As the days get shorter and temperatures start to sink, most households find their home heating bills starting to run out of control. Even worse, sometimes it feels like your house just stays cold no matter how high you crank the heat! If this sounds like your life, it’s time to take some action to lower those heating costs by addressing these three common home heating mistakes.
Mistake #1: Neglecting HVAC System Maintenance
Whether you have baseboard heat, old-school radiators, forced-air heating or radiant heat through the floor, it’s essential to keep up with routine maintenance. Forced-air systems in particular can lose a lot of efficiency when they aren’t properly maintained.
Basic issues like clogged filters or fans that don’t rotate correctly can throw off the entire system in surprising ways. While it isn’t necessarily dangerous to operate your system while these types of problems are in play, they usually make the system work harder to produce warmth. As a result, your home feels cold and your bills get expensive.
You should be able to change your system’s air filter and otherwise monitor the basic health of the system, but you might want to call in a professional for extra help if you aren’t satisfied with how efficient your system is. A yearly furnace inspection and cleaning is essential to safe and efficient operation of your heating system. Duct cleaning, replacement of malfunctioning parts or readjustment of airflow controls can also potentially decrease your heating-related energy usage.
Mistake #2: Ignoring Drafty Windows and Attics
Older homes with outdated windows can leak a surprising amount of heat, especially if they aren’t properly sealed. Even a small crack along the base or side of a window can have a big impact when it’s really cold outside. An imperfectly sealed window can be a major point of energy inefficiency as well. Glass isn’t a great insulator on its own, and outdated single-pane windows are often to blame for heat leaks. Heavy drapes or insulating panels can help solve this problem. Curtains that are heavy enough to block cold air can also keep hot sunshine out of the house, providing a year-round temperature control benefit.
Attic drafts can also be a big problem for winter energy efficiency. Cold air can come in through the attic, but since heat rises, escaping air is a more common problem. If you find that snow starts to melt off your roof more quickly than it does with your neighbors’ houses and that icicles are a common problem at your house, chances are that your attic isn’t properly insulated, and that’s likely costing you some big bucks. Upgrade insulation in the attic and throughout your home to nip this problem in the bud.
Mistake #3: Thermostat Abuse
There are a few ways to improve your use of the thermostat, but they won’t work that well if your home isn’t heating efficiently in other areas, so take care of the issues discussed above first. Then you can recalibrate your approach to the thermostat. You might also want to upgrade to a digital, programmable thermostat that allows for round-the-clock temperature control. You can set it to turn the heat down while you’re asleep or at work, for example, to save a lot of money when you don’t really need a toasty-warm house. A programmable thermostat can address a variety of additional issues as well.
One common mistake that families make is to crank up the heat for cold folks while shutting off heat registers in the bedrooms of those who don’t like it hot. This is actually not a good idea because it causes pressure inconsistencies within the HVAC system and ultimately leads the system to work harder and use more energy.
Instead of choosing inefficient solutions like that, just set the thermostat to a reasonably low temperature at the beginning of the season and leave it. Constantly adjusting the thermostat up and down isn’t a very good idea because it actually prevents us from acclimating properly to colder winter temperatures. This means that we end up thinking we need the heat higher necessary, which leads us back down the road to costly bills.
Avoid Costly Energy Efficiency Mistakes This Winter
Don’t get caught making major energy mistakes with your heating system this winter. Address inefficiency on multiple fronts by getting your system in good working order, blocking drafts and controlling your thermostat the right way. While a professional energy audit can be a good next step, you might be able to make a significant improvements simply by addressing just a few up-front investments can end up saving you hundreds of dollars over the course of a few months.