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!

Advertisements

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.
8ecb8b5c10a19ccbe1daba7bc38ec77cw-c327365xd-w685_h860_q80
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.

Gutter Cleaning

What
Gutters need to be cleared of leaves and debris that may have accumulated in order to function properly.
Why
Clogged gutters can wreak havoc on your roof, siding, and foundation. These repairs can be extremely expensive.
How
Many homeowners opt into a service contract with a gutter cleaning company that schedules twice a year. We recommend these plans because they are typically affordable and there is potential danger involved with accessing the gutters on many homes. Generally these specialists will get up on a ladder and check & clear the gutters & downspouts of debris. Clearing them can often be challenging due to baked on foliage (spring) or frozen leaves (winter) attached to the insides of the channels, so if you are doing this yourself, make sure you have a good ladder and a spotter helping you out. Water is generally run through the system after the channels are cleared. Make sure that all of your downspouts are extended away from the foundation at the ground level. Often, it may be necessary to regrade your soil in some spots so that all water is directed away from your home.

Your Guide to May

As you’re busy juggling your spring to-dos, be sure to check out what’s happening this month … and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.”
– Edwin Way Teale

May 1 — May Day/International Workers’ Day

This twofold holiday celebrates both the spring season and the rights and achievements of working people. So whether you want to spend more time in your garden or stand in solidarity with your fellow workers, there’s no wrong way to celebrate!

If you’re not familiar with this holiday, here are some fun facts to get you up to speed:

  • May Day traditions can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Celtic and Roman cultures, where they held festivals to celebrate the coming of spring.

  • The holiday took on a different meaning in the U.S. in the late 19th century, when laborers joined forces to fight for safer working conditions and an eight-hour work day.

  • The distress signal “Mayday! Mayday!” has nothing to do with May Day, but is actually an adoption of the French word m’aider, meaning “help me.”

May 4 — Star Wars Day

PYou don’t have to be in a galaxy far, far away to get in the Star WarsTM spirit on May 4th. This is a day for fans everywhere to revel in all things Star Wars. From hosting a movie marathon to cosplaying your favorite character to trying weird things like this blue milk recipe, there are a million and one ways to celebrate the beloved saga. Find more ideas at starwars.com.

May 5 — Cinco de Mayo

 

Officially a celebration of Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, this lively holiday has become a fun and popular way to honor Mexican culture and heritage. Take part in the fiesta by heading to your nearest Cinco de Mayo festival, where you can enjoy traditional Mexican food, dance, art, and other cultural treasures.

May 13 — Mother’s Day

 

Let the moms in your life know they’re loved and appreciated, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. Whether it’s quality time, a home-cooked meal, or a day at the spa, think of ways you can give Mom a break and make her feel extra special this Mother’s Day.

May 28 — Memorial Day 

On Memorial Day, we pause to remember those who bravely gave their lives for our freedom. Please join me in honoring the memory and sacrifice of our nation’s fallen heroes.