Last winter taught us all about the importance of being energy conscious with heat, and that’s great because the season is about to pummel us with another round of polar vortexes and piles of snow. The heating bill is about to kick us all in the wallets, and that usually hurts. To soften the blow, give these energy (and money) saving tricks a try.
Nothing is better in the winter than snuggling up next to the fireplace with a hot cup of tea and a warm puppy on my lap. My fireplace burns wood, so it should warm up the room and give the central heat a rest, right?
Nope. Wood burning fireplaces usually make rooms colder, and they are the worst offenders when it comes to particle air pollution. The graphic below from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency illustrates the pollution factor of different heat sources at the point of energy consumption.
All fireplaces draw air from heated rooms to get oxygen to fuel combustion. It turns out that wood fire is the least efficient heating option available. Gas fireplaces, and even new ethanol models are much better, but they still produce some pollution when you use them. Even models that do not need a chimney will release the products of combustion back into your house along with heat. Wood burning fireplaces and stoves are still quite popular though, and they are far less efficient than electric heat. Plus, the ash, smoke, and particle pollution they produce is even worse than the stuff that comes from your local power plant. So, to be energy and environmentally conscious, you might want to spend more time watching the Yule log instead of your own fireplace this year.
There is a common belief that keeping the house a constant temperature is more energy-efficient than constantly lowering and raising the heat. Not true!
To save energy by using less heat while you’re away, try one of the many modern programmable thermostats on the market. These advanced controls allow you to automatically adjust the temperature based on a pre-set program for time of day and day of the week. Some even allow you to control the temperature right from an app on your smartphone. Once you program your thermostat, you’ll never notice that the heat was off while you were gone. It takes much less energy for the furnace to work harder for an hour than it does to maintain that temperature all day.
Settings on these thermostats are flexible and can be programmed in advance or “on the fly.” These are great for those of us who constantly forget to adjust the heat as we go to bed, wake up, or leave the house.
Space heating is a great way to save energy while staying warm. Similar to task lighting, or keeping only the lights on that you require to see, space heating can reduce energy consumption by heating only the occupied sections of a building or home. For example, if you’re not using your guest rooms upstairs, shut the doors and put an electric radiator in the main bedroom (try one of these energy-efficient models). Closing off unused rooms reduces the volume of air circulating throughout the house, and that means the furnace keeps the rest of the house warmer with less work.
If you have one central thermostat, you can use space heating to keep warm in the room you will be using, and turn down the main heat a few degrees. If you have zonal heating (i.e. a separate thermostat upstairs and downstairs) you can shut off upstairs heat and still stay comfortable. If you’re not roaming the house, space heating might even keep you warmer than your central heating system alone.
I am not a big shopper in the housewares section. Terms like “window dressings” make me cringe. My windows look fine, and they certainly don’t care about being trendy. But, there’s actually a legitimate reason for fashioning your windows. Curtains and shades can serve an energy-savvy purpose, and look fashionable at the same time (if that’s your thing).
Everyone knows windows are an important factor when it comes to controlling light and drafts in and out of a building. I’ve always sealed my older, leaky windows with plastic and caulk to prevent heat transfer during cold months. But, drapes, curtains, and shades can help with insulation too. Thick, dark curtains are a good way to trap heat before it escapes through the window glass, and in return, transfer that trapped heat to any cold air entering the building from the window. Window accessories made specifically for this purpose are available everywhere. So if you need an excuse to spruce up your windows, there it is!
I don’t think I’ve ever touched my ceiling fan once the weather turns cold, but I should. When the fan blades rotate in “winter mode,” (i.e. clockwise) the fan draws air up instead of down. This mixes warm and cold air in the room to keep an even, warmer, temperature.
So grab a ladder and flip that switch this year. Make sure to keep the fan on a low setting though. You’re not aiming to create hurricane-force winds at your Holiday party.
Use The Oven!
If you’re doing a lot of cooking and baking this year (or even if you’re only heating the occasional pizza), use excess heat from the oven to warm up the kitchen by leaving the door cracked open after you’re finished baking. Not only will your kitchen be super warm, but (as long as you didn’t burn the pie) your entire home will smell fantastic!
Do you have a different favorite heating hack to use in the wintertime? Did you try one of these tricks already? Let’s compare notes in the comments section; tell us what works best for you!