A chill’s in the air, the leaves are falling, and it’s almost time to talk turkey. But ever since you switched the thermostat to “heat,” chances are you’re also thinking about how to stop those energy bills from gobbling up your bank account.
Typical homes, even those built in recent years, have the potential for improvement in their heating efficiency. This season, take a stroll through your house: A few small changes can allow you to see a dip in your heating bill, even as the outside temperatures do the same – and won’t require you to don your entire sweater collection at once.
1: The Attic
Want to feel warmer? Firstly, remember that heat rises. Venture into your attic: By having it properly insulated, making sure any openings between the ceiling and the attic floor are sealed, heat won’t be able to escape from your home as easily. If you see light trickling into the attic or gaps around air conditioning and heating ducts, use caulk and insulation to create a thermal barrier, and seal up your attic access, too: Specific “attic tents” are available to make the opening air-tight – key to keeping your heat where you want it.
2: The Basement
Sure, it’s chilly in the basement – a definite plus during summer heat waves – but those concrete floors and cinderblock walls can mean major heat loss in the winter. Block walls have little insulation, so even though your hardworking heating unit cranks out residual energy that could warm the room, much of it escapes outside. Just as in the attic, seal all the gaps from the basement walls to the outside, typically found around windows, doors and the rim joist – where the block wall ends and the framing starts. The residual heat created from your boiler can increase your basement’s temperature as much as 25 degrees – and that heat will rise and warm the rest of the home as well.
3: The Walls
Sealing and insulating the highest and lowest parts of your house can work wonders, but it’s worth it to check inside your home’s walls as well. Some walls may not have any insulation, making it easier for heat to seep out. With proper insulation, heat stays put in your house – and more cash remains in your pocket. As a general rule, insulation is something that’s done best by a professional – although it’s certainly something a homeowner can tackle, especially in your basement and attic. In the basement, at least a foundational knowledge of your heating unit is key, as some air flow is necessary for the system to operate safely.
4: The Distribution System
After insulation’s taken care of, make sure your distribution system – the duct work and piping that deliver the heat generated by your heating unit – is running correctly, at its maximum efficacy. Your heating system, for example, may be working at 70 to 80 percent efficiency, but a distribution system that’s not won’t deliver the heat as well. Fixing this issue can be as simple as rearranging or adding ductwork, or unclogging filters – changes that won’t break the bank.
5: The Heating Appliance
It may seem logical to tackle heating issues by checking out your boiler or furnace first, but, instead, it should be fifth on your list. If your distribution system checks out, it may be time to repair or even change out the unit itself: Furnaces should be replaced every 15 years and boilers every 20 to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your heating buck. This may be a more costly fix, but swapping an old system working at 55 percent efficiency for one running at 95 percent will quickly help your bottom line.
6: Windows & Doors
Although they’re often seen as the best way to create a more heat-efficient home, windows and doors are actually the last place to venture. Double-paned windows may be the standard for homes built in the past 20 years, but if your home is older, it’s likely yours are only single-paned – and less energy-efficient. Still, unless your windows are severely old or damaged, you’ll only save about 3 to 5 percent on your bill by switching to a double-paned replacement. New windows are often costly, but before you drop $300 to $600 on replacements, consider some inexpensive changes. Weather-stripping and plastic coverings – available in kits in home-improvement stores and explained in great detail on YouTube videos – can cheaply seal up drafty windows. And security isn’t the only reason to make sure your locks work: Even if your neighborhood’s safe, be sure your windows and doors latch tightly to seal out cold winter winds.
Thankfully, taking care of insulation and your heating system will almost always cost less than replacing your home’s windows – good news as holiday-season spending approaches. Plus, one Malcarne expert, trained to evaluate your house as a whole, can assess your abode for free. Instead of choreographing appointments with separate insulation, boiler and window experts – who only see your home through their expertise alone – consider a Malcarne staff member, who will understand your entire home, from attic to basement. And with a more energy-efficient, cost-effective home, even winter weather feels warm and cozy.