Brrrr, it’s cold outside! Winter sticks around long after the holidays are over, and it keeps bringing snow and cold air with it. You make the best of it with winter sports, building a snowman with your kids and enjoying the quiet scenic beauty of it.
But it’s still freezing cold and miserable. To make matters worse, you get to pay more for it in your utility bills. Your furnace works hard to keep your house warm, but it seems to be losing the battle with winter’s icy grip. Cold drafts come from everywhere. The only relief seems to be a hot shower or bath, but you can’t stay in there forever.
Winter will be here for a while longer, but it will be warm again someday. Tell yourself that when you open your next bill and feel like you’re going to faint. Until then, here a few things you can do to fight the cold in your house and keep your heating bill from fleecing you.
Avoid Thermostat Extremes
When we come in from the extreme cold, we may look at our thermostat as an immediate solution to our discomfort. You might be tempted to crank it up to 90 in an effort to heat the house quickly. The problem is, thermostats aren’t like an accelerator on your car. They don’t heat up faster the higher they are set.
You might be tempted to turn the thermostat down low at night, figuring you will be under the covers and won’t need the whole house to be warm. The problem is, your furnace will have to work much harder in the morning to bring your home to a comfortable temperature. By that time, you might be on your way to work.
If your thermostat isn’t reaching the desired temperature, you either have a leak, or you may have a problem with your furnace. Inspect and resolve these issues first, rather than forcing your furnace to work harder. Generally, it is best to leave your thermostat at a comfortable, reasonable temperature throughout the day. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
Get a Programmable Thermostat
Invest in a programmable or smart thermostat you can access through your smartphone. If no one will be home all day, you can set the thermostat to keep the house at a lower, more affordable temperature while you are gone, and have it be comfortable and warm when you return home. If your plans change, log in and get the furnace running earlier, or keep it lower longer.
If you go on vacation, just keep your house warm enough to keep your pipes from freezing. Please be considerate of plants and pets. They won’t have any appreciation for the money you are saving.
Theoretically, you will save money, since you will decrease the demand on your furnace. But it really depends how warm you like your home and how often you make adjustments.
Limit the Leaks
Your furnace is trying as hard as it can to heat your house. Help your furnace do its job by finding and blocking the leaks in your home. Doors and windows are the biggest culprits. Seal doors and windows with caulk and weather stripping. If you already have weather stripping, inspect it to make sure it isn’t dried or cracked, as this will diminish its effectiveness. It’s cheap and easy to replace.
Make sure your attic space has adequate insulation and no cracks or open spaces where cold air and unwanted pests can find their way inside. If you find big, gaping holes, or it’s obvious your insulation is inadequate, you may want to enlist professional help.
Cover windows with plastic insulation in rooms where it wouldn’t be too much of an eyesore. You will feel a big difference. You can also make or buy attractive draft blockers for leaky doors and windows. Think of them as door and window pillows.
Take Advantage of the Sun
Even on the coldest of days, the shining sun can add warmth to your house. If you are lucky enough to have a sun-facing front door, open it and feel it on sunny days. It might be burning hot to the touch, even though it’s 20 degrees outside. Open the door and let the sun shine in. It creates a greenhouse effect, the good kind you can take advantage of. Just don’t forget to close the door when the sun goes away.
You might keep your drapes closed when it’s cold, and that can help keep the drafts out. But when the sun is shining, open them up and let the sun warm your room. The sunlight will brighten your mood, and its warmth is free of charge.
Maintain and Update Your Appliances
Have an HVAC professional inspect and maintain your furnace regularly to ensure it is giving you optimal performance. Change filters and keep the furnace clean and free from dust buildup, clutter and debris. Change your light bulbs from incandescent to LEDs, which use a fraction of the energy.
When it’s time to replace refrigerators, washers and other household appliances, purchase new Energy Star-compliant models. These are designed to use less energy while performing the same tasks.
Keep your windows locked during the winter to ensure a tight seal. If your sills are crumbling or you feel an extreme draft, have your windows inspected, and consider replacing them. This is an expensive undertaking, but will save you money in the long run with decreased energy use.
Do what you can around your house to keep the warm air in and the cold air out. And since it is going to be cold for a few more months, break out those sweaters you have in your closet. Maybe they aren’t your favorite apparel, but they will keep you warm and cozy until spring comes. Think of a sweater as money-saving suit. You’ll be warmer in your colder house and give your furnace and your wallet a break.