With cold winter days only a few months away, now is the time to start preparing for the high heating costs that come with them. Living on the third floor in a 1200 square foot apartment has its advantages when it comes to keeping my home warm, but what happens when you live in a 3000 square foot house? No matter what type of home you live in, there are always things you can do to keep your heating bill in check.
Here are some tips for keeping your heating costs low this winter so you can save more money to put towards things that matter.
GET OUT A SWEATER AND SLIPPERS
Being comfortable in your home is a must. So reading advice like, “turn your thermostat down to 45 degrees,” is a little far-fetched. But keeping it low enough to make an impact can save you money. I am the type of person who likes to keep my home around 70 degrees during the winter, sometimes 72 degrees. This is more of a want than a need. Over the years, I have been keeping my thermostat around 65 degrees while I am home, and even lower when I am at work or away for an extended period.
I wear warm, comfortable clothing and I have fallen in love with these slippers. According to energy.gov, you can save as much as 10% a year on heating by just turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.
“The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.”
Keep in mind that you use more energy to turn the thermostat all the way on and off, so never turn your thermostat all the way off if you plan on just coming home and cranking it back on again. Turning it down to a low setting, rather than all the off when you're way will actually save you more money.
So make sure you bundle up and try to set your thermostat a little lower than usual this winter.
DO A LITTLE HOUSE MAINTENANCE
Turning down your thermostat only works if the rest of your house is properly insulated and maintained to prevent unwanted drafts. Caulking and weather-stripping are relatively inexpensive but can save you 5-30% on your heating bills. So, where do you even begin to determine if your home has unwanted drafts?
The first place to start is at your windows. Simply move your hand over the window frames of your home and see if you can feel a slight breeze. Some heavy curtain or blinds might keep the drafts a bay, but if you are dealing with an older home, some caulking might be needed.
Check all doors in your home to make sure no heat is escaping from the opening at the bottom of your doors or through the door frames. A quick solution is buying a door sweep to place at the bottom of your door to keep drafts out.
If you have a fireplace, make sure your damper is always closed when it's not in use. Chimneys are drafty no matter what, so make sure you pay close attention to any airflow near your fireplace.
Some people suggest walking around your home with a lit candle on a windy day. If the flame flickers or goes out in certain areas of your home, you know there's a draft nearby.
TURN DOWN YOUR WATER HEATER
This is a very straightforward, simple solution that can have a significant impact on your energy costs. According to The Simple Dollar, turning down your water heater by 10 degrees can save you 3-5 percent. Most manufacturers set the water heater temperature to 140 degrees to prevent or kill any germs or bacteria. So the real question to ask is, “can you lower that temperature without increasing any risk to your health?” The simple answer is yes.
According to Roth Heating and Cooling, a hot water temperature of 120-122 degrees has been found effective at controlling germs and bacteria. Once you have made the proper adjustment to your water heater, make sure you are making small life changes that assure you are not wasting any hot water.
With water heating being the second largest energy expense in your home, you can make an even more significant impact on your savings by heating your water more efficiently and using less of it. Make sure you fix any leaks in faucets or showerheads, pay attention to how much hot water you use while doing the dishes, use energy-efficient appliances, and try to see if you can do laundry on the warm or cold wash setting. All of these small changes may not seem like they will add up to much, but the impact might be bigger than you expect.
TRY ZONED HEATING
If you are in an area that gets really chilly during the winter months, and live in an apartment as I do, then you know dealing with baseboard heaters is a nightmare. They are one of the most expensive heating options around. One of the ways you can save on these high heating costs is to try zoned heating. Try keeping your central heat set to a bare minimum and use a small space heater for the room you actually spend time in.
Chances are, you're not using every part of your apartment all day long. So warming only one room or section of your apartment makes the most sense. Make sure to keep the doors shut to places you're not using, and keep the blinds or curtains closed in the rooms where you don't need light. The purpose of zoned heating is warming yourself, not your entire home.
Keep in mind that electric heaters cost more to operate per BTU than furnaces fueled by gas or oil. Since you are not heating your entire home or apartment, just one room or area at a time, your overall expenses will be lower. Most electric heaters are nearly 100% efficient, meaning that all electricity that goes in is converted into heat that is expelled directly into the room you are trying to heat, rather than it getting lost in the ducts along the way.
REVERSE YOUR CEILING FAN
I am no handyman, so if I can do this, so can you. Most people only think about utilizing their ceiling fans during the summer, but did you know that you can also use it to your advantage during the cold winter months?
So why reverse your ceiling fan? When your fan is rotating clockwise at a low speed, it pulls the cold air up. This gentle updraft pushes warm air, which naturally rises to the ceiling, back down. This will actually make your home feel warmer, which allows you to lower the thermostat temperature and decrease the use of heating devices.
Most fan models have a small switch to reverse the direction. You might have to remove a few screws to find it, but it should be there. If you are having a hard time finding out to reverse your ceiling fan direction, I found this video helpful. As I said, I am no handyman, so any visual is helpful.
Just remember, clockwise in the winter, counterclockwise in the summer.
BONUS TIP: CHANGE ENERGY SUPPLIERS
In some states, you can choose a different energy supplier than the company you use today. Check with ElectricityRates.com to see what the options are for switching energy suppliers, if that's an option for you.
What are some of the ways you are saving on heating costs this winter? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!