As the temperature drops, our heating bill goes up as we fight the chilly season change. It's time to prep your home for the winter months ahead so you can save money and remain cozy. Here are some ways to prep your home before winter arrives, your wallet will thank you.
1. Defend against drafts.
According to the U.S Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 - 30 % of your energy use! A simple solution is a draft snake to line the bottom of your doors, which you can make or buy for super cheap. Don't feel like crafting a draft snake? Roll a bath towel and wedge under the drafty door -- problem solved.
2. Install storm windows.
Installing storm windows can increase energy efficiency by 45% by sealing drafts and reducing airflow. Look for Energy Star-certified models. Federal tax credits are available at 10 percent of the cost (not including installation costs), up to $200 for windows and skylights and up to $500 for doors. Cumulative maximum tax credits for windows, doors, and skylights for all years combined is $500.
*If you're on a tight budget, clear window insulation film can keep up to 70% of your heat from leaking out of the windows as well and only costs $20-$35 a kit.
3. Turn down your water heater.
While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit by installers, most households don't need that much steam. You'll likely end up paying for it in dollars and the occasional scalding burn. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or lower) would reduce your water heating costs by 6% - 10%.
4. Insulate your pipes.
Pay even less for hot water by insulating your pipes. This can also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power.
5. Practice thermostat control.
It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the house, but doing so is one of the best ways to save money! Chances are, you're paying 50% - 70% of your energy budget when you're not home, so why are you paying for heat no one is using? Well, maybe the dog is using some...but for every degree you lower the thermostat during the heating season, you save up to 3% of your heating bill.
*A simple cost-effective solution, if you're in a habit of rushing out the door in the morning, is purchasing a programmable thermostat that auto adjusts your home's temperature to your schedule. On average you'll save about $180/year with one of these.
6. Check your heating system.
It's time to give your system an annual tune-up. Many utilities offer free annual checkups by qualified technicians but call early as HVAC crews get booked up once the season starts. Keep your furnace clean, lubricated, and properly adjusted to reduce energy use, saving up to 5% of heating costs. Additionally, regularly changing filters in your heating system can significantly reduce cost for as little as $10.
7. Seal Ducts.
Studies show 10% - 30% of heated or cooled air in an average system escapes from ducts. It could pay to hire a professional technician to come out and test your duct system and fix any problems. Properly sealing ducts can save the average home up to $140 annually, according to the American Solar Energy Society. Plus, you'll have better protection against mold and dust!
8. Utilize tax credits!
There are a variety of lucrative tax credits that help homeowners install renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies. Check out the federal and Oregon's 2017 residential tax credits for more energy efficiency info.