Warm for the Winter: How to Heat Your Home While Saving Energy and Money

Do you get chills just thinking about your utility bills during wintertime? If your answer to a drafty home is to simply crank up the furnace, you’ll not only pay for it, but you could also be wasting energy and depleting more natural resources in the process. Instead of making your heater work overtime, here are ways you can reduce your energy consumption and still keep your home warm and toasty this winter.

  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating accounts for 45% of energy use in homes and pumps out 292 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. The more CO2 we release into the atmosphere, the more we hinder the earth’s ability to maintain balance, which has a variety of negative implications. That’s why, the less energy you use to heat your home, the better it is for Mother Nature (and your wallet!).

 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

Seal Drafty Areas

Air leaks are the primary culprit for excess energy consumption. If air is able to escape out or in, your furnace will just keep pumping out heat relentlessly. Get to the root of the problem by sealing these areas.

  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, including your attic, basement, and garage access doors.

  • Caulk openings around plumbing, ductwork, and electrical wiring.

  • Apply foam sealant on larger gaps around windows and baseboards, and place foam gaskets behind outlet covers.

  • Add baffles around recessed lights if yours are not airtight.

  • Install double-pane windows or cover single-pane windows with storm windows. For a cheaper option, purchase a plastic film insulation kit.

  • Seal gaps around the fireplace with sheet metal/sheetrock and a high-temperature silicone caulk. Also, ensure your flue is closed when  not in use.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends getting a professional blower door test to detect the source of air leaks, but in the interest of saving money, they also provide tips on how to identify air leaks yourself.

  

 

Check Your Insulation

 

According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), 90% of U.S. homes are under-insulated. This is especially true for older homes, but it can even apply to newer ones. The EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks and adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. VisitEnergyStar.gov to learn how to perform a DIY insulation check for your walls and attic and to find out which insulation levels are recommended for your region and climate. If you’re not comfortable with the DIY route, hire a professional to assess your insulation needs.

  

 

Let the Light In

 

Using the sun’s natural light is an easy, environmentally conscious (and completely free!) way to heat up your house. As the sun beams down on your windows, it produces a greenhouse effect that traps heat inside. This works in your favor during the winter months, so be sure to open your curtains each morning to let the sun work its magic. On the flip side, remember to close your curtains at night (consider thermal drapes) to keep the warmth in.

 

 

Turn Down the Thermostat

 

As you begin implementing the energy-saving tips provided above, your home should start to warm up and retain heat more efficiently. That means you shouldn’t need to keep your thermostat set super high. During the cooler months, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68°F while you’re at home and awake, and setting it lower when you’re asleep or away. By turning your thermostat back by 7°-10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day, you can save around 10% per year on heating and cooling costs.

 

 

Program Your Thermostat

 

In addition to choosing the right temperature, a smart or programmable thermostat can make a big impact on your home’s energy efficiency. You can program your thermostat for time-of-day usage, so you don’t have to remember to turn the temperature down when you’re gone or up when you get home from work. More advanced heating systems may even be configured to only heat rooms that you use, or to kick on or off when you enter or leave a room.

 

 

 

Decreasing your energy consumption is an important first step in minimizing the impact that heating has on the environment, and in reducing your energy costs. But we shouldn’t stop there. Rather than relying on fossil fuels (like natural gas) to heat our homes, adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and biomass technologies can even further reduce your home’s environmental footprint. While they may not entirely replace your current heating methods, these technologies can easily integrate with your existing system and supplement its heat production.

 

 Learn more about renewable heating options and their costs at EPA.gov.

By taking steps to reduce the amount of energy you use this winter and adopting renewable heating alternatives, you’ll save money, improve the comfort of your home, and make a positive impact on the planet. Those benefits alone are enough to make you feel warm on the inside, as well as the outside!

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6 Expenses to Include in Your Homebuying Budget

First-time homebuyers are sometimes caught off guard by overlooked expenses, which can create an uncomfortable financial pinch. Be sure you consider these one-time and ongoing expenses.
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1. Home Inspection
For a few hundred dollars, an inspection can uncover potential trouble such as structural problems or asbestos.

2. Home Maintenance
Experts recommend setting aside 1 to 3%* of the home’s purchase price for annual maintenance. For example, you may need to buy lawn care equipment or replace the roof, furnace, or water heater.

3. Taxes And Insurance
Property taxes and homeowners insurance aren’t always included in mortgage payment calculators.

4. Extra Cash At Closing
Your lender should give you a detailed estimate of closing costs. But beyond those, you may have to pay additional expenses, such as a prorated portion of property taxes or homeowners association fees that the seller has already paid.

5. The Move
Whether you hire professional movers for a few thousand dollars or rent a truck, buy boxes and recruit friends to help, moving costs money.

6. Settling In
You may have to pay utility connection fees when you move in, plus utility costs may be higher than you were used to as a renter. Other costs include lock replacements and decorating expenses.

Your Guide To January

Here’s what’s happening in January. 

 

 

National Take the Stairs Day

Take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle by ditching the elevator and taking the stairs instead.

  

Houseplant Appreciation Day

Big or small, sun- or shade-loving, these green powerhouses do wonders for making a house a home. Show ’em some love!

 

  

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

 A national day of service to honor and commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

  

 Data Privacy Day

 An international effort to help people develop smart, safe privacy and security practices. Get involved atstaysafeonline.org.

 

 

National Plan for Vacation Day

 A reminder to use up those vacation days and devote some time to exploring, relaxing, and enjoying some time off!

  

 

 Inspire Your Heart With Art Day

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” — Pablo Picasso

 

 

 

 

 

40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and of those resolutions, 80% of them fail by the second week of February. (But experts say they’re still worth making, so don’t quit before you start!)

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The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces: one looking forward, and one looking back.

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On January 1, 1892, Ellis Island officially opened as an immigration station. 

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January is the birth month of Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, Joan of Arc, and Bessie Coleman.

Your Guide To December

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

 

 

Hanukkah Begins

An eight-day celebration also known as the Festival of Lights that includes lighting a menorah and exchanging small gifts.

 

 

 

 

Pearl Harbor Day

 

A day of remembrance honoring the lives that were lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

 

  

 

Nobel Prize Day

 

These awards commemorate outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and the promotion of peace.

 

 

Winter Solstice

 

The first day of winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere.

 

   

 

Festivus

 

An offbeat holiday dedicated to the airing of grievances and demonstrating feats of strength. Don’t forget your aluminum pole!

  

 

Christmas

 “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

 

 

 

Kwanzaa Begins

 

Spanning seven days, this African-American and pan-African holiday is a celebration of family, community, and culture.

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve

 

Farewell 2018; hello 2019!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re all familiar with the Santa Claus-costumed volunteers that collect donations in front of stores for the Salvation Army, but did you know that practice has been going on since the 1890s?

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month: a reminder to shop smart and choose safe, age-appropriate toys to prevent injuries to the little ones in your life.

The first New York City ball drop took place in Times Square in 1907. An estimated 2 million people crowded the five square blocks on New Year’s Eve 2017.

 

Looking for ways to give back this year? 

Here are a few ideas you can use to spread some cheer this season:  

 

 

  • Build a Home: Volunteer with your local Habitat for Humanity® and spend a day building or repairing homes for families in need.

  • Spread Joy: Contribute to Toys for Tots® and bring the joy of the holidays to children who are less fortunate. Hosting a holiday party? Ask guests to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate.

  • Share a Meal: Donate non-perishable food items such as canned goods and dry pantry staples to your local food bank to ensure every tummy is filled this holiday.