If you feel like it’s getting pretty expensive to keep your home warm in the winter, you’re not alone. According to the Energy Star program’s website, the average single-family household in America spends $2,200 a year on energy bills, and 29 percent of that goes to heating alone. (Summertime cooling expenses eat up another 17 percent.)
We’ve all heard the standard advice to update the smoke detector, insulate windows and invest in a programmable thermostat — and maybe you’ve even squared away those tasks. But the good news is, there are plenty of other things you can do — from a small fix to a weekend project — to make better use of that hard-earned energy. The key is knowing which changes to make — and then getting your whole family on board. Read on for a few new ideas to make your home a warmer, more efficient place this winter.
Make quick work of your ducts
Roughly 20 percent of the air that was warmed by your furnace is lost through holes and leaks in your home’s ductwork system. Take a stroll around your house while the heat is running and feel around to see if you notice any heat escaping around the corners of vents, or if you find any improperly aligned duct connections. Seal up these weak spots using an appropriate sealant or metal tape — and bear in mind that, despite its name, duct tape isn’t strong enough to serve as a long-term solution here.
A little warmth goes a long way
If you’re trying to heat just one area of your home, a space heater is an obvious solution. These inexpensive machines are energy-efficient and safe when used properly. Just make sure to close off the room you’re in so that the toastiness engendered by your space heater doesn’t dissipate faster than you can say, “frozen toes.” And of course, keep the heater away from clothing, upholstery and curtains, and shut it off when you leave the room.
Win the thermostat wars
On a similar note, your home’s thermostat can often be the face of temperature wars among family members. Those who are naturally cold-blooded tend to want to crank up the temperature, while the hotter want to ratchet it down. As the writer of the checks, make an executive decision about your home’s temperature and stick with it to avoid the constant ups and downs that can get expensive over time. The difference between 72 and 68 is pretty negligible in terms of how it feels to your body, but it sure has an impact on your wallet: You can save approximately 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree you turn back the thermostat.
All in the family
Since you’re shelling out so much for heat, it’s important to keep other energy costs in the home down to help control the overall cost of your utilities each month. Scary but true: The appliances in your home — that’s right, every last thing that operates on electricity — all suck up energy while plugged in, even if they’re switched off. That means your DVR, your laptop and your kid’s PlayStation 4 are all using electricity every second they’re plugged in, regardless of whether they’re in use. Start a family-wide campaign to get everyone to unplug their gadgets — not just turn them off — and your determination could result in up to a 30 percent drop in your home’s standby energy use.
Your home is your refuge, especially during the harsh, cold winter months. Make sure it really serves as a sanctuary for you and your family this season by making these tiny tweaks and holding one another accountable to your home-heating routine.
Photo Credit: Flickr/brewbooks