10 ways to save on winter heating bills

10 ways to save on winter heating bills
Fireplace

Fireplace

As the temperature starts to drop, it’s important that your home is prepared to fight off rising energy costs. Preparing in advance can save you a lot of money for such a small effort. Consider these 10 tips for approaching the winter season.

1. Seal duct work 

This is the number one way to conserve energy. Make sure that all ductwork is sealed at joints and intersections with duct sealer or silicone caulk. Otherwise, supply ductwork can leak heated air into the attic or crawl space, and outside air can be drawn into the return ductwork, increasing costs and reducing comfort dramatically. Ducts can be sealed using foil-backed tape or silicone caulking.

2. Seal air leaks

 Seal all holes from pipes and wires that enter or exit the living space. This includes entrances, pull-downs and attic stair openings, light fixtures, pipes and wires. Attic entryways should be weather stripped and insulated.

3. Seal off fireplaces

Never use a fireplace as a main heat source for your home. Even as a supplemental heat source, the cold air introduced to a warm home through the flue isn't as efficient as sealing off a fireplace and using the primary source of heat. For natural gas fireplaces, turn off the pilot light when not in use. Seal off the fireplace area or the flue area to prevent cold air from leaking in. (Note: Building codes in some areas require that the damper in your chimney be permanently blocked open if you install gas logs. Please check the building code for your area for the appropriate procedure.)

4. Lower thermostat in the winter

Set the thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and to 58 degrees at night or when away from home for several hours. Keeping the temperatures at 70 degrees is recommended for homes where there are elderly or infants.

5. Lower water heater to 120-125 degrees

Many water heaters are automatically set at 140 degrees. Lowering the temperature on your water heater to between 120 and 125 degrees will reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat the water.

6. Change furnace filters every month

This is the number one reason for furnace breakdowns. Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Have a professional check and clean your furnace once a year.

7. Weather strip doors and windows

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window needs sealing. Air leaks can be sealed with caulking or weather-stripping.

8. Insulate water pipes coming from the water heater

Insulate the first 3-to-6 feet of cold and hot water pipes near the water heater. Insulating all hot water pipes is not necessary where pipes are located in a crawlspace or attic.

9. Add an insulation blanket to water heater

Wrapping the water heater with an insulation blanket can save heating money by slowing the drop in temperature from the hot water tank as is sits unused. Inexpensive insulation kits are available at most home improvement stores.

10. Add insulation to attic

When adding insulation, start at the top and work down only after eliminating air infiltration.  

About this Experts Contributor: Michael Nies, is the founder and owner of Picture Perfect Home Improvements LLC and an expert in creating home plans and designs and handyman work. 

As of June 13, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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How to lower your winter heating costs

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A programmable thermostat can help cut costs on monthly utility bills, as it can help control the temperature while you’re away. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Bill K.)
A programmable thermostat can help cut costs on monthly utility bills, as it can help control the temperature while you’re away. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Bill K.)

As the weather cools down, heating bills are on the rise. But some of us are paying more than we need to. But you can do your part to save energy and cut heating costs.

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