“Winter is coming.” It’s a phrase from a popular TV show to signify that difficult and troubled times lie ahead. I’ve always looked forward to winter. Christmas and New Year’s come to mind as well as fireside chats, hot chocolate and warm blankets. One thing about the upcoming season does inspire some foreboding — associated expenses! It evokes the “Winter is coming” warning. Big family meals, traveling to grandma’s house and Christmas gifts are common seasonal expenses, but another is energy bills! For many of us, the winter season is when we see some of our highest energy expenses. This is due to our HVAC having to overcome cold temperatures, as well as the shorter days leading to more time indoors. Here are a few tips that may help significantly reduce your energy costs this winter:
- Fix Insulation Defects
- Most attics have insulation defects. These are areas where insulation has been disturbed, leading to voids in your home’s thermal barrier. Although they may seem small and insignificant, these voids can have an exaggerated effect on your home’s heat loss. Carefully inspect the attic, and if you see any places where the insulation is notably lower than surrounding areas, fill them in.
- Insulate the Attic
- When checking if you have any voids in your attic insulation, check the overall insulation levels. If, on average, you have less than 7-8 inches of insulation, it would be a wise investment to add insulation to the entire attic! Different insulation materials have different R-Values, so check that out before you decide.
- Check Air Seals
- Check door weatherstripping, plumbing penetrations, and other target areas for air leaks. Seal with new weatherstripping, expanding foam, or caulk as needed.
- Check Duct Seals
- Duct leakage can have a huge negative impact on your home’s comfort and energy use. With the HVAC unit’s fan running, inspect the duct system for leaks. You should be able to hear and/or feel significant leaks. Repair and seal as needed. Duct mastic is the material of choice when sealing a duct system.
- Clean HVAC
- This seasonal task, especially important if you have a heat pump, can not only help the unit run more efficiently, but also reduce the likelihood of maintenance issues.
- Adjust the Thermostat
- One easy way to save money these winter months is to maintain a low setting on your thermostat. Set it as low as you comfortably can during the winter. Dress warm when indoors to stay comfortable.
Install a Smart Thermostat
- Smart thermostats can make reducing your HVAC’s runtime when the house is unoccupied much easier, leading to a real reduction in energy consumption. Another plus of these units is that if you have a heat pump, and program them correctly, they can maximize the efficiency of your heat pump usage, reducing expensive auxiliary heat.
- Install an Efficient Heat Pump
- If your existing unit is over 15 years old, I recommend you start budgeting for a replacement soon! If it is over 20 years old, I recommend you go ahead and replace it! When replacing your unit, consider a high-efficiency heat pump, such as a 16 or 18 SEER unit. These efficient units use one-third the amount of electricity as non-heat pump electric heat and can greatly reduce your energy use!
Reach out to your local electric cooperative to see if they can do an energy audit to help assess your home’s condition and give you further recommendations. I know that for me, having my home in order helps me focus on the good of the season, with less of the “Winter is coming” gloom!