Did you get sticker shock opening your first home heating bill this year? The good news is you can take a few steps to vanquish energy vampires, and most of these fixes can be done in an afternoon.
Get a better thermostat. Ariel Darmoni, managing partner at 123 Remodeling, a general contractor firm featured on HGTV, said the quickest way to cut down on home heating bills is to install a smart thermostat. Some utility companies offer rebates.
Look for a smart thermostat that has sensors homeowners can put in other places in the house to detect cold spots. One example of this type is ecobee4 ($249), the newest version in the ecobee line. It comes with a sensor, and more can be purchased.
Whether you purchase a smart thermostat or still use a manual programmable one, the EPA says, to see cost savings, lower the thermostat’s temperature when you’re away or at night by 8 degrees from normal comfort levels.
To keep from heating rooms that are used less, such as a guest bedroom, shut the heat register to that room and close the door, Darmoni added.
Targeted insulation. Caulking and applying weatherstripping around leaky windows and door frames will seal out the tiny drafts that suck out warmer air, Darmoni said. As unattractive as it may look, plastic sheeting on rattling windows will help cut down on heat loss.
Cold air can seep through wall outlets. One telltale sign is if the wall outlet is particularly cool to the touch or drafty when plugging in a device. Pre-cut foam insulation can fit around switch plates and be tucked behind the wall plate.
Water heaters can benefit from a blanket, according to Dina Dwyer-Owens, co-chairwoman of the Dwyer Group. Newer units may have sufficient insulation, which should be at least R-24. If the heater is warm to the touch, give the unit its own winter jacket. Pre-cut water heater blankets cost about $30, and some utilities offer rebates to buy them.
Give your furnace some TLC. Change air filters regularly — a clean filter prevents dust and dirt buildup and is less taxing on the system. Make an appointment with a technician to tune up your furnace, she said.
Does the house still feel drafty? It might be time to get an energy audit done, Dwyer-Owens said. The companies use infrared sensors to see where heat is being lost, so homeowners know whether they should have windows replaced or insulation added.