Americans spend approximately $2,200 on energy bills annually, with heating and cooling accounting for about 56 percent of that cost. Prepping your home for winter weather can equate to big savings – in both energy and cost. There are several steps you can take to maximize energy efficiency in the winter and save you money all year long.
Seal Air Leaks
One of the biggest culprits for wasted energy – and money – is an air leak. Repair these drafty areas in your home with weatherstripping, caulking, or a draft dodger for underneath doorways. You can locate air leaks by simply walking around and feeling for cold spots near places where leaks commonly occur such as windows, doors, electrical outlets and attic hatches. Or, you can purchase an inexpensive thermal leak detector.
Check your home to see if it is properly insulated. At a minimum, you should have 12 inches of insulation in your attic to maximize energy efficiency. You can check this simply by looking at the ceiling joists. If you can see the joists, you need more insulation. You should also consider insulating the floors and walls above crawl spaces or basements to save even more energy and money.
Prep Your Windows
In addition to caulking or weatherstripping your windows to block air leaks, you can also install storm windows to provide another barrier between the inside of your home and outdoors. Another option is to purchase an insulator kit that comes with sheets of durable plastic to cover windows. Invest in thick curtains to help regulate the indoor temperature, but be sure to open them on sunny days to take advantage of the natural heat.
Check Your Furnace
Have your furnace serviced annually to ensure that it is working properly, which will also maximize its efficiency. Many experts recommend changing the furnace filter monthly, but this is only during the times when your furnace is getting the most use. You can also purchase a furnace filter whistle that is installed on the filter and makes a sound to alert you when the filter is getting dirty and needs to be replaced.
Remember Your Chimney
Like your furnace, your chimney needs regular maintenance to ensure it's functioning properly and efficiently. While chimney sweeping isn’t necessary every year for most houses, it should be done periodically, along with a chimney inspection. Purchase a cap to keep debris out of the chimney and keep the damper closed when there isn’t a fire to block cold air from coming in.
Turn On Your Ceiling Fans
Turning on your ceiling fans may seem like the last thing you want to do in the middle of winter, but doing so can actually help keep your home warmer. Using the switch on the fan, reverse the direction of the fan – making sure it is turning clockwise – which will push warm air down and recirculate it throughout the room.