When winter temperatures start to cool, you want to keep all the warm air your heating unit produces in your home. The more air escapes, the harder your heating unit works, which equals bigger utilities costs. While you’re unpacking your coat, hat and scarf for the winter, take a few minutes to prepare your home as well. One benefit is reduced utility costs; another is an earth-saving benefit because less energy must be produced.
Evaluate Your Home
Leaks can derail your utility bill by allowing heat to escape your home and make your heating unit work overtime. Air and insulation leaks increase home energy costs, making a prewinter sweep to pinpoint leaks important. Start by checking your basement and attic, which are the two areas most likely to experience leaks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. One test method is to hold your hand over any areas, such as windows, plumbing vents, pipes or doorways, where you can feel air flowing in. If you aren’t sure of your evaluation skills, you can hire a contractor to pinpoint gaps and cracks. This same contractor should be able to perform repair work, such as adding insulation or caulking around windows to reduce leaking air (see Reference 3).
Schedule Winter Cleaning
Dirt, dust and unexpected debris can quickly derail your heating system, which is why you must engage in regular equipment maintenance to keep your equipment in working order. From changing out your air filter once per month during the winter months to scheduling heating equipment maintenance, you can prevent your heating system from failing or operating at less than its maximum efficiency. If your licensed contractor recommends a new heating system or your system gives out, consider purchasing products that display the Energy Star logo, which means the product is both energy and cost efficient (see Reference 3).
Program Your Thermostat
Programmable thermostats allow you to more efficiently adjust the temperature in your home. Some energy- and cost-saving options include the ability to set the thermostat to a lower temperature during workday hours or when you are asleep (see Reference 1). These settings can reduce your furnace's energy consumption during hours when you don’t need it and allow you to cut down on your utility expenditures.
Optimize Air Flow
Heating vents covered by furniture or rugs can prevent warm air from moving and circulating. While you are conducting your survey for leaks, you also can look for areas of your home where heating vents are blocked, preventing air from rising and circulating (see References 3 and 4). Other options are to switch your ceiling fan to its winter setting of slowly rotating clockwise or to position floor-level fans to blow upward at a slow speed. Either choice helps force warmer air down from the ceiling toward the floor to keep rooms feeling comfortable.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
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