With winter fast approaching, many people are thinking about ways to not only keep the house warm, but also save money while doing so. Beyond just saving money, it is simply not always easy to keep a home warm, especially if it is an older home and does not have very good insulation. Utilizing the tips below will not only save money, but will make sure you are warm and comfortable all winter long.
1. Install a Programmable Thermostat. This will keep your bill low, and your efficiency high. Instead of having to manually fiddle with the thermostat every time you leave or enter your home, This Old House recommends programing your thermostat for the following temperatures / times during the week if your house is empty during the day. They also recommend setting the thermostat to 55 degrees when you go on vacation for a few days or more.
- 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM - 68 degrees
- 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM - 60 degrees
- 5:30 PM to 11:00 PM - 68 degrees
- 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM - 60 degrees
Their nighttime recommendation may seem a little chilly, so adjust accordingly as to what is comfortable for you. Keep in mind though, that research has recently shown that cooler temperatures - in the mid-60s, rather than upper 60s to low 70s - promotes better sleep, and may even increase your metabolism.
2. Let Sunlight in During the Day. Once the sun is up, you want to capture as much of that free heat as possible. Even on cold days, the sun is still warm. So before you leave for the house for the day, open up those curtains and let the light shine in. If there are certain parts of the house that do not get sunlight, no need to open those curtains. Just do so where sunlight streams in for a good part of the day.
3. Keep Curtains Closed at Night. Once the sun goes down, keep all that heat from leaving through the windows by closing the drapes. If you are in a particularly cold home or geographic area, consider getting insulated curtains for winter use. They will prevent some of the warmth in your home from escaping. You can even put up temporary curtains (or even sheets, rugs, etc.) over doors to the outside, even if just at night while you are sleeping.
4. Mind Your Wood-Burning Fireplaces. While they are romantic on a chilly evening, lighting a fire is terribly inefficient for the rest of your home. It is warm and toasty right by the roaring flames, but for all that heat being exhausted up through the fireplace, cold air is being pulled into the house elsewhere.
You do not want to put the damper on idyllic evenings spent in from of crackling logs, so when you do have a fire, just be sure to buy / use a glass front for your fireplace, which keeps some of that heated air in your home from escaping up the chimney once the flames have gone out.
Beyond that, remember to keep the flue closed when the fireplace is not in use. Failing to do so means basically having an open window in your room, letting warm air out and cold are in.
5. Take a Look at Your Ceiling Fans. If you have ceiling fans in your home, they may be sitting needlessly dormant during the winter months. Many fans have a "winter" setting, which reverses the fan so that it moves clockwise instead of counter-clockwise (setting for warmer months). Since heat rises, the clockwise spinning fan will push the heat back down into your room rather than being trapped near the ceiling. This is especially recommended if you have high or sloped ceilings. Some experts don't trust the efficacy of doing this, as the fan may just cool the air too much, but try it out on a low speed, and see if it warms the room.
6. Move Furniture Away from Vents. You may have unknowingly placed furniture in front of heating vents when you moved or rearranged your furniture. Go around the house and double-check that vents are not blocked, and if they are, find a way to move your furniture to a better location, at least for the winter. This will insure every room is getting its maximum heat potential. Blocking return vents in a forced-air central heating system could also cause air pressure issues, which further disrupts the flow of heat.
7. Mitigate the "Stack Effect". The stack effect is the movement of air in and out of homes. The rising warm air in a home will pull in cool air from the outside through any gap it can find. This creates negative pressure in lower levels, which acts like a suction cup because the the warm escaping air needs to be replaced. This pulls cool air in and obviously chills the home. The effect is magnified in taller homes (more air rising to greater heights, so more cool air is being pulled in), so be extra aware of the stack effect if you live in a multiple-story home.
To combat this, you obviously want to seal those gaps. The most common offenders are doors and windows. To test this out, you can light a candle and carry it with you throughout the house, hold it close to the doors and windows. When you hold it still and it flickers, you have a possible gap. Hold your hand out to test it and you will often feel cold air. It may seem like a small and unimportant leak, but it can definitely make a big difference, especially when they are multiplied around the house.
For doors, you can try making a "door snake". That can be inconvenient, though, if the door is frequently used. You can also buy door sweeps that seal those gaps on the bottom. For gaps on the sides and top of the door, as well as window gaps, use weather stripping to negate the stack effect.
8. Seal other Leaks, too. There can be air leaks in your home beyond windows and doors. Think attics, basements (where cement meets the wood frame), even kitchen hood vents.
9. Keep Certain Rooms Toasty Warm by Closing Doors. If you spend a lot of time in certain room, you can close doors and create a little sauna. If you have big, open spaces, you can use room dividers - it may not seem like much, but any blockage that keeps air from escaping just a little less quickly will help keep things warmer.
You can also close doors to rooms that are not frequently used in your home - just make sure you also close the vents in those rooms. This acts to lower the heated square footage, and the warm air will spread quicker and easier through the house. As a bonus, this will save a little bit on your heating bill too.
10. Utilize Space Heaters, but with Caution. Space heaters are excellent tools for keeping individual rooms warm. The danger is that they are a high-risk fire hazard. In fact, they account for one-third of all heating-related house fires. To ensure the safety of your household, keep ALL flammable material at least 3 feet away, and make sure the heater is on an even and stable surface. Never leave space heaters on overnight or when you leave the home. Additionally, it is a good idea to only use space heaters that shut off automatically when tipped over.
11. Use the Oven. Baking, convecting and broiling things will keep your house warmer, especially in rooms nearest the kitchen.
12. Add Layers to Your Wood Floors. According to the National Energy Foundation, uninsulated wood floors can account for up to 10% of a home's heat loss. Carpets and rugs were created for a reason - to keep rooms warmer. They are far better at trapping heat than wood floors. Add a rug or a roll of carpet in the winter, and you will notice a difference in coziness.
13. If You have Radiators... The first thing you can do is put tinfoil on the back of the radiator. This will reflect the heat back into the room versus it just floating up the wall to the ceiling. There is special reflective radiator foil, but the kitchen variety will work as well. The second thing you can do is put up a shelf or table over the radiator (not on the radiator though - never put anything directly on it). This acts as a heat trap and allows the heat to spread more evenly throughout the room.
Ultimately, keep the person warm versus the house. The house does not really care if it is a little chilly, but the person will care if they are cold. So throw on hoodies and sweaters, get a warm robe, sip on hot coffee or tea, break out the thick blankets and bedsheets. Do whatever you need to do to stay warm and comfortable. Being comfortable is the key - you do not want the thermostat so low that you have to wear a coat in your home. In all likelihood, you can probably handle the thermostat being a couple degrees lower if you take some of the measures listed above.
As usual, should you be interested in buying or selling a home, or for any further information regarding your home, please contact me, Karen Borden, your North Alabama Real Estate Professional!