You have probably heard public service announcements lately telling you to winterize your home to save energy. Now we all love Mother Earth, but what if you could love mother earth and keep some green in your wallet? Well, that is why winterizing can be a great way to save some money. Below, I’ve listed 10 things you can do to winterize your home. They are simple and can be done or have done for you for next to nothing. We’re using the Atlanta, GA average electric bill of $242 as the basis for our estimated savings. You can find your local average here.
- Drafts. That coooold winter air likes to sneak into our homes any-which way it can, and your “bought air” seeps out leaving you with a chill. The US Department of Energy estimates that 5–30% of your energy use can be wasted on drafts. So, seal them up! The simplest, no cost, effort you can make right now is to go to your linen closet, roll up a towel, and stuff it at the bottom of your exterior doors. Or, if you want to get crafty, make a draft snake following these directions: draft snake or check out more ideas here. Another important consideration, is if your thermostat is getting a draft and creating a false temperature reading. This could be a huge energy drain.
- Caulking and Weatherstripping can save you 5–30% a year. Pay special attention to where two building materials meet: corners around chimneys or where pipes and wires exit along the foundation. There are a couple ways to check around windows and walls: the incense test or the candle test. Be sure to avoid any flammable materials while doing either test. The incense test requires one person to move a lit stick along the walls and windows. Anywhere the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in. You can test around the windows by having one person outside blowing a hair dryer around each window while the person inside holds a lit candle. If the candle flickers or goes out, you need to caulk or weather strip around the frame. Savings estimate for items 1 & 2: 12.5% x $242= $30.25/month
- Furnace Filters need to be changed more frequently during the heating season. A dirty filter restricts airflow and increases energy demand. The Dept of Energy also recommends a HEPA filter to control bacteria, mold, viruses, and pollen. Disposable fiberglass filters only trap 10–40% of debris. Put a monthly reminder on your phone calendar to check your filters and replace as needed, but replace at a minimum 4 times/year. Use this calculation to figure out how many months you are running your system with a clogged filter. Multiply by 3 the number of times you change your filter/year and subtract that from 12. The answer is the number of months you are running your system with a clogged filter. For example, if you change your filter 2 times per year then the calculation would look like this: 12-(3×2)=6, so half the year your filters would be clogged. Using that calculation, in Atlanta it would be costing you $108.90/year or $9.08/month because of using a clogged filter.
- Run Fans in Reverse. Most of us tend to think of our ceiling fans when we get hot, but there is a handy switch on the fan that will reverse the direction of the blades. This will circulate all that warm air that gets trapped near the ceiling throughout the room. When you’re looking up at the fan the blades should be going at a slow speed in a clockwise direction during the winter months. The savings come here because you feel warmer (this doesn’t actually change the temperature) you can set your thermostat a few degrees lower.
- Winterize Your AC and Water Lines. No expense here. Drain the water from your AC lines and hoses. Turn off the exterior water spigots too.
- Turn Down Your Water Heater. Typically, water heaters are set to 140 degrees F but most households don’t need it set that high. Adjust the temperature to 120 degrees or lower would reduce your water heating by 6–10%. Cost savings $19.36/month
- Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up. It’s not just your car that needs a tune-up; your heating system needs one too! Many utility companies offer free annual checkups, but they can get backed up when heating season starts so call early. Keeping the furnace properly adjusted and clean will reduce energy use and save up to 5%. Savings estimate $12.10/month
- Lower the thermostat and put on a sweater. Since 50–70% of energy budgets go towards heating and cooling our homes be sure you are actually there to enjoy it. Install a programmable thermostat so you aren’t heating the home while you’re at work. They cost as little as $50 and the average family saves $180/year with one. Also, remember for every degree you lower your thermostat you save between 1–3% of your heating bill. Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat to 68 while you’re home and awake, and lowering it while you’re sleeping. A light long-sleeved sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth, while a heavy sweater adds about 4 degrees. Savings $4.84/month/degree lowered
- Insulate your windows, attic and pipes. There are plastic sheets that you can install on the window itself that is virtually invisible. These sheets limit the amount of heat escaping through the windows. Adding additional insulation in the attic, basement ceiling and walls is one of the best ways to save energy. Most hardware stores sell pre-slit pipe insulators that you can cut to size and seal with duct tape to decrease your expenses of heating water. The higher the “R-value” the more insulating the pipe foam will be.
- Seal the ducts. An incredible 10–30% of heated or cooled air escapes from the ducts. You could save $140/annually by properly sealing the ducts with the bonus of better protecting you from mold and dust. Most homes do not need duct cleaning if there is not an air quality problem, so don’t fall for this service. Savings estimate in Atlanta $48.40/month
You’ve sat there reading these chores that you would have to add to your already long list of things to do during the holiday season, and it all sounds good but what’s the bottom line? Let’s tally it up….
|Energy Saving Effort||Monthly||Annually|
|5–30% savings on drafts||$30.25||$363|
|Replacing clogged filters||$9.08||$108.90|
|Turn your water heater down||$19.36||$232.32|
|Tune your heating system||$12.10||$145.20|
|Turn heat down||$15||$180|
|Seal the ducts||$48.40||$580.80|
That’s a significant savings. Using this estimate, it looks like the average household in Atlanta could possibly cut their electric bill in half if they implemented these cost saving measures. I’m just moving into a new home, so I will be testing out all these strategies to see if there is any impact I can make on my electric bill. My bill hasn’t been anywhere near the Atlanta average. I use LED lighting which I’m sure has a significant impact. Check out my post on the potential savings from LED lighting. I’ll report back in a future post on the success I’ve had with winterizing.