How to Save Money on Heating this Winter
Well, it’s finally here: winter in Minnesota. Now that it’s January it isn’t even the “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” fun kind of winter. Now it’s the “Jack Frost ripping your ears off with 40 mph wind, 20 below without wind chill” winter. In the midst of these dark months, we’ve gotta stick together.
That’s why Ben Franklin Minnesota compiled this list of easy things you can do to save on heating this winter. We all have enough to worry about without dreading waiting for each heating bill to arrive. We’re not saying we can make winter any less bleak, but we can save you a little money while you’re freezing your buns off.
Lock your Doors and Windows
This sounds kind of ominous, doesn’t it? No, the actual personification of winter isn’t going to steal into your house at night to freeze you. Locking doors and windows improves the seal between the warmth inside your house and the brutal cold of the outdoors.
You might not notice a substantial change in the warmth of your house, but the seals will do a better job of keeping warm air from escaping. When less air escapes, your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your house warm. When your furnace doesn’t work as hard, you save money!
If you try to lock or unlock a door or window and find yourself struggling mightily, don’t force it. If it’s really cold out, there’s a chance your lock has frozen in place. A frozen lock is more likely when the door or window is unlocked, because ice can move into the space left by the lock mechanism. Try a blow dryer on the lock or the opening mechanism itself, but be careful not to burn yourself.
Reverse the Ceiling Fan
This is a cool trick a lot of homeowners don’t know about. Ceiling fans work by rotating counter clockwise and pushing cool air down from the ceiling into the room. If you have your ceiling fan spin clockwise instead, the fan will pull cool air up towards the ceiling. As the fan forces the cold air upwards, the cold air shoves warm air out of the way. With nowhere else to go, the warm air is pushed back down into the room.
It doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised: not only will you feel a difference in rooms with ceiling fans, you will also save a substantive amount on heating money. Essentially you’re having your fan do something that would usually have to be accomplished by the central heating unit: circulating warm air through the rooms. Reverse course-direction is easy, too; most units have a button you can access.
Be sure you only use the ceiling fan’s “low” setting if you’re doing this. If you get the fan going too fast, you’ll wind up blowing the cold air against the ceiling and back down into the room. Then you’ll be back to square one.
Get a Digital Thermostat
If there’s one best practice for managing a heating bill, it’s this. Digital, programmable thermostats continuously monitor the temperature of your house. The thermostat turns on the heat when your house gets colder than the programmed temperature. When your house is at the right temperature, it turns the heat off. Digital thermostats can perform this function more effectively than any other kind.
Even better, digital thermostats can be programmed to work on schedules. If there’s no one in your house from 8 to 4 every weekday, there’s no reason to keep the heat on. Program your thermostat to turn off the heat after you leave from work, then turn it back on a half hour before you get home. When you get home your house will be as warm as it would be if you had left the heat on all day!
Turn Down the Heat at Night
You might already do this, but if you don’t it’s a great way to save energy. If you turn down the heat to 55 or 60 at night, you won’t necessarily notice any difference, but your furnace will have a lot less work to do.
If you have a digital, programmable thermostat (hey, remember those from the last tip?!) you can set it so that your house starts warming up around the time you wake up. Set it to start heating about 15 minutes before you get out of bed and you won’t even notice that the heat hadn’t been on all night. You don’t have to turn off your heat and freeze every night, though; even adjusting just a few degrees can make a really substantial difference in your bill.
Seal Gaps, Drafts, and Cracks
There are a lot of places in your house where heat can escape. We already covered windows and doors, which are big, but you should also check gaps around electrical outlets, utilities lines like pipes and electrical, and the insulation in your basement, attic, and garage.
If there are any cracks or gaps in your walls, floors, ceilings, or corners particularly in unfinished parts of the house, consider sealing or caulking them. Even a little gap can let a lot of heat out, so sealing them can make a noticeable difference. Make sure your fireplace’s damper is up when it isn’t in use, and keep the fireplace doors closed to prevent heat from leaking out the chimney. If you feel a draft coming from the fireplace, you should take steps to seal off the chimney more thoroughly.
In winter, you have to appreciate the small victories. We can’t stop the weather or the traffic, but we can help you save some money and stay warm. Simple steps like these can make a surprisingly big difference. You could even use the money you save to buy something to help you forget your wintery woes!
Whatever you do, just stay warm. And remember, if you ever have a plumbing, water heater, gas, or boiler problem, give us a call anytime. We’ll be there fast, no matter how frightful the weather outside is.
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