It was so nice to have a white Christmas for the first time in many years. However, along with snow comes cold temps. If your home isn’t properly winterized, that can mean big heating bills. Here are six ways to save money while staying warm this winter:
- Close the flue when not using your fireplace. Warm air from your home can escape from your fireplace when it isn’t in use. When not using it, close the flue and consider reducing how often you use the fireplace. If you can’t resist a roaring fire, install glass fireplace doors to keep the warm air inside.
- Reduce drafts by installing door sweeps on exterior doors to keep the cold air from seeping in. Also, keep interior doors to unused rooms closed, like the guest room that rarely gets used.
- Seal windows with plastic film. Companies like 3M make window film kits to help you seal your windows from the inside. They are inexpensive and easy to install and could help cut your heating cuts this winter.
- Window treatments like wood blinds and insulated curtains can make a big difference in keeping the cold air out. Just remember to open them during the day to let the sunlight warm your home naturally.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat on a lower temperature when you’re away from home or asleep at night, saving those toasty warm temps for when your family is home and active.
- Keep heating ducts, vents and registers free from obstacles. To make sure forced air can circulate properly throughout each room, make sure heating ducts, vents and registers are not blocked by furniture. Not only will this keep your home warmer, but it can prevent a possible fire.
After the holidays, and as we start the new year, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Here some ways you can do that by also saving energy and water.
- Cover your water heater. Water heaters have to exert a lot of energy to heat the water in the tank, especially for larger water heaters. Invest in a water heater blanket for insulation and to conserve energy.
- Use low-flow fixtures. The kitchen and bathroom are typically where the majority of water in your home is used. By replacing faucets and showerheads with a low flow version, you will save water and money, and new fixtures are easy to install. Also, consider a Water Sense rated dishwater and washing machine for additional savings.
- Upgrade your toilet. If you have an older toilet (installed before 1992), it could be using twice as much water per flush than a newer model which wastes both water and money. Try a low-flush model that uses less water per flush.
- Inspect your dishwasher, washing machine and water heater regularly. These three appliances use a lot of water and energy, so it is important that they are maintained properly. Clean them regularly, check for leaks and fix any potential problems before they become costly ones. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the average life span of each appliance, so you’ll have a good idea of when they’ll need to be replaced, and budget accordingly.
- Turn off the tap. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Turn the water on when you’re ready to rinse.
- Go to the car wash. Rather than washing your car in the driveway, take it to the car wash instead. This will not only save water, but if you choose a car wash that recycles water, you are helping to protect the environment too.
- Install a rain garden. Rain gardens are a great way to conserve and recycle water at home while protecting the environment from pollutants and rain runoff. Learn more about creating a rain garden at 12,000 Rain Gardens.
- Take shorter, less frequent showers. Showers can use as much as 5 gallons per minute, so shorter showers and/or less frequent showers can make a big difference on your monthly water bill.
- Reduce the size of your lawn. By reducing your lawn’s footprint, you may be able to save water. You could install landscaping features, stone, a low-water garden or even a rain garden to cut back on the amount of watering needed to maintain your outdoor space.
- Minimize water use when washing dishes by hand. If you’re washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Instead, fill one side of the sink or a wash basin for washing and a second one for rinsing.
Sources: Roto Rooter, Care2 and WaterUseItWisely.
Make sure your home is ready for fall weather with this handy fall home maintenance checklist:
Home Interior Fall Maintenance Tips
- Replace furnace filters and have your furnace and fireplace serviced before you need them.
- Do a fall safety check by testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries. Safety experts recommend you do this when the time changes twice a year, so you don’t forget.
- Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors in your home and basement with caulking or weather stripping. This will save energy and preserve heat in your home during the colder months.
- Check the weather stripping around your garage door.
- Reverse the direction of any ceiling fans so there is an upward draft. This will help redistribute heat that rises to the ceiling.
- Store portable air conditioning units and clean and cover central air units.
- Clean your humidifiers throughout the season to keep them free of bacteria and other germs.
Home Exterior Fall Maintenance Tips
- Drain outside faucets and hoses, and do any repairs or maintenance to sprinkler systems.
- Clean gutters and downspouts, so they can handle the fall rain without getting clogged. If you have old or damaged gutters, make repairs or replacements as soon as possible. New models have built-in leaf guards which will save you from hours of labor and your home from clogged gutters in the future.
- Where possible, direct drainage away from the home. Consider a rain garden to improve drainage on your property while also protecting our waterways from pollution.
- Check the exterior of your home, garage, shed and any other outbuildings for peeling or blistering paint. Make repairs or repaint in try weather. We recommend hiring a professional painter because this can be a time-consuming task.
- Have your roof inspected for loose, damaged or missing shingles. Harsh fall storms and winter weather can compound any existing problems, so it is better to make repairs as soon as possible.
- Do fall lawn maintenance including preparing your lawn and gardens for winter, trimming back trees and bushes that could get damaged by fall and winter winds, and rake autumn leaves which you can then use for compost or mulch. Fertilize your lawn for spring.
- Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks. Make any necessary repairs.
- Drain fuel from gas-powered lawn equipment like leaf blowers, lawn mowers, edgers and chain saws.
- Clean and store patio, porch and deck furniture.
Yes, this seems like a lot of work, but preventative maintenance can save homeowners time and money down the road. And remember – you don’t have to do it yourself. There are plenty of highly skilled contractors throughout the Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Auburn and Renton area. If you need recommendations, let us know. Team Marti can offer suggestions!
Save money and energy at home with these 10 tips:
- Install ceiling fans (e.g., dining room, bedrooms, living areas, office, etc.) Ceiling fans are an attractive, affordable, low-energy way to keep air moving. This can save you from adjusting your thermostat a few degrees either way in the warmer and cooler months.
- Use a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to schedule automatic increases and decreases in your home’s temperature, like lowering the heat in the winter when you’ll be gone during the day. Installation and use are pretty simple. Do some research online to find the model that best meets your needs and budget.
- Check toilets and under-sink plumbing for potential leaks or if the toilet sounds like it is constantly running – which can cost you big bucks. You can find online guides to help you with simple fixes. For more complicated issues, consult a trusted plumber. Remember the sound of dripping is also money dripping away!
- Buy energy efficient appliances. While you’ll have to front the cost when you purchase the appliance, you’ll notice a difference in your energy bills right away. An energy efficient fridge could last you up to 20 years with proper care, while an older model could bite the dust seven years in.
- Change your lightbulbs. LED and CFL bulbs can save you some serious money. Not only do they have a long life, they save on energy costs too. While CFL bulbs tend to be cheaper, LED bulbs are better in terms of performance, and have come down in cost in the past few years.
- Use a power strip. Plug electronics into a power strip, then save energy by turning the strip off when you aren’t using those items.
- Replace your computer with a laptop. If you don’t need a heavy duty computer at home, buy a laptop instead. It uses less energy. When you’re not using it, turn it off or put it in sleep or hibernate mode.
- Eliminate “hot spots.” Progress-Energy.com says you can eliminate hot spots at home by using high-performance windows, solar window screens and qualified window films.
- Cover bare floors. Install carpeting or area rugs to help your home retain heat in the cooler months.
- Buy an energy-efficient heat pump. You can dramatically reduce your heating costs with an energy-efficient heat pump. Some companies will even offer rebates, so shop online to find discounts and deals.
Homebuyers are interested in energy efficient homes, so these changes can save you money now and make you money later!
Last fall we wrote a post about some of the fun ways the Internet of Things (IoT) can make your home more efficient and, well, intelligent. Here are some more ways your home can make your life a little easier, inspired by recent issues of Dwell and Sunset magazines.
Smart door locks – Did you know that you can open your front door without a key? Companies like Kwikset have been around for a while, but CANDY HOUSE is new to the market and is taking the Kickstarter world by storm with its new product, Sesame, an instant smart lock. You can lock or unlock your home remotely, create your own secret knock to open the door, and grant access to guests. You can even monitor who opens and closes the door and be notified whenever there is an unauthorized entry.
Home technology management – With products like Iris, you can manage your home’s security system, turn lights on and off, lock doors, monitor motion detectors in your home, and more. You’ll need to purchase a starter kit, which starts at $179 and then use either the basic service plan which is free or the premium plan which is $9.99 a month. See Lowe’s online for details and comparisons. Another option is Wink Relay, a wall-mounted touch screen that controls a variety of products, starting at $300.
Home security systems – From motion detection to video monitoring, you can secure your house whether you are home or away. Popular options include Canary and Dropcam by Nest, but there are many options available. For further security, check out Piper which has a 105-decibel siren that goes off while you are away or on vacation.
Other smart home tools – You can also equip your home with smart audio for stereo sound throughout your home, smart appliances including refrigerators, and tools to manage your thermostat, lighting, small appliances and lawn watering. Search online for Home Automation and Smart Home Technology or check out online stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.
The temperature is dropping, so your thermostat is rising. That means your energy bill could also be rising. Here are some tips to stay cozy while keeping a little extra money in your pocket!
1. Keep your house cooler while you’re away from home. Lower the temperature when you know you’re going to be out of the house for extended periods of time—work, running errands, visiting the family for Thanksgiving or the holidays. Heating the house can make up about half of your electric bill. The ideal temperature is about 68 degrees.
2. Make sure there aren’t any door jambs or cracks that could allow cold air to enter your home. That’s like throwing money out the window!
3. Routine maintenance. If your heating system is well maintained, it will run more efficiently. While a routine check-up of your system can cost you a little more now, it can save you 3 to 10% on your bill. And don’t forget to change those furnace filters.
4. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs. Each bulb you replace with a lower wattage can help save you money. Switching from 150-watt bulbs to 75-watt bulbs will cut electricity used in half.
Have a favorite energy saving tip? Share it in the comments section. I’d love to hear your ideas!
As the temperatures drop this fall, energy and water bills are likely to go up. Here are some ways to save energy at home to offset those higher bills.
- Install a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the heat at night and when you’re away from home.
- Lower the temperature on your hot water heater to 120° F.
- Insulate your hot water heater, but be sure not to cover the thermostat.
- Air dry dishes instead of using the heated drying cycle in your dishwasher.
- Change to low-flow showerheads in your home.
- Plug electronics into a power strip and turn off the power strip when items like TVs, stereos and computers are not in use.
- Purchase appliances, light bulbs and other home products with the ENERGY STAR® label.
- Seal leaks around doors and windows with caulking and weather stripping.
- Add insulation to your attic, including the attic door or opening.
- Remember to clean or replace furnace filters monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer.
For more energy-saving ideas like these, refer to this Energy Saving Guide or visit EnergySaver.gov.
Seattle Furnace reminds us that dirty filters are the #1 cause of damage to your furnace. Be sure to check your filter to insure it is clean before turning on your furnace for the winter.
Through October, Seattle Furnace is running a General Maintenance special for $99 on gas and electric furnaces.
Seattle Furnace: 425-398-8389
Whether we are in the middle of winter or experiencing a cool spring, it is important to be sure that your home’s heating system is functioning at an optimal level. This not only keeps your family warm and comfortable, but it can also save money in energy bills. Here are some heating repair & maintenance tips from American Home Shield:
- Check filters every month and change as needed. Refer to your furnace’s owner’s guide for manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Smell around the furnace for gas odors.
- Visually inspect the exhaust vent for damage, deterioration and rust.
- Schedule an annual maintenance service prior to the cold months (mid-fall for the Pacific Northwest).
No heat? Rooms are tool cold? Blower sounds strange? Check out American Home Shield’s heating system quick fixes here.
Burst pipes, astronomical heating bills and drafty doors and windows can make for a long and miserable winter, even in the Pacific Northwest. Though our winters are milder than much of the country, there are still some preventative measures we can take to ensure that we remain comfortable throughout the season and save money in the process.
- Use a programmable thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature and lower heating bills. Lower your home’s temperature any time you’ll be asleep or away from home more than a few hours.
- Reduce air leaks and drafts by adding insulation to walls, crawl spaces and even floors. Caulk windows, replace weather stripping, install storm windows and/or cover windows in plastic to reduce energy loss and keep your home warmer.
- Install glass doors on your fireplace to keep warm air inside.
- If you have ceiling fans, reverse them to go clockwise. The fan will push warm air downward instead of drawing it up toward the ceiling.
- Change your furnace filters monthly, according to manufacturer specifications.
- Disconnect your outdoor hose, shut off the water valve, drain the spigot and cover it with a Styrofoam cover.
For more helpful tips, read the full article by Katy Read and Christy Desmith at HouseLogic.com.