Keep your energy bill and your pollution output low this winter by taking a whole-house approach to heating. Start with setting your thermostat as low as is comfortable. A programmable thermostat can help by adjusting the temperature according to your schedule-it can cut back heating at night, for instance, and turn it up again before you rise in the morning. It's also important to weatherize your home—caulk and weatherstrip any doors and windows that leak air. Make sure your equipment is properly maintained and cleaned, and that furnace filters are replaced regularly
Looking At Windows
Windows can be one of your home's most attractive features. Windows provide views, daylighting, ventilation, and solar heating in the winter. Unfortunately, they can also account for 10% to 25% of your heating bill.
If your home has single-pane windows, as almost half of U.S. homes do, consider replacing them. New doublepane windows with high-performance glass (e.g., low-e or spectrally selective) are available on the market.
$ Long-Term Savings Tip:
Installing new, high-performance windows will improve your home's energy performance. While it may take many years for new windows to pay off in energy savings, the benefits of added comfort and improved aesthetics and functionality may make the investment worth it to you. Today, many new window technologies are available that are worth considering. Glazing materials (the glass part of the window) now come with a variety of selective coatings and other features; frames are available in aluminum, wood, vinyl, fiber.
If you decide not to replace your windows, the simpler, less costly measures listed below can improve their performance.
- Close your curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
- Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to let in the winter sun.
- Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%. Storm windows should have weatherstripping at all moveable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-e storm windows save even more energy.
- Repair and weatherize your current storm windows, if necessary.
The Cost of Laundry
It's easy to cut your energy costs for laundry. About 80%-85% of the energy used for washing clothes is used to heat the water. You can reduce this cost by using less water by washing full loads and using cooler water and cold-water detergents - switching the temperature setting from hot to warm cuts a load's energy use in half. . If you are in the market for a new washer, look for the ENERGY STAR and read EnergyGuide labels. You can reduce drying costs as well: clean the lint filter after every load to improve air circulation, and don't over-dry clothes. Use the cool-down cycle to allow clothes to finish drying with residual heat. Also, periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it's not blocked. Consider buying a natural gas dryer, the cost per load is less than an electric dryer.
Heating Your Water
Water heating can be expensive, but there are a number of ways to lower your costs One way is to use less water. Repair leaky faucets immediately and use low-flow shower heads. (A family of four, each showering for five minutes a day, uses 700 gallons of water a week; you can cut that amount in half by using low-flow aerating showerheads.) Insulate your hot-water storage tank and pipes, and drain a quart of water from your water tank every three months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater (follow the manufacturer's instructions). Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with higher temperature settings than are necessary. When buying a new water heater, compare EnergyGuide labels to find an energy-efficient model.
Insulating Your Home
A good insulating system can help keep your home warm during winter and cool during summer. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. (Insulation is measured in R-values — the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat.) The easiest and most cost-effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic.