It’s just starting to get cold in DC and surrounding areas. The winters in DC area are usually pretty cold, but there could be a chance for a mild winter this year. Despite it possibly being warmer than usual, it can still get cold enough to turn on the heater. Thankfully there are several ways to cut down on heating costs and save money during the holiday season.
Fall Housekeeping Tips
As soon as the trees have shed most of their leaves, that’s a signal to do some pre-winter preparedness chores around the house. Here are some common fall housekeeping tips:
- Replace filters in your heating unit.
- Clean out the gutters from debris.
- Schedule service appointments for the chimney and the furnace.
- Disconnect your water hose and turn off your sprinkler system and exterior faucets.
- If you have a pool, drain it or reduce the water level and add swimming pool anti-freeze.
Best Insulation Practices
- Apply weather stripping, caulk, or spray foam around doors, windows, and any gap where air leaks in or out. This could also include electrical outlets and switch plates.
- Check for draft areas in every room including your attic, garage and basement areas.
- Inspect the seal of the flue in your fireplace and close the damper.
There are many types of windows to consider: storm, thermal, wood, aluminum, single pane, double pane–what a pain! But much of your heating can escape due to ineffective windows.
- Figure out when your windows were installed and what type you have.
- If they are aluminum, steel, vinyl from the 70’s or 80’s, consider replacing your windows with energy-efficient styles.
- If you have an older home with double-hung wood panel windows you may be able to repair or restore them at a fraction of the cost.
- Add storm doors to any doors that lead outside. They add an extra layer of insulation.
- Install door sweeps on the exterior doors.
- Draft stoppers can also help for keeping a single room warmer.
Weatherproof the Hot Water Heater
- Insulate the water heater’s surrounding space with chalk or spray foam insulation.
- Reduce the hot water heater setting to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wrap foam-rubber insulation around water pipes.
- Cover the water heater with appropriate insulation.
- Use a timer on your water heater.
- Upgrade to a tank-less model which are more efficient.
- Landscaping can provide protection from wind and weather by planting trees and shrubs in strategic places. A mix of evergreens and deciduous trees can act as a windbreak.
- Place straw bales around the perimeter of your home.
- Repair cracks in the mortar of brick walls, broken shingles, and house foundation.
Modernizing Your Home
Wireless & Programmable Thermostats
There is a new law in Austin, TX requiring residents to install smart thermostats that can be controlled by a smartphone as well as the utility company; it could be a good idea for people all over the U.S. These two-way communicating thermostats have proven to save both customers and utility companies energy during the summer and winter months. A programmable central air unit is great too, but what if you forgot to adjust the temperature after an override or shut it off during a vacation? With a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, you can set it to any temp at any time, in effect providing a cost savings. With these devices, the temperature is adjusted by a few degrees. Another payoff is the rebate of up to $100.
Solar power is now an affordable option and not as expensive as it used to be. If you consider the savings, it could pay for itself within eight years. It’s quite possible that 75% of your energy costs are wrapped up in water heating, space heating and cooling. The investment including incentives averages about $3,000-$5,000 to buy and install.
Another sustainable option is a geothermal heating system which tends to be more expensive. The system conducts energy from a water furnace using a pump that distributes the heat or cooling energy to the house duct or water system.
However you choose to weatherproof your home for the winter, a minimal effort can make your house more efficient and affordable.