Yesterday, the temperature in Columbus was nearly 70 degrees. That is wonderful for early November. Tonight, the temperature will go below freezing and tomorrow’s high is in the low 40s. It is time to start thinking about winter and how to get better control of your heating bills.
There are four major factors in cutting your heating bills and reducing your energy consumption this winter. The biggest factor is turning down the thermostat when you are not home, or when you are sleeping. Then keep the heat inside and the cold outside. Finally, keep the humidity up so that the heat transfer is more efficient
Set-back thermostats are a good investment. Depending upon the cost and complexity, you can literally program your heating cycles throughout the day and night. If you aren’t home, you can reduce the temperature. If you are sleeping, you can reduce the temperature. A reduction of an average of 5 degrees in average temperature over a 24 hour period will make a significant difference in your heating bill.
The biggest loss of heat is typically in the cracks around windows and doors. For windows, there are cheap and very effective solutions. The best approach is to get the clear plastic that you heat shrink with a hair dryer. When stretched tight, the film is clear and it is highly effective in keeping outside air outside.
If you get some tape that does not pull paint from the walls, you can stretch the film all the way across the windows and window frames. Since most houses are open to wind currents not only around the windows, but also around the window frames, taping the film to the walls works best. Lowe’s, Home Depot, Meijer or whatever store is close to you has the film.
For doors that you aren’t using, you can take the same approach as for the windows. Tape stretch film to the walls outside of the door frames so that the film is blocking the door and door frame. Leave some extra film at the bottom so that you can tape the film to the floor. The door sills are a major source of energy loss.
For doors that you have to use to get in and out of your living space, get light foam strips that go in the door jamb that has the door close against the jam. If the door sill is leaking air, which is highly likely, there are foam pads that go between the door and the sill. A towel or rug can also be put across the bottom of the door and in front of the door sill. The film that is used to seal patio doors can be cut to size for any door. The patio door is one that you may not be using and they are generally not very air tight.
There is canned foam that can be used to really seal the door sill, but it is very messy. If you decide to use this, wear disposable gloves to keep it off your hands. Remember that it expands a bunch so use it sparingly and it will fill the space. This same foam can also be used to seal the sill plate that runs on the foundation, which is another big energy loss area.
Finally, humid air holds more heat and also feels warmer. Service your furnace humidifier, if you have a humidifier. If not, portable humidifiers are not terribly expensive and they work if you keep them filled with water. I grew up in the days before humidifiers. You can put a large pan of water on the stove on the lowest possible heat and get moisture into the air. I have a drying rack that I use to dry clothes in my dining room, and that helps get more humidity in the air, too.
If you are going to just do one thing to reduce your energy costs this winter, seal the windows and window frames. Every BTU saved is money in your pocket, and you will be warmer this winter.