With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this might be a great time to think about preparing your home for the winter season. Proper preparation can mean the difference between a high energy/heating bill and a cozy well cared for home with low costs. I’ve compiled some tips that will keep your home warm without bankrupting you with heating costs and energy loss.
1. Furnace Inspection
It is recommended that an HVAC professional inspect your home furnace every winter. A clean, well-adjusted heating system will save you money (up to 5%) on heating costs and prolong the life of your furnace. I recommend scheduling this early in the season as HVAC crews get backed up quickly once the weather starts to turn. You can usually find a coupon for an inspection with included furnace cleaning for $80-90. I recently found a coupon on Angie’s List for a well reviewed local company to inspect and clean my furnace $72. If you furnace is newer, check with the manufacturer and/or place of purchase to see if they offer free or discounted inspections.
If your furnace breaks down in the middle of winter and cannot be saved, be sure to take advantage of federal tax credits for new furnace purchases
When was the last time you changed your furnace filter? If you can’t remember, it might be a good time to switch it out for a new one. Average furnace filters should be changed monthly so the next time you are at the local hardware store, stock with a set of twelve to take care of the whole year. I also recommend setting an e-minder on your computer or phone calendar to remind you when to switch them out.
It’s easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave your home, but doing so is one of the best ways to save money. The average homeowners end up spending between 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses? Think of it this way, for every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. One of my best purchases for my home was a programmable thermostat. I spent around $50 for mine and I am sure I saved double that amount on my energy costs with within the first year alone.
4. Water Heater
I recently purchased an insulated blanket for my water heater in order to keep my water heating costs down. Unless your water heater’s storage tank already has a high R-value of insulation, adding additional insulation can reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45%. An quick and easy test to see if additional insulation is needed is to touch your water heater. A tank that’s warm to the touch probably is in need of additional insulation.
Wrapping your water heater with a insulated blanket will end up saving you around 4%–9% in water heating costs. Not a bad savings considering most pre-cut jackets or blankets sell for around $10–$20. Just make sure you buy one with an insulating value of at least R-8.
5. Air Ducts
The average home has an air duct system that allows 10% to 30% of heated (or cooled) air to escape. While you could hire a professional to come out and test your duct system and fix any problems, I did it myself. The easiest and most inexpensive way to seal your air duct system is with some silver air duct tape (this tape is specifically designed to seal air ducts). Start by raising (or lower depending on the season) the temperature on the thermostat enough for the air to kick on during the length on your project. Next, walk beneath the air duct with your arms raised allowing for your hands to feel any escaped air. Upon discovery, attach a strip of air duct tape to the area. Properly sealing ducts is certainly worth the time and money. Not only can can it save you up to $140 annually (American Solar Energy Society), you’ll have better protection against mold and dust entering your air system and being spread throughout your home.