Keep warmth in as temperatures fall

Monitor staff
Sunday, January 07, 2018

It’s barely January, and already New England has already been pummeled by multiple snowstorms and week-long polar vortexes. One of the best long-term things you can do to keep your home warm for less is getting a home energy audit, which most utility providers offer. But since it’s already January, here’s what you can do to better weatherize your home now.

Make like a bubble

Keeping warm air in and cold air out is half the battle, and while it’s too late to install storm or double-paned windows and doors this season, there’s plenty you can do stop drafts.

Caulk and weatherstrip your windows and doors. Seal any air leaks with caulk wherever electrical wiring or plumbing comes through the walls. Window insulation kits, which block cold air by sealing the entire window behind a clear sheet of plastic, are relatively inexpensive, effective and easy to install with a weatherstripping tool. But you can also use felt, adhesive-backed foam, or a spring v-seal.

Use a foam sealant on bigger gaps around windows and baseboards.

Put a rolled bath towel or draft snake down at the bottom of a door. Do this for exterior doors – but also the doors to the basement, or rooms you’re keeping cooler.

Air leaks happen in places we sometimes forget. Remember to cover your kitchen exhaust fan when it’s not in use. Keep the fireplace flue closed tightly when there’s no fire. Install foam gaskets behind electric sockets.

Turn on your fan

No, really. Your fan will keep you cool in the summer – and warm in the winter. Most ceiling fans come with a switch on the motor housing to reverse the direction of the blades. That will push warm air – which rises – back down to you.

Lower your thermostat

It’s a common misconception that the energy you use to warm your house back up after lowering the thermostat will eat up any energy savings. But the U.S. Department of Energy recommends going down by 10 or 15 degrees while you’re out of the house to save up to 10 percent on your heating costs. If there’s a room you don’t use and you can control the heat room-by-room, close the door and turn the thermostat way down.

Turn down your water heater

Turn down your water heater to the warm setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The default is usually 140 degrees, which you don’t need. This will lower your energy costs – and help keep you from accidentally scalding your hands when you do the dishes.

Maintain your heating system

For heat pumps and furnaces, change your filter once a month. It’s easy to forget, but dirty filters restrict air flow, which make the systems work harder. For wood and pellet-burning heaters, clean the flue regularly. It’s also a good idea to schedule an annual tune-up of the entire system, either through your utility company, many of which offer technicians, or the manufacturer.

Insulate your pipes

Insulate your pipes to help save on water heating costs – and to help them from freezing. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores, and they’re easy to install. 

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)