As we entering into January and February, the coldest months of the year for us mid-westerners, here are a few simple ideas to more efficiently use your energy and warm your home on the coldest day.
~Buy a programmable thermostat. This allows you to set different temperatures for various parts of the day. Set the temperature as you wish for the hours you are most active in your home, whether that is during the day when you are home with the kids or the evenings when you are home from work. During the secondary hours, your home does not need to be kept to such a high temperature. By reducing the set temperature in your by 10-15% when you are gone all day at work or when you are sleeping reduces how much your furnace needs to run. This should reduce the amount of utilities you use and your monthly gas or electric bill.
~Place an insulator blanket on your water heater. This will keep the unit warmer in cooler places such as the basement or garages, where the water heater is usually located.
~Keep the area around your water heater and furnace clear and free of debris to allow air to flow freely in and around the units.
~Check the dampers on your furnace (or duct work) to make sure it is set to the winter position. In certain homes, there are different air return percentages set for winter and summer conditions.
~Set your return vents for winter conditions as well. In new homes, there are high and low air return vents located throughout your home. In the winter only the low returns need to be open. This pulls the cooler air that rests at floor level out of the room. If your upper vents do not have an option to close them that is fine, just make sure the low return vents are open. Older homes may only have the lower return vents.
~Inspect your home for air leakage around windows, doors, and electrical sockets. Use caulk or weather stripping where possible. On windows where weather stripping is not an efficient application, purchase window insulator kits (can be found at any local hardware store). These kits are very inexpensive and take just a little time to apply. They are much like plastic wrap for your windows and while this may seem simple, it works very well to fix drafty windows.
~Heavy curtains or shades on windows add extra insulation and air barrier between the cool glass and the rooms of your home. Open shades only when natural sunlight is desire and the sun is on that part of the home. Close shades when the sun leaves that part of the home to allow the shades to work as added insulation.
~Use your fireplace (if you have one) to add warmth to your home. Especially if your fireplace is wood burning, it will heat that space without using added utilities as well as give a welcoming atmosphere to the room.
~Invest in a small space heater that can localize heat to a single room or area. I will be posting more detailed information on different space heater options later this month, so check back.
~At this point it is a little too late to re-insulate your home, but while it is cooler outside, inspect your wall temperature. Areas that seem extremely cold, probably lack insulation. I would recommend contacting your local contractor to get a price to re-insulate your exterior walls and possibly your attic/roof before next winter. Proper insulation makes the biggest difference in the warmth of your home.