Save on heating your home.
- Adjust your thermostat to no more than 68 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum energy-efficiency. If you've been keeping it set much higher and feel uncomfortable with such a big change, try adjusting down by a degree at a time every few days until it's at 68 degrees, so it's easier for you and your family to get used to it.
- Also consider getting a programmable thermostat, so that you're not paying to heat the house when everybody's gone or asleep under the covers, and program it to heat back up about an hour or so before everyone comes home or before you get up in the morning.
- Open your draperies on south-facing walls during the daytime; the sunshine will help to heat your home. Just be sure to close the drapes in the evening before it starts getting cool to keep the warmth in.Heat only the rooms you actually use. Close the air vents in rooms that get minimal use so that less energy is wasted. Consider using a space heater for an area that only gets used occasionally. Space heaters are not as efficient as central air for heating a large area, but are perfect for a smaller space like your hobby room.
- Reverse the direction of the ceiling fan blades so the warm air on the ceiling is pushed down to people-level. The vast majority of ceiling fans spin clock-wise in updraft/winter mode. Most ceiling fans have a switch that you flip to reverse the direction the blades spin, making the change a pretty simple process. This will make a more dramatic difference in your heating bill if you have cathedral or vaulted ceilings, but is still worth doing on normal-height ceilings, too.
- Consider updating your heating system if it's not energy-efficient. Older furnaces, pre-1977, may waste as much as 50% of the energy used to heat the home. The new, energy-efficient models may be as efficient as 97%, meaning that your heating bill can drop dramatically after you update your system.
- Keep the damper on your fireplace closed anytime you're not using it; that big hole through your chimney lets cold air in and is just as bad as leaving a window open in the winter time. Also consider getting a glass door over your fireplace if you don't already have one; that will give one more layer of protection from the cold air creeping in.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a fireback can help your fireplace put out more heat and works by reflecting the heat that the fire puts out. A fireback can be made of cast iron - which is heavy, more expensive, and looks good in a traditionally decorated home, or stainless steel - which is lighter, less expensive, and suits a more contemporary home.
Eliminate air leaks that suck out the warm air.
- Check for air leaks around your windows and apply fresh caulk or new weatherstripping. Even tiny gaps that are barely visible will let lots of warm air out and cold air in, so get those sealed immediately. Also, properly sealed windows will help keep out moisture that may lead to extensive damage from rot and mold.
- Check the weatherstripping around all your exterior doors. Old, compressed weatherstripping doesn't do a very good job of keeping air from passing through, and needs replacing. Also, pet dogs that scratch on the door may damage weatherstripping if they dig their little claws into it, as my dog has done to my front door.
- Install foam gaskets on all outlet and switch plates that are located on a wall that shares with the exterior wall. And depending on the type of construction of your home and whether the interior walls are insulated, it may be a good idea to put them on all your outlet and switch plates. These gaskets are about a dollar a piece or less, and they only take minutes to install - one of the easiest, most cost-effective way to save on your heating bill.
- Check for leaky ducts, repair the leaks, and then insulate the ducts. The ducts in your attic can leak for years without you even knowing it, until you go up there and check. Turn on your furnace and get into your attic or crawl space with a flashlight and feel along the ducts for escaping air. You'll easily find the obvious leaks or disconnected ducts this way, but you may consider calling in a professional who has special equipment to test the pressure in your ducts - they will be able to find small leaks that are difficult to locate by hand. If you do the repairs yourself, make sure you are aware of the local building codes and what types of sealants may be used.
Insulation provides an extra barrier from extreme temperatures.
- Insulated draperies have extra thick lining or foam backing and do a good job of keeping warm air in and the cold air out. Even when properly-sealed, newer windows will still transfer the cold from the outside, and the insulated draperies help put an extra barrier between the inside and the outside. And, they aren't just for winter use; they also help lower your cooling bill in the summer.
- Install additional insulation in the attic, especially if the house is older. Over time, the insulation packs down and doesn't work as well as when it's fresh and fluffy. Experts recommend about twelve inches of insulation in your attic, so add more on top of the old insulation if the depth is less than that. You generally have a choice of blown-in insulation or rolls of batted insulation. And don't forget to insulate and weather-strip the attic hatch.
- Consider replacing old single-pane windows with new double or even triple-paned energy-efficient windows if you plan on staying in your home for a number of years. The cost for replacement windows is high, and you are unlikely to earn it back in energy savings if you plan on selling your home in the near future.
- Install temporary plastic film over old, energy-wasting windows. The kits are several dollars per window, and can help keep out some of the winter cold if replacement windows are not an option. And even if you do have energy-efficient windows, the film will add an extra level of insulation. They are pretty easy to put up, too. The plastic is put over the entire window frame and then shrink-wrapped with a blow-dryer. You won't be able to open the window without removing the film, so keep that in mind if you ever like to open your windows in the winter.