Each winter, millions of Americans try to find their “heating sweet spot” – that perfect intersection where you’re not sporting a parka in your home for warmth, and you’re also happy with your monthly energy bill.
Err on one side, and you can binge-watch your favorite Netflix series in shorts and a T-shirt. Pull back too much on the heat to save money and you end up resenting the winter season. Use the 7 simple and smart tips below, and you’ll get to the point where your home and your wallet are both comfortable.
1. Stop heating unused spaces
Are you heating spaces in your home that you barely use (if at all)? Before our son was born, we rarely ventured to the second floor of our home. Our home came with two furnaces, and so we simply turned the heat off on the second floor.
Understand that heat rises, which means our downstairs furnace was taxed more than if we had both of them blowing and going. However, we still felt comfortable in the main areas of the house, and we were able to shave a significant amount of money off of our heating bill.
Another way to do this is to quarantine off the rooms that you don’t use during the coldest winter months. Just shut the vents inside of the room and shut the door.
2. Get snuggly at night
Did you know that humans sleep most comfortably in 65-degree temperatures? I tend to run a bit cold, myself, so I wouldn’t personally take our home down to 65 degrees at night. But I also know I don’t sleep well when it’s too warm.
We drop our home by a few degrees at night and opt for thick, winter blankets instead. Use this information to program your thermostat for a lower temperature at night, and then to start heating up a few degrees right before your alarm goes off in the morning.
3. Get a water heater blanket
It turns out that your water heater uses up more energy in the winter than it does in the summer. This is because the outside temperatures are colder, and unless you have your water heater insulated, it’ll take more energy to heat your water to the same degree.
This is especially true if your water heater tank is in an area that’s not temperature-controlled, like the garage or the attic. By adding a water heater blanket, you can stop your water heater from adding to your winter energy bills.
4. Plug the leaks in your air ducts
Several years ago, we had a free air duct audit from our electricity company. Not only were there several holes in our air duct leaking cold and hot air into the attic (depending on the season), but part of the air duct was unattached from the unit. That was very revealing! If you live in an older house or have an older system, then you definitely should take the time to find and tape over any leaks in your exposed air duct system.
5. Change your air filters
Routinely changing your system’s air filter is important for two reasons. First, it makes the system more efficient – think about it, if there’s a bunch of dust and dirt on the filter, then not all of your warm air is getting through. Secondly, because it’s less taxing on the machine. If your furnace has to work harder to pump out air through a bad filter, then it won’t last as long. And I can tell you from experience that replacing a furnace is not cheap.
6. Dress appropriately for the season
My father is going to chuckle when he reads this one because his mantra during my childhood in our very drafty, 150-year old farmhouse was to “put on socks.” And it’s true – for some reason, I just never dressed appropriately for the winter inside our house (even though I dressed for winter whenever I left our home).
You can be comfortable with turning your thermostat down a degree or two if you actually dress for it. This means wearing winter socks, putting a thermal shirt under your shirt, even wearing leggings under your jeans.
7. Consider the placement of your thermostat
It turns out that where your thermostat is installed matters when it comes to your heating bill. You don’t want your thermostat located on a wall that gets exposed to extreme temperatures – either cold or hot. In general, you want to place your thermostat on an internal wall that isn’t right near a vent.
It’s not that hard
The fact is, you don’t have to sacrifice a lot – comfort-wise or financially – to enjoy the cold weather. Set yourself up for the colder months by making just a few tweaks from the suggestions above.
–Amanda L. Grossman