Fall has officially arrived in Central Texas and winter is right around the corner. This is a great time to double check a few things with your home to make sure that you will be warm once the heat wave finally breaks.
1. Eliminate Drafts
Homes can lose heat in a lot of different ways from “holes” in the heat envelope, and those can be from many sources. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Often drafts come in under doors or through windows that don’t seal tightly. These drafts can generally be fixed by laying weather stripping or using a “draft snake”. Weatherstripping tape costs only $5-10 per roll, and easily reduces drafts around doors and windows. If you are really pressed for cash or time you can even roll up a towel and use that as a temporary plug.
Unplugged electrical outlets also let heat escape, and can be plugged with inexpensive plastic covers. Drafts around windows can be sealed with caulk, which is inexpensive and easy to apply. Caulk can be applied from the inside and/or outside, depending on your circumstances. Additionally, make sure drafts near your thermostat aren’t giving it a false reading.
2. Heating units need to be serviced and get filters changed.
Your furnace or heating system should get an annual tune-up, and it’s better to do it in advance than wait until it’s freezing, the heat fails, and service technicians are busy! Getting it done early is a great way to save! Keeping the system clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use, saving up to 5% on heating costs.
Also, changing filters once a month in your heating system improves its efficiency and longevity. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use. Mark your calendar or set a repeating reminder on your phone to make that change once a month.
3. Protect Your A/C and Water Lines
If a hard or extended freeze is imminent, you can let exterior faucets drip a little, or cover them with a Styrofoam or other protective cover available for cheap at your local hardware store. Keep in mind that anywhere cold air reaches a water pipe, you have the potential for freezing water to expand and crack the pipe. Drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and make sure you don’t have excess water pooled in equipment. If your A/C has a water shutoff valve, turn that off. While you’re at it, make sure any garden hoses are drained and stowed away. Turn off exterior water spigots. Close crawl spaces and other openings and stuff with insulation. A bathroom or laundry room next to a garage can be vulnerable, so keep the door closed to keep in heat. If your bathroom pipes run along an exterior wall, consider keeping vanity doors open to allow heat from the room inside during extremely cold periods.
4. Make Sure You Have Enough Insulation
This one is easy to forget but can benefit you all year around. An estimated 25% of your heating can be lost through your attic, even more, if it is poorly insulated. In general, you should have at least 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool insulation in your attic or 8 inches of cellulose insulation.
While you are in the attic ensure that your duct work and pipes are also properly insulated to ensure maximum efficiency of your system. Run your system, if you notice any leaks in the ductwork now is a great time to patch it up. If you use tape to seal your ducts, avoid cloth-backed, rubber adhesive duct tape — it tends to fail quickly. Instead, use mastic, butyl tape, foil tape, or other heat-approved tapes.
5. Flush Your Water Heater, and Turn Down the Thermostat
Particles and sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater, hindering its efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out this material and keep your heater functioning at its best. It’s simple to do. While you’re at that, check the temperature setting on your water heater. 120 degrees is usually sufficient and can reduce your water heating costs by 6-10%. Many heaters are set at install to 140, but most households don’t need water held at that temperature, and you end up paying for something you don’t need.
6. Install a Programmable Thermostat
7. Run Fans in Reverse
Most people use ceiling fans when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Find the switch and flip it! Switching to the clockwise rotation makes the most of your warmed air, by circulating warm air pooled at the ceiling back into the living space – cutting your heating costs as much as 10%!
So, do a little prep work now, and enjoy your chilly winter days, even more, knowing you’ve done some smart home management to prevent problems and save on your energy bills. And remember, the cleanest energy is the energy that you never use.