
You might think your windows look fine, and you might not care about being trendy. But, there’s a compelling reason for making your windows fashionable. Curtains and shades serve an energy-savvy purpose and look great at the same time.
We all know that windows are an important factor when it comes to controlling light and drafts in and out of our homes, and it certainly helps to seal older, leaky windows with plastic or caulk to prevent heat transfer during the colder months. But, did you know that drapes, curtains, and shades can help with insulation too? It’s true!
Thick, dark curtains are an effective way to trap heat before it escapes through the window glass, and in return, they transfer that trapped heat to any cold air entering your home via the window. Window treatments made specifically for this purpose are available virtually everywhere. So, if you need an excuse to spruce up your windows, look no further.
Don’t forget about your ceiling fans
You might not ever touch your ceiling fans once the weather turns cold, but you really should. When the fan rotates in “winter mode, (that is, clockwise) the fan draws air up instead of pushing it down. This rotation mixes the warm and cold air in the room to keep an overall warmer temperature.
So get up there and flip that switch this year – and make sure to keep the fan on a low setting! You don’t want to create an indoor hurricane at your holiday party, and faster fan speeds will make the room feel drafty.
Use your oven’s heat for more than cooking
You’re probably doing a lot of cooking and baking this year (or maybe only heating the occasional pizza), and you can use excess heat from your oven to warm up your kitchen by leaving the oven door cracked open after you’re finished. Not only will your kitchen be nice and toasty, but your entire home will smell fantastic (as long as you didn’t burn the food)!