When the weather turns nippy outdoors, it's nice to feel warm and cozy inside your home. Trouble is, you probably won't enjoy that cozy feeling so much if you're busy worrying about skyrocketing utility bills. Here's the good news: there are tons of ways to save on heating costs and stay warm in winter -- and many of them are simple and inexpensive to take care of.
Cold Air Out, Warm Air In
The number one way to cut your home heating bills without sacrificing comfort is by reducing heat exchange. In plain English, that means keeping the cold wintry air out and the warm heated air in.
Just say no to freezing drafts. Repair cracks and caulk around the entry points for electrical cables, plumbing pipes, and the like. Replace worn weather-stripping as necessary. Install a chimney-top damper and a door for your fireplace, or utilize a chimney balloon or "chimney sheep." Raise the threshold on entrance doors to eliminate gaps. Crafty souls can fashion draft snakes to block those wintry winds even more.
Watch out for windows. Your windows are a trouble spot that is responsible for as much as 25 percent of home heat loss. If you're not in the market to buy new energy-efficient windows just at the moment, insulate instead. Storm windows, preferably with a low-emissivity coating, are a relatively inexpensive way to insulate; however, don't use them with aluminum windows because heat buildup can damage the frames. Simple alternatives are applying plastic film to your windowpanes or hanging up heavy tightly woven or even quilted drapes (be sure to close them at night).
Stop energy thieves. Install insulation in your attic (don't forget the hatch as well) and the crawl space. Caulk and cover air conditioning units; special winter A/C covers are manufactured for this precise purpose. Insulate the space around electrical receptacles.
Get the Best Performance from Your Home Heating System
Install a programmable thermostat or smart home system to regulate your home heating. You won't have to worry any more about turning the temperature down at night or when you leave for work -- it's all taken care of for you.
Check your heating system's ductwork for leaks, then seal and insulate it. Clean the air registers and make sure that nothing is blocking them. Change your HVAC filters every month.
Have a qualified HVAC professional inspect and tune up your oil furnace once a year, or every two years when you have a gas furnace.
If you own an aging furnace (the expected lifespan is typically about 20 years total), it may be time to consider replacing it. Look for a new model certified by the Energy Star program ... or install a super energy-efficient heat pump. Check into federal, state, or utility company rebates, tax credits, or mortgages to help you out with the cost.
And Now ... A Word from Mom
Mom was right when she told you to put on a sweater rather than turning up the thermostat. You'll feel 2 degrees warmer if you add one lightweight, long-sleeved jersey, and 4 degrees if you go for a heavier cardigan, pullover, or poncho. Don't forget to keep your feet warm with cozy socks and/or slippers.
Still feeling a bit of chill? Riff on Mom's philosophy of "heat the person, not the whole house." Switch on a space heater, instead of cranking up the furnace, when you're alone or if all the family's gathered in one room. And when the winter day is done, warm up your bed with a heated mattress pad or electric sheet ... or use that good old-fashioned solution, a snuggly hot water bottle.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.