Surviving Maine winters is tough, and rising heating and utility bills don’t help! There are some smart ways to keep your costs down and save on heating bills without having to resort to wearing your winter coat indoors. Here are some easy hacks we’ve learned along the way that we want to share with you:
Everyone loves a wood fire to warm up a room in winter. However, that fireplace requires oxygen to burn the wood, and when not in use, the chimney continues to draw significant amounts of air out of your house, taking the heat with it. Be sure to have a damper properly installed in any fireplace, and be sure it is closed tightly when not in use.
Air leaks are a major source of heat loss. Predicted to cause anywhere from 10 – 30% heat loss, it’s well worth the effort to get them sealed up. Drafty windows and doors means you are letting valuable heat escape. What a waste! Over the course of a weekend, you can install weather stripping around windows and door frames and seal up those air leaks. Also use draft blockers (pool noodles cut to fit work great!) on windowsills and at the base of your doors to further block drafts. Check your home for other drafty spots and seal them up with caulking or other appropriate material.
Take the Test
Not sure where you have air leaks? Hold a piece of toilet paper, or an incense stick, in front of your window and door frames. If the paper moves or the smoke shifts, you have identified a drafty area to seal up.
While curtains and shades certainly add to the interior design of your home, actually using them to keep cold drafts at bay is a valuable habit. Close the curtains in rooms at night, and keep them closed on particularly cold and windy days. If you have lightweight curtains, consider hanging heavier drapes in the winter to insulate windows and prevent heat loss.
Just like closing your window treatments to block out the cold, remember to open them on sunny days to take advantage of the free heat from the sun! Solar gain, even on cold winter days, can add free heat to the rooms in your house.
Dry winter air cannot hold heat as well as moist air. Keeping moisture in your house at an appropriate level (between 40 and 50 percent) goes a long way to making your room feel warmer. Investing in a humidifier is a great option to control the moisture levels in your living spaces. Just be sure to keep them clean as any mold buildup is very unhealthy to be breathing in.
Did you know that it was once customary to plant trees around homes very intentionally to conserve energy? Evergreen (coniferous) trees were planted on the northern side of houses to block cold winter winds, while foliage (deciduous) trees were planted on southern exposures to shade the house from summer heat, but provide open exposure to the sun to take advantage of solar gain during colder months. There’s no reason not to continue to employ this traditional ingenuity still!
Homeowners can see major improvements in the comfort of living spaces when unfinished attic spaces above rooms is insulated. Even if you have an older home and can’t accomplish the “ideal” R-factor for insulation, adding some is better than nothing! Roll out insulation between joists in the floor of unfinished spaces for an instant energy savings.
Did you know that your ceiling fan can be used to retain heat in a room, not just disperse it in summertime? Ceiling fans have a switch at the base to change the direction of the fan blades. Switch them to turn clockwise in winter to push the heat away from the ceiling and back down into your living space for a much toastier room.
Exhaust fans are very important to clear humid air from bathrooms after a shower, and free your kitchen of cooking fumes. However, running them longer than necessary will run up your heating bills. Those exhaust fans pull valuable heated air out of the room (and even the adjoining rooms) which wastes fuel. Additionally, they are pulling colder air in the room which then needs to be heated. Use your fans as needed, but be vigilant not to forget and leave them running longer than necessary.
Consider replacing your thermostat with a smart, programmable version. This way, you won’t have to remember to adjust the thermostat to lower temperatures while you are away at work or sleeping. Some “smart” versions even have an app for your phone so if you want to warm up the house while you are one your way home, it can take care of that for you.
One of the biggest energy consumers in any house is the hot water heater. Your tank style hot water heater runs 24/7 to keep water hot, accounting for around 10% of your monthly energy usage. Lower the setting to 120-degrees Fahrenheit instead of the standard 140-degree factory setting to save some energy. Also, wash clothes in warm or cold water, and don’t let the hot water run while you hand wash dishes. If you have a hot water heater older than 10 years, consider replacing it with a more energy efficient, preferably, one-demand tankless, version. You can save anywhere fro 24 – 35% on water heating costs!
The most obvious way to save on heating bills, yet commonly overlooked, action you can take to save money on winter heating costs is to have your furnace or boiler serviced every year to ensure that it’s working properly and as efficiently as possible. A heating system that needs service is not only dangerous, but it also runs far less efficiently than one in tip-top working order. For the cost of a couple hundred dollars, you can be saving big on fuel and repair expenses in the long run!