Image Courtesy of Evgeni Dinev
If our visit this year from the Four Snowmen of the Apocalypse leaves you wanting nothing more than to crank up the thermostat, curl up and keep the cold at bay, you’re not alone.
According to Earth 911, “For each 1 degree you turn down the thermostat in the winter, you’ll save up to 5% on your heating costs.” That may be a hard sell when you’ve just come inside after digging yourself out of yet another blizzard, but there are other things you can do to get your wintertime energy usage lower.
Insulation – The most important thing you can do is make sure you have adequate insulation. If you suspect your home is losing heat, you can hire an energy auditor who will inspect your home, room by room, look at your past utility bills and perform tests to show where your home is losing heat. Your state or local government energy office or your gas or electric utility company should be able to help you find a professional energy auditor. The U.S Department of Energy suggests you…”Make sure the energy auditor uses a calibrated blower door. Make sure they do thermographic inspections or contract another company to conduct one.”
Programmable Thermostats – If your family is out of the house for 8 to 10 hours a day, why bother heating it? With a programmable thermostat, you don’t have to remember to lower it before you leave in the morning or go to bed at night. And you know that when you get home your house will be nice and toasty!
Furnace Filters – Clean monthly and replace as needed.
Floors – Ceramic or stone floors can feel like ice during the winter and make a room seem much colder than it is. So if you’re planning on re-doing your floors, you may want to consider some options:
- Radiant Floor Heating – The U.S. Department of Energy defines radiant heating as, “involv[ing] supplying heat directly to the floor …The systems depend largely on radiant heat transfer: the delivery of heat directly from the hot surface to the people and objects in the room via the radiation of heat.” It may sound very decadent to heat your floors, but hydronic radiant heat actually uses little electricity and heats rooms more efficiently than baseboard or forced air heating because no heat is lost in the ducts. According to the Healthy House Institute, “…comfortable conditions and heating energy efficiency can be maintained with radiant heating systems with lowered ambient air temperatures.”
- Type of flooring – Ceramic, stone and even wood can make for very cold floors. Warmer alternatives include carpet and laminate flooring.
Carpet is very warm, but it’s hard to keep clean. And if you’re installing it in a basement (usually the worst offender of cold floors), you have to be sure you don’t have any moisture seeping through the concrete as it may result in mold growth.
Laminate flooring has a decorative top sheet with a wear layer over it and a plastic backing. It is easy to keep clean, it’s durable and it’s flexible enough that you don’t have to worry about uneven substrates. Place N’ Go™ flooring is water-proof, making it suitable for basement applications and it’s available in many decorative finishes so you can have the look of wood or stone without the cold. And because it’s free-floating, you don’t have to worry about moisture causing any adhesive failure.
Windows – You may think I’m going to tell you to replace your windows with Energy Star approved windows, but I’m not. Replacing all your windows is expensive and there are things you can do to improve your current windows.
- Always make sure your exterior storm windows are down and if you don’t have exterior storm windows, get some! They add extra insulation, cut down on drafts and are less of an investment than new windows.
- If you can feel cold air coming in at window joint, simply run a bead of latex caulk where the window and siding meet. You can also use caulk on the interior window joints.
- Plastic window film can keep a lot of that cold out and is incredibly inexpensive.
- Open the blinds or shades on your windows that get a lot of sun (and keep those windows clean); the greenhouse effect can really warm up a room. And as soon as the sun starts to dip, close those blinds or shades to help keep the heat in.
Take these steps and you can sip your hot chocolate knowing that not only are you keeping warm, you’re saving energy, too!