Preparing Your Home for an Energy Efficient Winter
Ah, winter! A season that is defined by playing in the snow, holiday cheer, and curling up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. While winter time has its many perks, it can also often mean high utility bills. Keeping warm can rack up some hefty expenses and have a very negative impact on the environment, especially if your home isn’t prepared for the onset of this cold time of year. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can prepare your home for an energy efficient winter:
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Unsurprisingly, heating accounts for the most energy use during winter. According to this infographic from the U.S. Department of Energy, “Space heating is the largest energy expense in the average U.S. home, accounting for about 45 percent of energy bills.” You can save a lot on your energy bills, and consume energy in a more efficient manner by installing a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat that controls how heat is distributed is not only useful in the winter but is also helpful in summer months to control the cooling around your home.
Being able to program your thermostat will give you the freedom to set it at a comfortable temperature when you’re at home and a much lower temperature when you are away or asleep. Doing so can save you about 10 percent on your energy bills annually, and make you a more responsible energy consumer.
Check Your Windows and Doors
Before the cold hits, you’ll want to make sure that all your windows and doors are in proper working condition. Broken windows and old doors with gap issues allow the cold to enter your home, leading to a much higher energy consumption to stay warm. The U.S. Department of Energy states“Windows with low-E coating reduce heat loss and even reflect back part of the room’s heat. Installing storm windows can also reduce heat loss through windows by approximately 10%-20%.”
Don’t forget about checking any outdoor components of your house too. For instance, you should ensure that your garage door is properly inspected and functioning well so as to avoid severe damage to vehicles and items in storage during the winter. Pet doors can be problem areas, so you will have to make sure that any pet doors have insulation measures in place. Similarly, if you have a barn, ensure that it is ready for winter by preparing water supply, keeping emergency stock, and checking that all doors and roofs are well sealed.
Air Seal Your Home
Air sealing your home is a great way of reducing heating costs while simultaneously creating a healthier indoor environment. Air sealing prevents the dreaded winter air leakage, which can result in too much cold air entering your home during winter storms. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends detecting air leaks and assessing your ventilation needs prior to air sealing. Once this is done, you can use caulking or weatherstripping — two of the most common air sealing methods — to safeguard your home. Both these are “simple and effective air-sealing techniques that offer quick returns on investment, often one year or less.”
Some general tips in regards to air sealing include:
- Keeping your kitchen exhaust fan covered when it is not in use
- Ensuring your dryer vent isn’t blocked
- Replacing door bottoms with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets
- Tightly closing your fireplace flue damper when it is not in use.
Upgrade Your Landscaping
You might not think there is a direct relation between landscaping and energy efficiency; rest assured, there is! If properly planned, landscaping can save you energy and money. Windbreaks can help keep your home warmer, negating the need for excessive energy use. Windbreaks include everything from walls and fences to trees and shrubs planted around your home. These help block the cold winter air, and in turn, reduce heat costs.
Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that your trees are trimmed in time for winter. Ice or snow-laden tree branches can easily snap, and can often damage the exteriors of your home. If you notice trees that are burdened under excess snow, use a mop or broom to shake the snow off and get rid of the extra weight.
Switch to LED lights
Winter time brings shorter, darker days, considerably reducing the number of hours for which you can rely on sunlight. Switching to the light-emitting diode (LED) is an energy-efficient way to ensure that your home is always well-lit, and will cut down your lighting expenses significantly. In fact, the Department of Energy claims that LED lighting has the potential to revolutionize the future of lighting in the U.S., with residential LEDs (especially ENERGY STAR rated products) said to “use 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.”
Opting for LED lighting for your holiday lighting needs is also a good idea, as they have many advantages over traditional incandescent light strings. LED holiday light strings are much sturdier as they are made with epoxy lenses, and will last you for about 40 holiday seasons!
Use Alternative Heating Methods
Turning on your heater isn’t the only way of staying warm through winter. To save energy, consider using alternative heating methods. For instance, First Choice Power suggests running your fans in a clockwise direction: “in summer, you spin your fans counterclockwise to create a cooling downdraft, but in colder months, a clockwise turning fan helps redistribute warmer air that’s lingering over your head.”
Additionally, you could also choose to layer up especially when indoors, using as many layers as needed to keep warm. An electric blanket is a good investment, as it will keep you warm using only a fraction of the energy you would use by turning on the central heating. Finally, stay heated internally by constantly drinking warming beverages, and using cozy hot water bottles under your blankets.
As you can see, there are many ways to prepare your home for an energy-efficient winter. Not only will your bank account thank you, but you will also be doing the environment a favor by reducing your energy consumption. So rather than letting the cold get you and “freeze” your funds, take some preventative steps now that will leave your home in good stead for the chilly season.