The winter season brings happy holidays and fun snow to play in. But the cold temps can wreak havoc on your heating and energy bills, as well as the environment. While renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and water power are growing in popularity, the effects of fossil fuel processing for electricity are still significant, leading to increased greenhouse gases and air pollution.
Responsible energy usage is an important part of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s work, making us one of the largest builders of ENERGY STAR homes in Minnesota. On average, ENERGY STAR certified buildings use 35 percent less energy and generate 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other buildings.
We’ve gathered our top tips for making your home more energy efficient this winter, which will also save you money. Some of these tips cost nothing to do, while others may require an investment. But implementing just a few of these ideas can make your home more comfortable this winter while keeping your heat and energy bills down.
- Your hot water heater consumes more energy than most of your other home appliances. Setting your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit will conserve energy, save money, and prevent scalding.
- Take a walk around your home and make sure that vents, pipe openings, and windows are properly sealed and that doors are caulked. Keep warm air where it should be by closing vents and doors in unused rooms and keep your air registers dust-free and unobstructed.
- Reverse your ceiling fan blades! It may seem like a silly idea to use your fan at all in the winter, but it can actually help circulate air and reduce your heating bill. When you reverse your fan blades, it blows air up towards the ceiling instead of down into the room, which keeps warm air from collecting just below the ceiling. If you have no air circulation and you’re trying to heat your home, the air at the top of the room may reach a full 10 degrees higher than your target temperature. That means you’re paying for heat that you’re not feeling.
- If you haven’t done so already, drain your external faucets. Water lines that lead outside are most likely to freeze and burst, which can cause flooding and water damage. And the last thing you want in the middle of winter is water in your basement.
- Seal your windows. For about $5 per window, you can keep heat from leaving your home and stop cold drafts from seeping in by covering your windows with an insulator kit. This is basically a thin, clear sheet you stretch over your entire window. Another option is to apply caulk around the edges of your windows.
- Replace your furnace filter regularly (every 30 days in the winter months is recommended). Your furnace will run more efficiently with a clean filter, and you’ll also be breathing cleaner air. A new furnace filter costs around $15 to $40.
- A fireplace may keep you warm when in use, but when it’s not, it acts as an open passage for heat to leave your home. For around $50, you can buy an inflatable chimney plug that will keep cold drafts from blowing down into your home and keep warm air from rising out of the chimney.
- Heads up: When next fall rolls around, check out your shingles. Cracked or missing shingles can lead to water leaking into your roof. You can replace damaged shingles for around $1 per shingle.
- Buy a humidifier. These nifty gadgets not only provide relief from the dry winter air, but humid air holds heat better, so you can still feel comfortable even if you set your thermostat at a lower temperature. The cost of a humidifier depends on several factors, but you can usually find one for $40 to $60.
- Install a programmable thermostat in your home. This type of thermostat will maintain a consistent temperature throughout your home and prevent over- or under-heating your space. You’ll save money by letting your home be cooler while you’re out of the house and warmer when you are home. A programmable thermostat costs $50 to $200.
- Get your furnace inspected and repaired. Before serious cold sets in, make sure your furnace is in proper working order. It’s a good idea to have your furnace inspected and/or tuned up before it’s put into heavy use. This may cost around $100-$300.
- Insulation has a fairly high initial cost, but you will quickly save the money you spent by fully insulating your home. If you have an attic, it’s one of the most important places to insulate. Even if you already have some insulation, adding more could dramatically lower your heating bills. Typically, you should have a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic—enough to cover your ceiling joists, which are usually 10 to 11 inches wide.
These tips may seem like a lot, but you don’t need to start all these projects at once. Doing even one or two things on this list will help reduce your energy bill and have a positive impact on the environment. You can support Twin Cities Habitat’s efforts to build sustainable, energy efficient, affordable homes by making a donation today.
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