Nights are colder. Days are shorter. And is that frost on the early morning ground? No doubt about it: winter is coming. If you crank up the thermostat, your heating bill will go through the roof. But what other option is there?
The truth is, you don’t have to resign yourself to being cold for months. Work with what you have, make a few changes, and you’ll be warmer without putting a huge dent in your budget.
Use the Sun
The sun is the primary source of all energy on earth — and it’s free. Use it to your advantage: open curtains, raise blinds and draw back drapes during the day. Let the sun stream in and naturally increase the indoor temperature. Just be sure to reverse the process when it gets dark. At night, keeping your windows covered prevents heat loss.
Work With What You Have
Preparing your home for cold weather doesn’t always cost money. Some measures are free, but make a big difference:
- If at all possible, don’t leave a portable air conditioner in the window during winter. Pull the unit out so warmed air won’t escape outside. Cover the air conditioner if it’s not removable.
- In the winter, set your fans to rotate counter-clockwise, the opposite of their summer settings. This will promote warm air circulation. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom sparingly, since they pull warm air out of the house.
- Let warmed air flow freely. Keep heating registers and cold air returns unblocked. Move furniture, draperies or rugs, if necessary. Check vents regularly and clear out accumulated dust and debris. If you have a room that’s not used much — or at all — in winter, close the vent to let the warm air circulate elsewhere.
- Before leaving your house for several hours, turn down the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees. Why heat it when no one’s home to enjoy the warmth? Keep the house cooler when you’re sleeping, too. You’ll save money and get a better night’s rest. Consider installing a programmable thermostat, so you don’t forget to make daily changes.
Folks who plan ahead save money on heating fuel. It’s a free market system, so prices rise when demand is high. Most users start filling their propane tanks in early fall, but by then, gas is more expensive. If you take care of this during the summer, you’ll save money. The cost of propane is still comparatively low in June and July.
Decrease your heating bill by making changes around the house. Some are relatively inexpensive. Those that are more costly, though, save money in the long run.
- Install weather stripping. Do this around your doors and windows so they seal more tightly. Also, use exterior caulking around the outside of those exits. If your window boxes have a lot of holes, cover them with transparent plastic film.
- Plug holes that leak warmed air. Look for spaces around electrical boxes and pipes, gas lines and electrical cables that lead outside. Don’t forget dog or cat doors, door mail slots and keyholes.
- Buy area rugs for your wood floors. The coverings provide insulation against the cold.
- Increase your attic insulation. That top floor often loses significant amounts of heat.
- Get a humidifier. Forced air heating dries air. Humidifiers do more than keep your skin from itching. The higher the amount of water in the air, the more heat it can hold. All together now: it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
Your heating system needs maintenance to keep it at peak performance. Take care of it, and it’ll take care of you:
- Have a furnace or fireplace expert visit annually. Not only will this checkup make your system more effective, you’ll be safer. The technician will spot any gas or carbon monoxide leaks.
- Check your furnace’s filter monthly. Clean or replace it when needed. When the filter is really dirty, warmed air can’t get through efficiently.
- Check for heat loss. If you’re using a fireplace for extra warmth, make sure it’s not losing heat. When you’re not actively burning fuel, be sure to close the flue.
- Reflect heat into the room. Place radiator foil behind your heating unit to reflect heat away from the wall and into the room. Heavy duty foil designed for this purpose works better than its kitchen counterpart, but aluminum foil is better than nothing.
- Check for leaks. If it’s accessible, check the ductwork of your heating system for leaks. They’re most common at seams and corners. Use mastic sealant or that old standby, duct tape, to block escaping air.
A bit of time, effort and perhaps money, and you’ll enjoy the winter more, at least when you’re inside your snug and comfy home.