Don’t forget to check back for our last blog of the series on how to ready your home for summer savings.
What is a good temp set point for winter?
The best way to save money is to have a scheduled thermostat. Ideally, you want to keep your house at 68 degrees F in the winter. During the day when no one is home you can turn down the temperature to 66 and schedule it to raise back up the hour you return home from work. You may have to play with the set-back temperature and settings a little bit, since not every home warms up in the same amount of time. For example, newer, better insulated homes generally heat up faster than older homes and apartments. You can apply an experiment using a smart thermostat like Nest and Ecobee and track how long your space takes to heat up one degree on a cold winter day. You can then use that to figure out how long it will take your heating to get up to your desired temperature and have your system start heating up accordingly. For example:
It takes 10 minutes for my house to get from 65 to 66 degrees. I like it to be 68, when I get home. So, with 3 degrees difference, that’s 30 minutes to get to 68 degrees. I get home at 6pm, so the space should be scheduled to start heating up at 5:30pm.
At night it is also recommended to turn down your thermostat to 65 or 66 degrees to stay comfortable and save energy. In the cold cold days of winter, it’s tempting to want to crank up the heat so you can stay comfortable, but first try some other tips before using more energy to stay warm. Make sure you’ve got on socks and warm clothes. If you’re really trying to save money, wear house slippers and a sweatshirt to stay warmer. When lounging on the couch, try using blankets before turning up the heat.
Remember if you’re leaving for the weekend or a longer trip, turn down your settings as low as 55 degrees while no one is home. Leaving the heat on at this low setting will save energy, but also ensure your pipes don’t freeze!
How can you use the sun to help balance heating and daylight?
During the day, allow natural sunlight to come in from the east and west windows. This helps bring some heat from the sun into your house naturally and saves on both heating and lighting costs! Make sure to close the blinds or drapes on windows you’re not using and at night to help provide another small layer of insulation over the windows to help lower heating costs.
How does changing which air ducts are open, and the direction of vents help?
Move the heat where you need the heat! Ever been sitting on the couch freezing as you watch TV, but then be sweating in the kitchen when you’re cooking? Especially in smaller kitchens, there is no need for the air ducts to be fully open to the room. The cooking appliances and movement of people is usually enough to keep the space warm with less heat being pushed into the room. For rental properties where you have access to the ducts in the basement, you can adjust openness there. For apartments where you may not have access to ducts, you likely still have access to the direction of the vents. If you have a spot in the living room or somewhere you usually spend the most time at home, be sure to open the air ducts up completely in those spots and point the vent covers in a direction that heats up the areas you use but doesn’t blow directly at you. The same goes for bedrooms—I tend to like it colder at night and I don’t spend time in the bedroom during the day, so I close the air ducts and partially close the vents up to my bed so that more heat is going to the living room where I spend more time. If it gets cold at night, my first effort is to open back up the vent in the room rather than turn up the thermostat and it usually is just enough!
If you rent a house be careful not to close too many of the vents. This can build up pressure in the ducts and damage your HVAC system. Also change your filters frequently, at minimum every 3 months. If you are having air flow issues, I’d recommend changing filters even more frequently, since a dirty filter obstructs the air flow and makes your system work harder.
Do ceiling fans make a difference?
Just as ceiling fans can help pull up air to keep the cooler air circulating in the summer, the same can be done in the winter! By switching the direction your ceiling fan spins in the winter, you can run the fan in a clockwise direction on low speed to help push down the hot air, which rises naturally to the ceiling. By not having the hot air stuck in one area but rather spreading it around evenly, you can reduce how much heat is required to make you comfortable in your space. However, don’t turn the fan speed too high, as you don’t want to create a breeze which will make the room colder.
My rental space has really old windows that let in a lot of cold air/drafts, what can I do?
First and foremost, make sure the windows are closed and locked properly. Sometimes dirt and grime can prevent windows from closing all the way and engaged window locks can often provide a tighter seal. Check if you have storm windows and switch them in for the screens (they are often stored in the basement).
Window Insulator Kits are simple and easy to use and are a great affordable option for renters! These kits can be found at hardware stores, Walmart and Amazon. The method of these kits is covering your window frame on the inside with a layer of plastic sheeting (that’s still clear so you can enjoy your views) which clings to the frame with the heat form a hair dryer! Once you hang these up you hardly notice them when you look out the window, but your R-value (aka the thermal efficiency of your window glass) will increase by up to 90%. Then in the spring when you’re ready to open the windows, the removal is just as easy as the installation.
You can also use roll caulk, which is a pliable string (available in hardware stores or on Amazon for around $6) applied to all the joints and seals on a window. The caulk is very easily removed in summer. Pro Tip: Be sure to push in the caulk after applying to get a tight seal. I don’t recommend using the removable caulk from the tube unless you have practice applying it. You may also want to check your window seals to see if they need to be replaced or are even installed in the first place. It’s a task you can do yourself but should check with your landlord first to get approval. If you notice gaps between wall and window trim or between pieces of window trim, ask your landlord to caulk them. It’s a cheap improvement which will make a big difference.
Note, all of these draft improvements will also help reduce your cooling costs in summer!
I live in an old house with bad drafts, how can I make improvements to a rental?
Drafts can be a pain, not only because they make you cold when air is seeping in under the doors, windows and outlets, but they’re also eating up a lot of your heating energy! To work on improvements, find key spots where you often feel a breeze of cold air or wall outlets/areas that seem to radiate the cold into the house. For renters who don’t want to do permanent caulking or can’t get landlord help, there’s an easy solution for outlets. There are brands who make outlet sealers that are flame retardant insulators that can be screwed in behind your outlet plate with a simple screwdriver. For doors that leak cold air underneath, use door draft stoppers that just slide under your door and require no work for installation. However, make sure that your doors are still operable and you won’t get stuck in case of an emergency.
If your rental has a fireplace, check to make sure the dampers are closed when not in use. You may also install a chimney plug, which is an inflatable balloon installed in the chimney to seal it for air leakage. A fireplace can be a significant source of air leakage and draft, since it’s designed to move air out and up.
So, what are you going to do to improve your winter months utility costs?
*Please note we are not affiliated with any of the listed products, these are products we have used in the past and have proven to work for us or our clients.