Many homeowners will have to deal with big heating bills this winter. To keep those bills as low as possible, Renovate Your World has come up with 20 suggestions.
You may have to cut an insulation blanket to fit your water heater. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions which will differ for electric and gas- or oil-fired water heaters. (c) Maureen Blaney Flietner
1. Schedule an energy audit. Look for a reputable inspector with high-tech equipment who can determine whether there is enough insulation in the right places and if there are any air leaks. An audit typically includes a prioritized list of remedies and estimated savings. Check for auditors through state home energy programs or through RESNET, an industry not-for-profit membership corporation, which offers an online rater directory. Many communities offer free energy audits, too, so contact your town hall for more information. For more information about energy audits, see “Four Fixes to Stop Home Energy Leaks."
2. Don’t heat unused rooms. Close the registers, draw the drapes and shut the door. Provide just enough heat to those rooms to prevent frozen water pipes during frigid weather.
3. Let the sun shine in. On bright winter days, the Sun’s low angle brings light streaming into your south-facing windows along with free solar heat. Close drapes at night and keep them closed on blustery, gray days. Consider insulated drapes or curtains. Make sure drapery and furniture don’t block heat vents.
4. Remedy leaky windows. If your windows are single-pane, replace them with high-efficiency models. Not in the budget? Here are other options. Caulk around windows using appropriate products. Create interior storm windows with heavy-duty plastic or use a kit. Kits typically involve attaching supplied clear plastic to the frame with double-stick tape. You may have to use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic to fit. Carefully remove interior window trim and use water-based low-expanding foam to seal any gaps between windows and walls. Weatherstrip between sash and frame. See our How To Video, “Weatherstripping Doors and Windows for Energy Savings” for step-by-step instructions.
5. Maintain heating systems. Schedule annual service with your heating contractor to make sure the system works at peak efficiency. Replacing an old filter can save as much as five percent on your heating costs and it’s simple to do. Here’s how: “Replacing a Filter for a Forced Air Heating System.” If you burn wood or pellets, clean the flue vent and follow manufacturer maintenance recommendations.
6. Reduce water heater temperature to 120 degrees F. Some water heater thermostats come preset at 140 degrees F., which is scalding hot. Most households only need water at 110 to 120 degrees F. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, each 10 degree F drop in temperature saves three to five percent in energy costs. Review the owner’s manual to see how to adjust the thermostat. If you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, you may have to keep the temperature high.
7. Insulate the water heater. Many newer water heaters contain insulation but some do not. Touch your water heater. If it is warm, it could use an insulation jacket. Follow manufacturer’s directions. There are some caveats. Don’t install an insulation jacket on an electric water heater set higher than 130 degrees F and leave the thermostat access panel uncovered. Keep the insulation jacket on a gas- or oil-fired water heater away from the drain and flue. Follow manufacturer directions. Here’s how to easily insulate your water heater as well as pipes and attic spaces.