Winter Tips: Heating Your Home Efficiently

Managing Real Estate Broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Star Homes
Through my REMAX website, a monthly newsletter is published. This article is from the January Real Estate Advisor.

Heating Your Home Efficiently

Regardless of what the weather brings this winter, heating your home efficiently is probably something on your mind. Keeping your home a comfortable temperature when the weather turns bad doesn't have to be a financial drain. Here are some places to start:

Stopping Air Leaks

The first step to making your home more heat efficient is to identify air leaks. Common air leak sources such as recessed lights, attic entrances, door frames, window frames, ducts (which we'll cover next) and electrical outlets can be a big drain of heat and money. You can check for air leaks yourself by walking through your home with a lit incense stick (horizontal smoke indicates a leak), or you can hire a technician for a more thorough inspection. Simple fixes like sealing around outlets and switches, caulking gaps in the framing, and plugging gaps surrounding pipes will typically result in noticeable savings.

Duct Problems

One of the most important systems in your home may be quietly wasting your energy dollars. Often overlooked, typical duct systems lose 25-40% of the heating or cooling energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner. Common duct system problems include:

•Leaky joints or visible holes in the duct surface

•Disconnected ducts that have fallen away from each other

•Inadequate or poorly finished duct work

•Un-insulated or poorly insulated ducts in attics and crawlspaces

Most duct repairs should be made by or with the help of a trained professional, especially those that will take place in unconditioned spaces. A qualified pro can also help you more accurately assess the duct problems that you have. If you decide to make minor duct repairs on your own, keep in mind that duct tape is usually only intended as a temporary fix. Silicone caulking or cement with mastic are better sealing options. Improving your duct system efficiency can cut your annual utility bills by as much as $300, and will improve the overall air quality in your home.

Keep your Home Insulated

Properly insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut down on your energy loss. Improving the insulation in your home can cut your heating and cooling costs by as much as 30%, and will create a more uniform, comfortable temperature in your home. Better insulation will also help decrease outdoor noise. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if they meet recommended standards for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values: the higher the R-value, the less transfer of heat through the material. Typically the easiest and most cost-effective way to improve your home's insulation is to add insulation to your attic.

Fireplace Issues

Despite their undeniable aesthetic appeal, fireplaces are not desirable in terms of energy efficiency. Only about ten percent of the wood's energy is transferred to the room as heat, the rest escapes up the chimney. When in use, the fireplace also pulls cold air into your home through cracks and leaks, and when not in use the brick and stone mass of most fireplaces readily conducts heat from your home to the outside. To minimize energy waste from the fireplace in your home, make sure the damper or flue is shut tightly when the fireplace is not in use. Consider the benefits of things like tempered glass doors, fireplace inserts that seal dormant openings, and heat exchangers that recover some of the energy that would otherwise be lost.

Thermostat Solutions

That little box on the wall can be a tool for big energy savings. You can save up to 3 percent for every one degree that you lower the temperature in your home over a 24-hour period in winter. You can also save up to 10% annually in your heating and cooling bills by adjusting your thermostat down 10% to 15% for an 8-hour period each day. Turning the heat down while you sleep or while you're away at work is a simple and logical energy efficiency solution. If the prospect of waking up to a chilly house doesn't excite you, buy a programmable thermostat. They are inexpensive and adjust the temperature in your home based on the schedules you determine.

Ceiling Fans

While most people think if ceiling fans as a cooling solution, they can also help maintain a warm temperature in your home during winter. Running a ceiling fan in reverse circulates rising warm air back down to living areas. Consider ceiling fans for your home, particularly if you have rooms with high ceilings that seem to stay colder. Ceiling fans vary in price depending on things like material and size, but many are inexpensive and easy to operate.

Jim Starwalt

Thinking of making a move? Log onto my website at and search the Multiple Listing Service from over 150,000 homes for sale. Registering is quick and easy!

Jim Starwalt, Broker Associate RE/MAX Center, Phone: 847-548-2625


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Randy Filbert
The Filbert Real Estate Group At Skyline Realty-Boise Idaho - Boise, ID
The Filbert Real Estate Team-Boise Idaho

Thanks for the tips Jim.  Perhaps these issues are more important now than ever because of rising costs of utilities, financial difficulties for many during this recession, as well as concerns about global warming.  Let's all remember to be good stewards of this planet and socially and economically conservative.

Dec 29, 2009 04:35 AM #1
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I love a fireplace, but for efficiency I opted with a free standing wood burning stove when I build my house 8 years ago.  I have a glass door and blower and can still see the fire and it's wonderful.  My power bill drops to $80/mo in winter and my 2000 sq. ft. house stays toasty.

Dec 29, 2009 04:36 AM #2
Suzy Morris
The Morris Team - Carlsbad, CA

Thanks for the post, Jim. I do lose a lot of heat through the fireplace! 

Dec 29, 2009 04:37 AM #3
Andrea Kappre
Keller Williams Hometown - Mantua, NJ
New Jersey Realtor, New Jersey MLS, Homes for Sale

Great information!  Especially today.... it is very cold here in NJ today!

Dec 29, 2009 04:41 AM #4
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