The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac was recently published, and though the outlook for this winter is expected to be pretty mild in most of the United States, much of the north could see colder temperatures and/or more snowy conditions. However, while the weather is still nice, here are 12 steps you can take to ensure you save energy and money while staying warm:
- Thermostat schedules: The most obvious way to save money on energy costs during the winter is to properly manage your thermostat. If your home is empty during the day, it only needs minimal heating. When everyone is asleep, the temperature can be lower than it is during waking hours. A programmable thermostat is one of the best investments you can make for your home, and with new technology, baseline models can be found for less than $40. Higher-end models offer Wi-Fi features for hassle-free automation.
- Check your insulation: It’s a simple project that can mean huge savings! Head up to the attic and take a look at your insulation. Because heat rises, you could be spending a fortune keeping your attic warm in the winter if you have minimal insulation, if it has deteriorated, or if you have gaps. A good rule of thumb is to check your ceiling joists. If you can see them, you need more insulation.
- Inspect windows for cracks and gaps: Cold air can seep through closed windows from gaps, cracked or deteriorated caulking around the frame, and cracked glass. Storm windows are an excellent investment that will save you money on heating costs, but if you are on a budget, consider recaulking and weatherstripping the windows.
- Drain outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to avoid frozen and burst pipes. There are multiple ways to do this, depending on the type of system you have. The two most common are the Drain Valve method and the Blow Out method. It’s recommended to hire a professional to perform this work, but do-it-yourselfers can find plenty of resources online with step-by-step processes. It’s also a good idea to wrap any outside faucets to protect against winter freeze.
- Replace the air filter in your furnace: A dirty air filter slows down air flow, causing your furnace to use up more energy to heat your home.
- Install foam-insulating sheets or gaskets behind exterior wall outlets and switch plates: this traps exterior cold air and keeps it from leaking into your home.
- Reverse fan flow: Most ceiling fans have a reverse (or clockwise) position for winter use. The reversed airflow pushes the warmer air, which rises to the ceiling, down the walls, and into the room. This process can reduce heating costs by better dispersing the warm air already in the home.
- Flush the hot water heater tank: Sediment from your household water can settle at the bottom of a water heater and accumulate. This affects the heater’s efficiency, which can lead to increased energy bills and possible damage. There are multiple resources online which outline the steps to drain and flush a hot water heater.
- Door drapes and door sweeps: Heat escapes from your home and cold air seeps in through the hairline cracks between a door and its frame. Weatherstripping your door or installing a storm door is the best way to combat the drafts; however, a simple, cost-effective method is to hang fabric over the door to block the access. Place towels or other fabric blockades at the base of the door to keep drafts from underneath, and if it is a door that is not regularly used, consider taping it shut for a better seal.
- Close the air vents in unused rooms: This saves you money by not continuously heating rooms that are not in use.
- Let sunlight in during the day: Even when it’s cold, the sun radiates heat through windows, warming your house. Keep your window coverings open to sunshine, but don’t forget to close them once the sun’s rays have moved.
- Thick socks: Did you know that cold enters your body very easily through your feet? Warm socks are an excellent way to stay warm in the winter without cranking up your thermostat.
Bonus tip… … take a trip to the store now to pick up salt or ice melt. Beat the inevitable rush when the first snow storm hits! Keep a bag at home and a bag in your car trunk in case you get stuck on the road. Then pull out the sweaters and blankets, and you’ll be ready for whatever winter brings!