Baby, it’s cold outside: how to save energy and keep warm this winter

January 22, 2019

We hope your holidays were warm and bright—but let’s be real, for those in colder climates, the first months of the new year can be notoriously chilly. Plus, the great weakening of the Polar Vortex means cold air will likely stick around.

 So let’s talk about heating. Heating your home is an incredibly energy consuming task, and typically makes up around 35%-50% of your utility bill. Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can to do save energy and money while maximizing coziness. From five-minute fixes to easy DIY projects, here’s a list of ways to stay a little warmer and save some money as you begin the new year.

Five-minute fixes:         

  • Bundle up. Throw on a sweater, some cozy socks, and sweatpants to stay toasty and comfortable.
  • Make sure all your windows and doors are closed tightly. Keeping cold air out is a critical part of keeping it warm inside.
  • Take advantage of your windows—and your curtains, blinds, and shades. When it’s sunny out, open your window coverings to take advantage of the sun’s free warmth. But don’t forget to close them at night—when drawn, standard curtains can reduce a room’s heat loss by 10%. Insulated cellular shades help even more, reducing heat loss by 40% or more.
  • Enjoy your comfort food. Warm up with hot beverages like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Baking meals in your oven will also add ambient heat to your home. Leave the oven door open after you’re done to warm the kitchen.
  • Don’t forget your fireplace. Close your fireplace damper unless a fire is burning.

Easy DIY projects:

  • Check your doors. Large gaps between the bottom of your door and your floor can allow frigid air in from outside. Thankfully, there are many ways to close this gap and the chilly drafts it causes, such as a door sweep (which normally retails from your local hardware store for less than $20, and can be easily installed). Minimizing this air leakage will save energy all year long, whether you’re heating your house in the winter or cooling it in the summer.
  • Check your windows. If they’re leaking, you can seal them up with caulk using these tips from energy.gov.
  • Find your radiators. Look around to make sure they’re not being blocked by furniture or carpeting.
  • Taking a ski trip or a romantic Valentine’s getaway? Turn down the heat while you’re away.
  • Upgrade your windows. Twenty percent of energy is lost through windows, and you can make them more efficient. One way is weatherization, which involves window treatments for air sealing and insulating. Another way is using storm windows (interior or exterior), cellular shades, or window quilts.
  • Invest in heat-resistant radiator reflectors and place them between your radiator and your exterior walls.
  • Make sure everything’s clean and working well. Many elements of your home heating system require regular cleaning or check-ups.
    • Furnace filters need to be cleaned or replaced once a month (unless otherwise recommended).
    • Baseboard heaters, warm-air registers, and radiators all need to be cleaned to ensure they’re operating at peak performance.
    • Hot water radiators can trap air that needs to be eliminated once or twice per season. If you’re unsure how to do this, contact a professional.

Stay warm this winter! For more tips, visit the heating and cooling systems sections of smarterhouse.org.

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