Five Steps to Save Big on Heating Costs This Winter
Now’s the time prepare for the coming heating season. Now’s the time to find practical ways to reduce your heating bills. Here are 5 practical things you can do to save big on heating costs over the course of the winter.
1) Clean your furnace filters and air ducts and get a furnace inspection and tune-up to help your system run smoother and more efficiently. Clean filters and ducts can greatly enhance airflow, ensuring safety while decreasing operational costs.
2) Among the simplest things you can do to improve heating efficiency is to seal up gaps and cracks around all windows and doors. A little caulking to seal gaps around sills and door moldings will prevent cold air from leaking in from the outside. A four-dollar tube of caulking is a small investment that can turn into big time energy savings. For wider gaps and cracks, you may want to buy a can of expanding spray foam.
3) Likewise, if your doors don’t seal properly, buy some inexpensive peel and stick weather stripping and apply to the inside of door frames. Keep in mind that as homes settle new cracks and gaps may appear over time, so it’s a good idea to do a little inspection at the beginning of every heating season. Don’t forget about electrical outlets located on outside walls and ceiling can lights. These areas are often overlooked and can generate a lot of heat loss, especially in older homes.
4) Is your attic space well insulated? As part of your pre-season inspection, visit your attic and measure the depth of your insulation. You should have at least 12 inches of quality insulation blown throughout your attic space. Many older homes have less than 6 inches of the fluffy stuff. That’s not enough.
In terms of heat energy lost, how does 6 inches compare to 12 inches?
Let’s take a typical 1500 square foot attic space. With no insulation, the ceiling will lose about 22,000 BTU’s per hour. With 6 inches of blown insulation, the heat loss is about 4,500 BTU’s per hour. With 12 inches of blown insulation, the heat loss is about 2,200 BTU’s per hour.
Every bit of reduction in heat loss means your furnace cycles less often by keeping the warm air inside for longer periods. Over time, this can dramatically reduce your heating and cooling costs. For a $200 to $300 investment, payback is usually in the first year or two in energy savings. That’s an excellent return on investment.
Hint: Many city gas and/or electric utilities currently offer rebate programs and incentives for adding insulation to attic spaces. Some are known to pay 100% of the costs. It’s worth looking into.
5) Zone heat. This means heating only the occupied space of the home. If you spend 90% of your time in the family room on a typical cold winter night, heat only that space. Keep storage rooms and unused bedrooms cool by closing off doorways and air duct registers. A typical forced air furnace system heats all the space simultaneously through heating ducts that run to every room. At least 75% of homes in the U.S. are heated this way. Some homes have zone technology, which means that areas or rooms can be heated independently of the others. But most homes do not.
You may need to buy a room heater. This could be a simple electric heater, gas wall furnace or even a residential approved vent free heater. Such heaters are normally used as a supplemental heat source to your primary heating system. By turning your central furnace down or off, then using one of these room heaters in your primary living space instead, you can save as much as 25% to 50% in your monthly heating costs. Do the math. Have a $200.00 heating bill? How does $100 in monthly savings sound?
These tactical approaches to reducing your yearly energy costs are practical and affordable for the do-it-yourselfer. For professional help, you may want to hire a professional energy auditor with an infrared (IR) imaging camera. An IR camera can detect areas of the home where heat loss is the greatest and where you should direct your investment.
The best time to take advantage of potential energy savings is RIGHT NOW! Don’t wait until winter. Be proactive. Applying any or all of these suggestions may just be the best investment you’ll make all year.
Scott Workman owns and operates Infra-Red Products Supply, Inc. of Draper, Utah. In business since 1986, Infra-Red Products has become recognized as one of the foremost leaders in energy saving heating system design and sales for residential, commercial and industrial consumers.