Heating expenses can get out of hand in the winter months, especially if your home has hidden leaks or large spaces to keep warm. While you can’t avoid the dreaded utility bills, you can lessen the load on your HVAC system and your wallet by making small or moderate improvements—whatever you can manage helps. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your energy use and expenses in check while keeping everyone in your home happy.
Cover the Floors
Sleek hardwood floors and stained concrete are coveted flooring options these days, but unless you pair them with radiant heating, they don’t do much to keep your house warm in the winter. Thankfully, area rugs do more than add a dash of color and style to a room. They trap cool air on the floor, which means it doesn’t rise and fight with the warm air delivered from your vents. Cushy throw rugs also feel much cozier under bare feet than hard flooring.
Use the Sun to Your Advantage
In the midst of managing your central heating system, you may forget there’s a free heating system that shines right into your home. Open the drapes and curtains to let in natural sunlight, and make sure to clean your windows thoroughly to let in even more sunlight.
Retrofit Your Furnace or Boiler
Just because your current furnace isn’t the most efficient heating device on the market doesn’t mean you’re trapped in a corner and have to replace it. You can retrofit your current furnace or boiler in order to improve its functionality. Common retrofits include a vent damper that closes off a boiler vent that’s not firing, an intermittent ignition device, and derating gas burners to decrease fuel use. Many older models could benefit from these upgrades, but make sure to carefully compare the costs of retrofitting versus investing in a new and more efficient heating system.
If it is time to upgrade your entire heating system, consider installing a heat pump. Rather than generating its own heat, a heat pump exchanges cold and warm air between your house and an outside source. This make it more efficient, more stable, and less expensive.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Updating or replacing your heating system is a pretty major upgrade. Thankfully, there’s a much smaller improvement that can make a big difference. If you leave the heat on full blast while you’re at work or sleeping, you’re wasting precious energy. With an older thermostat, however, you may have no choice in the matter. Upgrade to a programmable thermostat so that you can heat your home according to a schedule that works for you. Go the extra miles by installing a smart thermostat, which learns from your habits and routines to create personalized settings. It can also be controlled remotely via your devices.
You can save 5 to 15 percent per year on heating costs by turning down the temperature while you’re away or sleeping. A programmable thermostat ensures that you don’t forget to take advantage of this savings opportunity.
Maintain Your Heating System
While it may not seem like a big step, following your heating system’s maintenance guidelines can reduce your energy use and help it heat more effectively. Change or clean your furnace filters once a month or as often as your system requires. This will also help you avoid expensive repairs.
Improve Insulation and Seal Leaks
Your heating system works hard to keep your home comfortable. Don’t make it work harder by letting warm air seep out of hidden leaks. Check your ducts for holes and repair where necessary. Add insulation in your attic. Make sure to seal off gaps around windows and doors effectively, and consider applying low-emissivity window film that will stop the transfer of heat that causes heat loss in the winter. Caulking and weatherstripping are both cost-effective ways to close off small openings. If you make these improvements and still feel like you’re throwing money into heating your home, get a home energy audit so that you can identify problem areas.
Other helpful tips include:
- Using space heaters. This is great for heating small areas where you spend much of your time, such as the couch while you’re relaxing at night or your desk if you work at home during the day. These can be dangerous fire hazards, however, so make sure they’re only turned on when you’re in the room, and that they’re not obstructed.
- Keep the flue in your fireplace closed to prevent warm air escaping.
- Don’t block vents with furniture.
Learn more about heating repair and installation so that you can be sure which options are best for your home.