The United States Department of Energy predicts that the average family using natural gas for heating will spend $649 keeping their homes warm this winter. Though utility costs vary greatly depending on a home’s size, climate, energy choice, insulation, etc., there are several easy, minimal-cost home maintenance projects you can do to keep your expenses down this winter.
Replacing Worn Weatherstripping
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of your home’s energy bills seep through your doors and windows in the wintertime. Cut down on drafts by weatherstripping around doors and caulking windows. Different weatherstripping materials work best for certain doors and windows – click here for a fundamental guide to weatherstripping.
You can also lessen drafts by adjusting your door thresholds. If you can see light under your exterior doors, you are losing indoor air. If your threshold has screws, adjust the threshold until you can no longer see light coming through the bottom of the door – but don’t raise it so high that it interferes with opening and closing the door.
Give Your Furnace Some TLC
Having an HVAC professional take a look at your heating system can do wonders for your wallet and your system’s efficiency. Though a tune-up can cost $75 to $100, soot buildup, dusty or poorly lubricated fans, faulty pilot lights and loose fan belts can add hundreds to your heating bill each year.
Maximize Fireplace Efficiency
If you have a fireplace, put it to (proper) use. Follow these steps to maximize your fireplace’s efficiency:
- Keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning – an open damper is like an open window.
- Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and push warm air back into the room.
- Hire a chimney sweep to inspect your fireplace and chimney, preferably before the heating season. They will be able to spot and fix any efficiency and safety issues your chimney may have.
- If you do not have dampers in the bottom of the firebox, open the nearest window slightly – approximately one inch – when the fireplace is in use. Close doors leading to the room to maximize heat production.
On another note, if you have a chimney and prefer not to use it, plug and seal the chimney flue to prevent heat loss.
Invest in Your Windows
As much as we all would like to replace our older windows, they are a significant financial investment. Luckily there are things you can do to make sure your air isn’t going straight out the window.
- Apply window film. You’ll find materials to do this in any home improvement store. The translucent film reduces heat loss by up to 40 percent during the winter and reflects the sun’s heat during the summer.
- Install window treatments. Tight-fitting, insulating drapes can cut down on window drafts.
- Let the sun in. Open your blinds, drapes, etc. on south –facing windows during the daytime to allow the sun to naturally heat your home.
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
According to the Department of Energy, you can reduce your heating and cooling needs by 30 percent simply by adding a few hundred dollars worth of new insulation, granted your home is in need to begin with. Homes more than 25 years old typically have an issue with proper insulation as building codes were not as mindful of energy efficiency.
Homeowners tend to focus on attic insulation, which should be at least 11 inches deep for fiberglass or rock wool insulation, but don’t ignore your levels in crawl spaces, ceilings, basement walls, and recessed lighting.
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