With the arrival of winter temperatures, home heating systems are using more energy and will cost more to operate. This comprehensive list of changes (big and small) will help reduce your energy use and result in cost savings.
Heating and Cooling
- Take advantage of heat from the sun: Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
- Cover drafty windows: Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration. Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
- Adjust the temperature: When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable. When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature.
- Find and seal leaks: Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
- Maintain your heating systems: Schedule service for your heating system. Replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed. For wood- and pellet-burning heaters, clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.
- Reduce heat loss from the fireplace: Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney. When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly–approximately 1 inch–and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue. If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room. Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible. Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room. Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.
- Insulate your attic: Attic insulation could be your best investment. It lowers the cost of both heating and cooling.
- Install storm doors and windows: Prevents heat loss. Weather stripping and caulking also block cold outside air.
- Seal off unused rooms: Close registers and keep doors shut tightly. However, do not seal off more than one-fifth (20%) of your total living space because your furnace may not operate properly.
- Don’t place furniture in front of heating registers: If radiators are near cold walls, place aluminum or aluminum foil between walls and radiators to reflect heat back into the room.
- Keep the doors closed: Encourage children not to run into and out of the house unnecessarily.
- Preheat the oven only when necessary (when you bake cakes and quick breads). The broiler needs preheating only for rare steaks.
- Plan to bake several dishes at the same temperature when possible.
- Do not block oven air passages with aluminum foil or oven liners: Poor air flow can cause uneven baking.
- Thawed foods cook faster.
- Use the smallest flame possible on top burners: The flame should never exceed the pan’s width.
- Water boils faster in covered pans.
- Cook vegetables in small amounts of water. Avoid overcooking, which reduces nutritional value.
- Keep burners, cooktops and ovens clean: Clean surfaces will ensure more efficient operations. If the burner flame is yellowish instead of blue, clean the burner with soap and water. A blue flame is more efficient than a yellow one. (Note: Some aerosols, such as nonstick cooking sprays, may cause the flame to appear yellow. In such cases the yellow flame does not affect the burner’s efficiency.)
- Lower your water heating costs: Water heating accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands. A water heater setting of “Normal” or “Low” is usually sufficient.
- Take showers: They use less hot water than baths. Also, avoid running hot water unnecessarily during hand washing or shaving.
- Wash full loads in dishwashers and washing machines.
- Repair leaky faucets: Constant dripping adds up to gallons of wasted hot water.
- Use the right-size water heater: Heating an oversized tank of water wastes gas. Heating water is the second-largest use of energy in the home, next to heating. Savings on hot water can be significant.
- Dry a full load each time but avoid overloading.
- Clean your lint trap before each load to improve dryer efficiency.
- Don’t overdry, which can ruin delicate clothing and waste gas.
- Consider line-drying clothing inside during the wintertime. You will add humidity to your home, which can make you more comfortable, and use less gas.
Local Utility Rebate Programs
Local utility rebate programs provide incentives for saving energy and upgrading to energy efficient bulbs, fixtures and equipment. Please note that Ameren Missouri’s rebate program ended in December but may begin again soon. Check their website for the latest information.
- Laclede Gas: http://www.lacledegas.com/efficiency/programs/
- Ameren: https://ameren.com/customer-service/act-on-energy-programs
- US Department of Energy: http://energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips
- Laclede Gas: http://www.lacledegas.com/efficiency/hottips/