Take the Heat Down A Notch
Each degree you lower your thermostat for a period of at least eight hours — say, when you’re asleep or at work — can make your heating bill 1 percent cheaper, the Energy Department estimates. This doesn’t mean you have to freeze at night. Try throwing on warmer pajamas or snuggling under an extra blanket.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Afraid you won’t remember to turn down the heat before you go to bed or leave the house? A programmable thermostat controls the temperature 24/7. Resist the temptation to mess with the settings when you get chilly, lest you eat into the savings. Grab a sweater instead.
You can save as much as 30 percent on energy bills by covering up drafty windows and doors and sealing air leaks, according to the Department of Energy. A rolled-up towel is an easy and cheap way to stop a draft. You can also fill a scrap of fabric or an old necktie with sand to create a sturdier seal. Temporarily cover up windows with insulating plastic, which helps keep heat in. Drafts can affect the thermostat reading, too, so these simple fixes may solve more than one winter energy challenge.
Install Storm Doors and Windows
This is a more permanent way to cut down on drafts that enter the house through inefficient doors and windows. The home improvement site Improve Net alleges this project can increase your home’s energy efficiency by 45 percent and lays out the costs, pros, and cons.
Change Furnace Filters
Dirty furnace filters can restrict airflow, making the heating system work harder, which in turn can boost your bill. Filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly during the cold season. Keeping tabs on the furnace filter can also reduce medical bills. The more efficient the filter, the more allergens and debris it will catch and prevent from circulating in the air.
Run Fans in Reverse
Did you know that changing the direction of a ceiling fan could shave as much as 10 percent off your heating bill? Good Housekeeping explains that flipping a switch on the fan turns the traditional counterclockwise rotation that produces a cool breeze to a clockwise rotation that pushes the warm air back into circulation.
Turn Down the Water Heater
The Simple Dollar points out that the standard setting for a hot water heater is 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can lower energy costs 6 to 10 percent by lowering the temperature to 120 degrees, which is still plenty warm. Other options, such as a tankless or solar water heater, can reduce the cost of heating water even more but require an initial investment of at least several hundred dollars.
Keep Maintenance in Mind
Just like any other major appliance, a furnace needs regular tune-ups. Keeping it clean and properly adjusted helps it run efficiently and prolongs its lifespan. Check with your utility company or furnace manufacturer — many offer free annual inspections. And plan ahead, because you won’t be the only one calling for a technician as the weather turns colder.
Use Caulk and Weather-stripping
Windows and doors aren’t the only spots where warm air leaks out of the house. Keep an eye out for places where two types of building materials meet — corners, chimneys, and around pipes and wires. These energy suckers can be plugged up with caulk and weather stripping. To test for leaks, wave a stick of incense around the house and note the areas where the smoke wafts. You can also have someone walk around the outside of your home with a hair dryer near trouble areas such as windows. If a lit candle on the inside flickers or is extinguished, you have a leak.
Seal the Ducts
The Energy Department warns that about 20 percent of heated air can escape from the ductwork in a house. Get your ducts evaluated by a professional to determine if sealing or any other improvement is necessary. Although there’s a cost to these repairs, you can save upward of $120 annually. Properly sealed ductwork also better protects against dust and mold. Note that sealing ducts is not the same as cleaning them. In fact, many studies have shown that cleaning the ductwork is unnecessary unless there is an air quality issue.