Winter is raging in the Midwest. Temperatures have dropped below freezing, and snow is piling up at our doorsteps. If you’re like us, you’re huddling at home, trying to stay cozy and warm. But the more time you spend in your house, pumping the heat, the more your energy bill is rising.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, on average heating accounts for 45% of your annual energy use, making it the biggest drain on your energy bill. Unfortunately, much of the heat you’re buying escapes through leaky windows or ducts, leaving you wasting money, hurting the environment, and still shivering. Luckily, there are steps you can take to warm your home while lowering your energy use and alleviating the strain on your wallet and the environment.
When it comes to cutting your energy costs, it pays to be strategic. To avoid fixing one issue and then continuing to lose energy through other leaks, the Department of Energy recommends you plan a “whole-house” approach. Begin by locating all the areas in your house where you are losing heat through a home energy audit (also called a home energy assessment). You can hire a professional to perform the audit and recommend solutions. Call your electric company for an energy auditor referral.
If you prefer performing an informal audit yourself, you’ll need to check for air leaks, insulation insufficiencies, and faulty technology.
For air leaks, look around your:
One trick is to light a candle and bring it close to these areas. If the flame flickers horizontally, you’ve found a draft.
Next, you should check the insulation in your:
If any of the insulation is dirty or moldy, that means that air is moving through it, and it needs to be strengthened.
Finally, check your HVAC or furnace:
Now that you have identified the problem areas, you can choose an approach that targets each of your specific needs.
For sealing air leaks and adding insulation, you’ll need to weigh whether or not to hire a contractor or do it yourself. A contractor can do the job quickly and easily, but if your space is safe, your balance is in good shape, and you enjoy tackling home improvement projects, these challenges may be exciting to you.
You’ve got some pesky drafts, but how do you stop them? Start simply by making sure your doors and windows are closed tightly and the fireplace damper is shut. A low maintenance fix for door drafts is to use a door draft stopper to block the air flow. For a more permanent and universal solution, caulk or weather strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. You can also use low-expansion spray foam made especially for sealing leaks.
Heat is often lost around ducts, especially in uninsulated areas like attics, basements, and garages. Use foil tape or mastic sealant to keep heat from escaping. Wrap vent ducts in foil-faced fiberglass insulation to reduce heat loss. Check out the Energy Department's tips on minor duct repairs.
How much insulation you need depends on the climate you live in and the location of the insulation in your home. The degree of insulation is called the “R-value.” To find out what R-value your home calls for, visit the Department of Energy Zip Code Insulation Calculator.
Once you know how much more insulation is required, you can choose between the four types of insulation: rolls and batts (or blankets), rigid foam, and either loose-fill or foam-in-place blow-in material. Energy Star has advice on which insulation to use for your specific project and how to install it effectively.
You’ve tuned up your HVAC, sealed your air leaks, and increased your insulation, but your energy bill is still too high. Try out these easy interventions to focus your energy usage and optimize your heat:
A smart thermostat connects your heating/cooling system to the internet so you can control it using an app on your phone or tablet. Not only can you easily adjust the temperature without having to get up from your seat, but you can also set a schedule so that you don’t waste money and energy heating the house while you’re running errands. A simple programmable thermostat will also do the trick.
Every room doesn’t need to be as toasty as your living room. If your heat is on, try closing off unused rooms and shutting their vents to consolidate heat in the rooms you frequent. For extra savings, turn down your heat and use space heaters in isolated rooms to keep them at a comfortable temperature.
Regardless of the actual temperature of the room, humid air feels warmer than dry air. Turning on a humidifier can increase your comfort without adding to your heating bill.
When winter rolls in, reverse your ceiling fans by flicking a small switch at the base. The fan will now pull air upward so that the warm air stuck near the ceiling is forced to return back down to the floor. A slow fan speed will keep the warm air moving without creating an uncomfortable draft.
Take advantage of the little bit of sun coming through your windows each day by keeping your blinds raised and your curtains open during the daylight to warm your space. When it gets dark, close them again to insulate your home.
Not only will warm food heat you up, but the oven warms the air in the kitchen as well. When you turn the oven off, leave the door a bit open so the hot air can escape.
Many utility companies offer a reduced rate to people over the age of 65. These savings add up over time, so call your heating company to inquire!
Here at Truehold, we know that home ownership takes A LOT of work. Not to mention money! We’re here to alleviate the physical and financial strains of homeownership so that you can live comfortably in your home for as long as you like.
Through our Sale-Leaseback, we purchase your home for 100% of its value, and you get to stay as long as you like while paying a monthly rent. Rent covers property taxes, home insurance, and home maintenance (like weather proofing your home!).
Interested in learning more? Request a free info kit below or give our Truehold Advisors a call at (314) 353-9757.