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.
Like it or not, winter is just 10 days away. If you haven’t already prepped your home for winter and freezing temps, there’s still time. Use our handy checklist to make sure you and your home are ready for winter weather:
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so the blades rotate clockwise. Keep on a low speed to push air down from the ceiling into your room.
- Have your furnace surfaced at the beginning of the season and make sure you change the filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Lower your thermostat or use a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.
- Remove window screens and install storm windows and doors, if you have them.
- Shut off exterior water sources and cover the faucets to prevent freezing.
- Insulate exposed pipes to prevent burst pipes.
- Insulate your hot water heater.
- Block drafts from doors and windows and seal cracks with door sweeps, door gaskets, calking and weather stripping.
- Have your chimney cleaned annually to decrease your risk of fire and buildup and residue.
- Remove any portable air conditioners and cover condensing units.
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and free of debris. This will be particularly helpful when the heavy rains come.
Everyone likes to save money, especially on expensive home-related projects. With these DIY home hacks, inspired by This Old House, you can save time, money and energy! Here are 10 of our favorite home hacks.
- Closing closet doors reduces the square footage your home must heat and cool. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $50 per year.
- Turn down the temperature on your hot water to 120 or 110 degrees. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $30 or more per year.
- Install a dimmer switch and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. It will cost about $10 per switch and $5 per bulb. Approximate savings: about $20 per fixture over 3 years.
- Use a microwave to make meals instead of your stove. A microwave consumes about half the power of a stove. Cost: $0. Savings: $40 or more per year.
- Insulate hot-water lines using pre-formed foam tubes. Cost: $0.29 to $0.35 per foot of insulation. Approximate savings: $50 per year on your energy bill.
- Put your computer to sleep. When you aren’t using your computer, put it in sleep mode manually or adjust the setting on your computer to do it automatically after 10 minutes. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: up to $75 per year off your electric bill. (Bonus tip: laptops use less energy than a desktop PC.)
- Plant deciduous (leafy) trees on the south, west or east side of your home. When the tree matures, it will provide natural shade and cooling for your home. Cost: $25 to $70, depending on the species and age of the tree you purchase. Approximate savings: $120 per year on cooling costs once the tree reaches maturity.
- Install ceiling fans in living areas (e.g., bedroom, living room, family room, etc.) A ceiling fan can help keep your home cool in the summer, but running it at low speed and clockwise can also help keep your home warmer in the winter. Cost: $30 to $300 at Home Depot. Approximate savings: up to $100 a year.
- Buy home-related products in the office season to get the best prices: firewood in the spring, grill, lawn furniture and lawn equipment in the fall, etc. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.
- Perform annual maintenance on your furnace and air conditioning unit, including professional maintenance and DIY maintenance like replacing furnace filters on schedule. Routine upkeep can help you save energy and money. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.
Thanks to Josh Garskof of This Old House magazine for these great DIY home hacks. See the original article for more ideas to save time, money and energy at home.
Watching the leaves from the window of my home office, I’m reminded that this is a good time to get my home ready for winter. Of course, I plan to have help with that (hint, hint, Merle), but here are some of the things on our fall home maintenance “to do” list:
- Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors with weather-stripping and caulk to save energy and preserve heat inside your home.
- Replace dirty furnace filters.
- Do a fall safety check by testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Check your roof for loose, damaged or missing shingles, leaky vents or other problems that could grow worse over the winter.
- Schedule a fall check-up for your furnace to be sure it’s ready when you need it.
- Have your fireplace cleaned and remove soot and other build-up, so it is safe for fall and winter use.
- Clean gutters and downspouts, so they won’t get clogged in the soggy months to come.
- Drain outside faucets and irrigation system, if you have one, to prevent pipes from leaking and freezing.
- Trim dead branches from trees to prevent them from falling and doing damage during storms.
- Rake fall leaves to use for compost or mulch.
By spending a little time and money now, we can be sure our home and its systems are ready for winter. Merle and I will be ready. Will you?
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.
Much to our surprise, the first winter storm of the year is upon us. Despite the weather predictions, I was skeptical! How about you?
Whether you were expecting snow and ice this early, it is necessary to make sure you’ve gotten your winter home maintenance tasks covered. Here are just a few “to dos” you’ll want to get to ASAP:
- Clean out your gutters to ensure proper drainage.
- Empty hoses, A/C lines, etc. to prevent freezing.
- Cap or weatherproof outdoor water spouts.
- Caulk and seal windows and doors to prevent leaking.
- Have your furnace and fireplace serviced.
- Change your furnace and HVAC air filters.
- Clean your kitchen’s exhaust hood and filter.