I have a confession to make. I’m a Minnesotan that dreads the winter. Yep, I said it. As soon as those leaves start to turn and the air gets chilly my palms start to sweat.
Except I don’t hate winter for all the reasons you think I do. It’s not because of the black ice, or the snow emergency parking rules, or the fact that it takes 10 minutes to “layer-up” before taking the trash out … no, it’s because my utility bill triples. Ouch.
You see, I live in a very old apartment. Like, I have a wood-burning stove in my kitchen kind of old apartment. Or, my unit was probably the maid’s quarters kind of apartment. It’s also the kind of apartment where I can literally feel a breeze when sitting in my living room.
Needless to say, it’s not the greatest on conserving energy and keeping in heat. Hence, a fat bill every month on heating costs alone.
So what’s a thrifty girl to do? Just settle for six more months of layering up like the Michelin Man® and crying into my wallet? I think not. Hack her way to higher energy savings, that’s what!
This year I plan to put into action a few household hacks to lower my heating bill and put that money to better use. (Like funding my next tropical getaway when the Seasonal Affective Disorder really kicks in.)
So, whether you live in a 100-year old apartment, or own a brand new home, there are ways to save on energy costs during winter months. Below are some awesome tips, starting in your basement and working all the way up to your roof!
Basement Heating Hacks
For those of you lucky enough to have this area I like to call “ the dank storage room,” you know that this can be one drafty place. Unfortunately, this is also the place where key appliances usually live. So, grab your overcoat and let’s see what we can save money on down here!
Zone Heating – If you live in a large house and you don’t utilize all the spaces, consider zone heating, which means you only heat the rooms you use. If your basement or upstairs aren’t a hub of daily activity, just heat them enough to keep pipes from freezing, and focus on your key living spaces.
Hot Water Temperature – Water heating accounts for 15 to 25 percent of energy consumption in the average home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Most people don’t take this opportunity to save a few bucks, but it’s pretty easy to do! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that turning the temperature on your hot water heater down to 120 degrees saves 6 to 10 percent each year on your hot water heating costs.
Water Heater Jacket – To achieve even greater savings, consider buying a water heater jacket. If you have an old water heater with little insulation, adding an insulation jacket can save you $30 per year, according to Energy Star. You can tell if your water heater isn’t converting energy effectively by touching the outside of it. If it’s warm, then it’s doing its job. If it’s very hot, then you may benefit from a water heater jacket.
Main Floor Heating Hacks
Ah, the heart of our homes. The place where you snuggle up on your couch and binge watch Stranger Things until it’s way too late to get up for your morning yoga class. Just me? Okay. While loading up on blankets helps keep the chill away, there are some other helpful hacks to keep your main floor toasty.
Windows – Windows can be major heat loss culprits. Seal air leaks by caulking and weather stripping around frames. Just be sure that you’re not caulking a moving part and a stationary part together! You can also consider using plastic window film to help insulate – just use a blow dryer to smooth out any wrinkles. Try making your own window sock to block air leaks. For a cheap version, fill a giant tube sock with rice and place it on your windowsill between the frame and the glass. Close any heavy drapes you have for further insulation!
Doors – Just like windows, doors can have the same leaky problems. Try weather stripping around doors or make your own door sock (see tip above for directions). Or, try adding a sweep to the bottom of exterior doors, which is a small metal or bristle-like strip that helps keep cold air out.
Floors – Floors account for as much as 10% of heat loss if they’re not insulated, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF). Help insulate your home and keep your tootsies happy by utilizing area rugs. The fluffier the better!
Oven – There’s a reason why my dad was adamant against using the oven in the summer – it has a tendency to heat up the whole house. Which, has its advantages in the winter! I love roasting vegetables and baking quick bread to check off dinner and warm up the kitchen at the same time.
Don’t Use Exhaust Fans – Those noisy little fans in your bathroom actually suck out hot air and churn in cold air. Instead of turning on the exhaust fan when you shower, try cracking your door, or using an indoor fan to blow air out.
Use a Chimney Balloon – Whenever I hear ‘chimney balloon,’ I envision a fantastic dance number with Bert from Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that fun. A chimney balloon is basically an inflatable plastic air bubble that helps seal your chimney flue from cold air.
Ceiling and Roofing Heating Hacks
According to Architecture Now, it’s estimated that without adequate ceiling insulation, 42 percent of household heat is lost through the roof. Even with proper insulation, heat can rise and fail to circulate efficiently. Below are some ways to make sure that you’re doing what you can to keep that air moving.
Ceiling Fans – Did you know that there is a “summer” setting and “winter” setting on most ceiling fans? In the summer, your blades should move counter-clockwise, which helps draw cold air upwards. In the winter, try making your fan go clockwise, which through some sort of ceiling fan magic, helps “throw” hot air congregating by your ceiling, back down to the floor.
Proper Insulation – For roofs, poor insulation can be the major culprit of heat loss. If you want to check to see if your insulation is doing its job, there’s a simple trick. After a fresh snowfall, before the sun has a chance to burn away the snow, go outside and take a peek at your roof. If you have large patches of snow that has melted from your roof, that means heat is escaping. Another cause of snow-melt is improper ventilation of the attic space. Keeping all the heat out of the attic space is impossible, so allowing that heat to leave the attic through vents is important.
So, there you have it! All of my winter savings hacks to have a toasty home on a budget. I know I’m going to be putting a few of these into action.
How to Save Money on Food: 10 Things You Can Do
Which ones will you try? Do you have other winter savings hacks that you love? Leave a comment!