Energy-saving tips can lower your home-heating cost
Nowadays, it costs more to eat, to travel and to buy just about anything, so most of us are looking for ways to save a little money. And now that the fall weather is upon us, many folks are hunkered down inside a lot more. Besides, who can afford to go out?
That’s why we want to give you a few low-cost tips on how to both save money and be more comfortable in your home. Here are some practical things you can do to save on your energy bill now, as well as to consider later for long-term savings.
Start with heat
While in other places of the country, air conditioning is a major expense, in Grays Harbor County higher energy bills come with our cold, dark winters. For starters, our lights are on longer because of the shorter days, and the colder temperatures put our heating systems through their paces.
Before we get into other things you can change around your house, consider the easiest ways to change your behavior to keep costs down.
Regardless of how you heat your home, if you wear layers of clothing, you can create a comfortable “micro-climate” next to your skin, and keep the thermostat a few degrees lower. By layering clothing, it’s not just the extra material itself, but also the insulating effect of trapped air between layers. Layering helps control both sweating and evaporation, which determines comfort for each individual.
Once you have your layers on, another way to cut the cost of heating your home is by temporarily closing off a room or even a floor of your house to keep the heat in the areas that you are living in.
But first, you may want to be proactive and specifically check all the drafty areas in your house. For people who have fireplaces they never or seldom use, keep the draft closed! It’s sometimes surprising how many people don’t even know there is a draft to close, or that closing it will improve that drafty room immediately! (Of course, make sure to open it before you light a fire!)
An inexpensive tool to check for other drafts in your home is using a can-of-smoke, which can be purchased in home improvement stores. This product, sprayed around windows, doors, light switches, closets and under-the-sink cabinets, can help you see where the cold air is infiltrating so that you can plug up the holes! Don’t forget to check out the attic hatch. It’s another place that people often forget to seal and latch.
While installing new windows might be ideal to help with energy costs, it is quite a large investment. As you are considering – and saving money for -- that, consider re-caulking, weather stripping and using plastic film kits for windows that need it.
While we are the people who often say how important working vents are to the health of your home because they remove moisture and keep you breathing in fresh air, when the temps dip below freezing for multiple days, we suggest temporarily closing foundation vents. Just make sure to write a note, or set a reminder on your phone to open them up again when the weather stays above 35-40 degrees, otherwise you could begin to have moisture issues under and inside your home.
For another investment in time only, get into the routine shortly after sunset of closing blinds or heavy curtains to help retain the heat inside. (Then capture the heat of the sun during the day by having them wide open!)
For a little bit of an investment
Speaking of the insulating effect of curtains, don’t forget regular insulation. Sometimes homes around here aren’t properly insulated. It’s a bit of an investment, but depending on your situation and how much you tackle, insulating a new area could pay itself off fairly quickly. It will also increase your comfort while decreasing the cost of heating your home. We suggest you start with insulating your attic. It will have the most impact on your comfort and your energy bill.
Another investment that is a lot cheaper than a new heating system or windows, is purchasing a new thermostat, even cheaper is simply learning how to more effectively use the thermostat you have. A slow, steady increase and decrease in temperatures is more effective and cheaper than severe spikes. If you don’t have one, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat. If you do have one, make sure you are using it to its greatest advantage. If you are gone for a day or two and freezing pipes aren’t a concern, remember to put your thermostat on “vacation,” so you aren’t keeping an empty house toasty warm.
If you are looking to replace your heating system, we are big believers in heat pumps for this climate. Start looking into the prices and saving up for a system that is specially designed for your house.
And while, it isn’t heat-related, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that investing in LED lightbulbs, especially for the rooms that you use the most, is also a good goal. (They draw much less electricity, and will save you money over time.)
Looking for folks to join our team
Here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, our mission is to provide safe, affordable and sustainable housing through homebuyer education and first mortgaging financing for income-qualified residents of Grays Harbor County.
We currently have two part-time positions open. Go to our website at www.nwghc.org to review our current available positions and learn how to apply. At this time, we are looking for a part-time housing counselor and a part-time property maintenance worker to join our team.