Winter energy bills can really strain a household budget. The lights are on longer because of shorter days; there are fewer nice days when you can turn off the heat and open the windows; and most activities, like cooking and staying entertained, are conducted indoors, so TVs and computers may be on longer. Anyway you look at it, winter is a costly season when it concerns energy. The more energy-saving tips you put to use, the more you can save. Before Mother Nature turns cold, make these small changes to see a big difference in your energy bills this winter.
Maintain the Comfort Systems
The systems that keep you comfortable in the cold – the furnace, ductwork, water heater and fireplaces – use the most energy in your home. Heating accounts for 50 percent of your winter utility bills and heating water accounts for between 18 and 25 percent of your annual utilities. Follow these energy-saving tips for maintaining these systems to reduce your winter bills.
- Schedule annual maintenance on your heating system to increase efficiency, prevent breakdowns, and extend its operating life.
- Stock up on air filters. Check your filter each month, and when you can’t see the white material behind the dust, replace it to ensure proper airflow, prevent dust from entering the system, and maintain indoor air quality.
- Seal loose duct joints to prevent warm air from leaking into unconditioned areas.
- Insulate ducts in the attic, crawl space and other unconditioned spaces to keep the air inside warm and to prevent condensation from causing water damage.
- Keep obstructions away from the return and supply registers to ensure optimum airflow and efficient heating.
- Lower the thermostat on the water heater to 120 degrees, which is sufficient for most household uses and will save energy. Hotter water increases the sediment buildup in your tank and poses a risk for scalding.
- Insulate the water heater tank and exposed hot and cold water pipes to save up to 9 percent on your water heating bills. (Newer storage-tank water heaters usually come pre-insulated.)
- Install low-flow fixtures in your bathrooms and kitchen to save hot water and lower your water bills.
Air Seal and Insulate
No matter how efficient your heating system, air leaks will make it work harder and consume more energy to compensate for the infiltration of cold air and the loss of warm air.
- Apply caulk around the windows and doors where the frames meet the wall.
- Apply weatherstripping between the movable components of windows and doors.
- Install plastic around older windows that are particularly drafty, or consider replacing them with energy-efficient windows.
- Install door sweeps on the bottoms of all exterior doors.
- Install pre-cut insulating gaskets behind outlet and light switch plates situated on exterior walls.
- Seal around service entrances, pipes and vents that protrude through exterior walls.
- Shore up attic insulation to 12 to 15 inches of R-38 batts.
Stay Warm at Lower Thermostat Settings
A tight home and efficient ductwork ensure better heating at lower thermostat settings.
- Keep the thermostat set to 68 degrees when you’re home.
- Lower the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day to save substantially on your winter heating costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat to automate your thermostat settings and save even more.
- Reverse the direction of the blades of your ceiling fans by flipping the switch at the top. Keep the fans on the lowest setting to push warm air near the ceiling downward and into the corners of your rooms.
- Invest in a good pair of thermal underwear to keep you warm when you’re at home. Wear thick socks and a thin knit hat to stay even warmer.
- Keep the south- and west-facing window shades open during the day to take advantage of solar heat gain. Close all of your window shades when the sun goes down to add an extra layer of insulation.
Turning off lights that aren’t in use is a good way to save on electricity, but these energy-saving tips for lighting will help you save even more.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, which last up to six times longer and use a staggering 75 percent less electricity.
- Put outdoor lights on motion detectors or timers so they’re only on when it’s dark outside.
- Replace outdoor bulbs with halogen lamps, which use 40 percent less energy.
For more expert energy-saving tips to reduce your expenses this winter, please feel free to contact us in the Dalhart, Straford or Dumas areas at Winkelman Heating & Air Conditioning.
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