Cut Off Your Heating Bills This Fall
Fall is just around the corner! Soon, you’ll be turning off that AC and setting your thermostat to heat your home. While you may be looking forward to those cozy autumn nights, you might also be dreading one thing: those high heating bills. Fall and winter can really take a bite out of your budget with energy consumption, but it doesn’t have to be that way! There are plenty of ways for you to save on your heating bills. Here are some tips to help you out:
1. Improve your energy efficiency by sealing up cracks, gaps, and leaks.
One of the most common ways for a home to lose warmth is through drafts. These drafts may be caused by anything from holes in the wall to old doors or windows. That isn’t to say that you need to replace every window and door in your house. Rather, you should check to make sure your home is as airtight as possible.
For windows, a bit of caulk should plug those holes right up. For doors, they sell handy slide-on additions to put at the bottom of the door. These help trap air inside, reducing the amount of heat you’re pumping into the air instead of your house.
You should also check in on any outdoor switchplates and outlets. If they don’t have a proper seal around them, or their seal is cracked, it is time to double down on the caulk. Other places to keep an eye on include your roof, siding, ducts, and attic.
Another place you may have forgotten about sealing off is your fireplace. The US Department of Energy estimates that properly sealing off your fireplace when it’s not in use can save as much as 14% on your heating costs.
Be sure to close the flue when it’s not in use. If you haven’t already, it’s also a good idea to install some fireplace doors; or, if you already have some, check them! They might be drafty. If this is the case, it’s time to look into investing in replacements.
Moreover, you might want to consider investing in a damper. These devices are placed on top of the chimney and can be closed when not in use. They seal off the chimney completely, stopping cold air in its tracks. They’re also handy to have in the spring and summer, when critters might be tempted to crawl into your chimney for shelter.
2. Get your chimney checked! It’s safe, and it’ll save money.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the last one. When it comes to unwanted drafts, even the most tightly sealed chimney on earth can’t keep out the air if it isn’t properly maintained.
Like many things in your home, your chimney degrades over time. Nothing lasts forever—at least not without some maintenance! That’s where a chimney sweep comes in handy. (Pro tip: It’s best to hire them in the summer or early fall, before everyone starts using their fireplaces.)
Cracks may form in your masonry over time, through which cold air can seep into your home. This not only leads to a draftier home but can also pose danger to you and your family.
These fissures may lead inside, to the wooden framing of your home. When superheated gasses rise through your chimney, they seek the path of least resistance for their escape, and that might just be by eating away at your home’s structure. This may cause problems ranging from damaging the structural integrity of your home to causing a catastrophic fire.
Chimney sweeps will also check for and, if needed, clean away creosote deposits. Like masonry cracks, these gooey buildups of gunk can catch fire and burn through your chimney lining. Their temperature may even be sufficient enough to ignite a fire through the wall!
Smaller maintenance tasks may also be necessary, and you can do these yourself. Such measures include cleaning out the ash when a fire is done and disposing of it properly. Don’t clean too much of it, though! Just sweep up what goes over the grate, as having a little bit of ash helps kindle fires.
Remember to wear proper clothing and protection when performing these tasks. Cleaning ash requires a respirator, and should only be done once the ash is cool.
3. Look into the benefits of a fireplace insert.
If you’ve done all of these steps and you still find that your fireplace is drafty, you might want to consider getting a fireplace insert. These EPA-approved options are designed to make your fireplace work more like a wood stove. They create higher efficiency systems without the need to completely seal off your existing fireplace or install completely new appliances.
Depending on which option you choose, the insert may also come to programmable controls to set the desired temperature.
Inserts are custom made to fit your unique fireplace, so they’re always snug and tight. They also have visual appeal, and the wide selection of styles available means that any home can have a matching insert. If you’re looking to get one, it’s best to start the process now, in the summer (or late spring), before business picks up in fall and winter.
4. Consider checking out alternate options; look into pellet stoves!
Heating your home with gas and electricity all winter gets expensive. Your electric bills likely go through the roof every winter.
Unlike cooling your home, however, there’s a solution for this. If you don’t have a fireplace, you may have thought that your only option was electric heating, but that’s not true! Pellet stoves are small, compact, and can be easily installed. These efficient heating solutions often come with programmable settings and automatic feeding systems, making them just as convenient as a conventional furnace or heating unit.
Depending on where you place the unit, you may even be able to get away with just using the stove as your main heat source! However, even using the stove for just a portion of your home’s heat is bound to save you money. As an added bonus, using wood for warmth lessens stress on electrical plants, meaning that it’s eco-friendly.
If you already have a pellet stove, make sure it’s working. Depending on its age, you may also want to think about upgrading to a newer unit. As with all things, technology has improved the capabilities of pellet stoves and wood-burning appliances.
Newer units are designed to maximize efficiency while minimizing pollutants. This not only reduces your overall footprint, but also boosts the safety of your system! Older pellet stoves can put out much more creosote than newer versions, thereby increasing your risk for a dangerous and possibly deadly fire.
Studies conducted by the US Department of Energy have shown that, on average, homes heated with pellet appliances save a great deal of energy and money thanks to their high efficiency and low fuel cost. In fact, pellet fuel is, in almost every case, cheaper than traditional heating systems; this includes electrical heating, gas-based heating, and radiators.
5. Store your wood properly to get the most out of your fireplace or wood-burning appliance.
When it comes to fireplaces, you need two things: fire and wood.
Maintaining that wood is not only important, but money-saving. The measures discussed here apply to both store-bought logs and the wood you might cut yourself!
First and foremost, store your wood properly. Wet or damp wood serves little purpose, as it burns poorly (if at all) and doesn’t provide much heat. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, keep your wood stored above the ground and covered, but leave the sides open to air out. This discourages the wood from gathering moisture from the ground but allows all other forms of moisture, such as dew, to dry.
The best wood for burning is properly seasoned; for safety reasons, it is recommended that this is the only wood you burn. Seasoned wood is sold in stores, but you can also do it yourself by cutting wood in spring and allowing it to dry completely over the summer.
You should also select the right type of wood for the job. You should avoid softwoods and opt for hardwoods. These burn longer and hotter, and tend to produce less smoke. Common varieties of hardwoods for fireplaces include hickory, oak, ash, and maple.
When cutting your own wood, avoid any that is green or has green on it; this indicates that it has a fair deal of moisture in it. As per the prior tip, be sure that the wood you’re gathering is the right stuff for the job.
6. Do a pre-winter check of your furnace and other major appliances.
The end of summer is the best time to adhere to this tip. Go around your home and check that everything is in proper order. As we’ve mentioned, you should check that any existing chimney sealing measurements are working. Open and close your flue and damper. Above all else, call in a chimney sweep to get an inspection.
Aside from the chimney and fireplace, make sure that all other methods of heating your home are functional. If you have air vents, be sure to pull any furniture that might be blocking them away. (This is also a fire safety measure.) Your ceiling fans should all be set to run in reverse, so that they pull cool air up and push warm air down. Don’t forget your filters, too!
You should also consider letting your furnace run for a few minutes before temperatures dip. During this test run, make sure that heat is being properly distributed. If not, then it’s time to figure out why and call a repairperson.
7. Practice common sense measures and safety
As commonplace as it is, heating your home can get risky if you do not practice the right safety precautions. Remember to follow standard fire safety procedures around all wood- or fuel-burning appliances. Keep a watchful eye on children and pets.
Other cost-cutting measures are fairly simple and range in price from completely free to a few hundred dollars at most.
- Run your furnace at the lowest temperature that works for you and your needs.
- Wear a bit more in the winter. Put on a sweatshirt and some cozy, fuzzy slippers.
- Leave blinds and curtains open during the day. Letting the sunshine in is a free way to keep things warm when it’s cool outside. This is especially true for windows that face the sunshine.
- Cook at home often, if possible. The heat from the stove and/or oven helps warm the house. Just be sure to turn them off when you’re done.
- While you’re cooking, be sure to avoid using any exhaust fans or vent hoods if possible. Though great for removing unwanted smells, they also release a lot of your hot air!
- When nobody is in a room, close any doors leading to it so that warm air is trapped inside.
- If you opt for using space heaters, be very cautious. Keep them off of carpets and away from flammable objects. Heeding all of the included warnings in the instruction manual for your chosen heater is a must.
- Have fire extinguishers in your home. Make sure they’re operational and easily accessible.
- Get a humidifier or two, but be wary of making your home too humid! Wet air holds heat, so it’s a good idea to try and get a bit of moisture circulating in your home.
Finally, if you’re installing new heating systems, be it electrical or wood-burning, make sure to consult an expert first; the size you get should be the right size. An oversized unit is more expensive to run than it needs to be, and an undersized unit won’t do you much good!
Bottom Line: Small Actions Make a Difference
Your home is your greatest asset and your refuge. Keeping it safe and warm this fall and winter doesn’t have to be super expensive! You don’t need to bundle up to ward off the cold, you just need to make sure that you’ve checked a few boxes before the leaves stop falling.
If you combine these larger tasks with a few smaller ones, you could start seeing a big difference in your spending. For the tasks that you simply can’t complete yourself or the heating appliance installation that you don’t know how to do, we’re here to help!