Winter is on its way to the Winston-Salem area with chilly days and icy nights ahead. For many homeowners, winter means turning up the heat and enjoying much higher heating bills. However, applying a few, quick energy saving tips, you can enjoy the holidays without impacting the comfort of your holiday guests.
Energy Saving Tip 1 – Protect Your Thermal Envelope
The thermal envelope of your home is the barrier between the indoor temperature and the outdoor temperature. This takes a number of different forms: the insulation in walls, the caulk around windows, and the carpets or rugs, if any, on the floor of the lowest level of your house, where heat can transfer between the floor and the ground.
The thermal envelope can also be pierced or compromised in a variety of ways: gaps in the insulation, cracks leading to drafts, and holes cut in the walls to allow exhaust pipes for appliances such as dryers, for example. Open doors and windows also represent holes in the thermal envelope.
The more efficient the thermal envelope, the better your home will maintain a comfortable temperature, and the less energy you’ll have to use to maintain it. That’s why a lot of winter energy saving tips focus on making the thermal envelope as good as it can be.
The thermal envelope of every home is different. To understand yours, you may want to schedule a home energy audit. A qualified HVAC contractor can evaluate your home, detect air leaks, find drafty areas of the house, and investigate how efficiently the HVAC systems are operating. With that knowledge in hand, you can make targeted improvements which will help you save the most on heating and cooling costs.
They can also teach you about taking a whole-house approach to energy efficiency, where all your appliances work together to improve the efficiency of each.
Energy Saving Tip 2 – Improve Your Infrastructure
A good deal of energy costs are determined by how your house is set up and what equipment you use. These energy saving tips focus on making sure appliances and the home infrastructure are providing you with the most protection against the outside temperature.
- Schedule the annual maintenance for the heating system. Routine maintenance keeps the system operating as efficiently as possible, and it can head off any trouble on the horizon before it becomes a chilly day without a working furnace, and a costly repair bill. Routine maintenance is also an important part of keeping the HVAC system under warranty, in many cases, and if something does break over the winter, you’ll want that warranty to be valid.
- Seal and cover windows, or install insulated windows. Plenty of heat is lost through the windows of your home, even if they’re not drafty. Glass isn’t good, by itself, at keeping heat in. Using heavy curtains or film sealing to add a layer of insulation can cut down on heat loss, and if you feel like springing for insulated windows, you’ll notice a boost in your energy efficiency through the heating and cooling seasons.
- Insulate ducts, pipes and the water heater. When ducts and pipes carry hot air and water throughout your home, they radiate heat. Unfortunately, much of the time, this heat is radiated into crawl spaces and wall cavities – nowhere useful to you. Insulation keeps that heat from being lost.
- Consider a tankless water heater. The cooler it is, the more you may want hot water. And the cooler it is, the more heat will transfer away from the tank of your water heater. A tankless water heater heats water on demand, meaning less constant water-heating costs, and less lost heat.
- Seal air leaks. Whether it’s a window that doesn’t quite close, the space under a door, or a crack in the walls, use caulk or other sealing methods (such as under-door draft blockers) to prevent cold air from coming in, or warm air escaping.
- Make sure humidity is balanced. Cool air hold less humidity than warm air – and in return, dry air holds less heat than humid air. While you don’t want your home to be a sauna, making sure there’s a healthy amount of water vapor in your indoor air can help you retain warmth. It can also help to alleviate minor respiratory complaints associated with cold, dry winter days.
- Consider upgrading to a heat pump, if you don’t have one already. Heat pumps work well in climates like the Winston-Salem area’s, and are up to four times as efficient as traditional gas or oil furnaces. Even better, they can both heat and cool your home, meaning that you’ll only have one major heating/cooling system to service, year-round.
- If you have a fireplace, seal the chimney while the fire is out. Cool air loves to infiltrate down chimneys. If you do use the fireplace during the winter, turn down the thermostat while the family is gathered by the fire.
Energy Saving Tip 3 – Adjust Your Habits
Though many of the energy saving tips above are inexpensive, homeowners who want to avoid any expense can also see significant energy savings by adjusting their habits. Follow these energy saving tips to lower your energy use without spending a dime:
- Take advantage of passive solar heat. If you have south-facing windows with good sun exposure, leaving the windows closed but the blinds or curtains open can bring in a good deal of light and warmth from the sun. Trim back any overhanging vegetation to make sure you get the most sun you can.
- Turn down the thermostat when you’re sleeping or not at home. Turning the thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for a period of eight hours or more can take a big chunk out of your energy bills. (Note: While this is easy to do by hand, some homeowners choose to invest in a programmable thermostat to take care of the adjustments for them. While not necessary, it can provide a lot of convenience.)
- Layer up, and turn the thermostat down 24/7. For every degree you turn the thermostat down, you can save up to about 2 percent of your energy bill. It might be worth pulling on an extra sweater and letting the house run a bit cool.
- Turn down the heat on the water heater. With water heating accounting for somewhere between a 1/6 and a 1/4 of all the energy used in your home, it’s a prime target for energy savings. Turning the temperature down to about 120 degrees can save you money, and if you have young children in the household, you can also protect them from scalding their hands.
- No matter how high you set the thermostat, the furnace will produce heat at the same rate. If you come home after setting the thermostat back for the workday and you want the house to heat up fast, cranking the thermostat way up just means that if you forget it, you’ll have told it to waste a ton of energy keeping the house warmer than you need it to.
For more energy saving tips to help you through the cool weather, or to schedule annual maintenance or just learn more about heating systems topics and optimizing your energy savings in Winston-Salem, contact Logan Home Energy Services.