Don’t wait until the first day of winter (December 21) to pay your heating system some attention. Lingering fall forecasts may give you a false sense of hope for a warm winter, but you’ll be kicking yourself when the chill officially sets in and you’re waiting on the HVAC tech to arrive for an expensive weekend service visit. Here are 10 ways to heat your home efficiently without hiking up the energy bill.
1. Conduct routine maintenance and safety inspections
Hire professionals to inspect boilers, furnaces and chimneys so that they all run correctly and cleanly. In the meantime, clear the area around the furnace and check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
2. Bleed radiators and replace filters
Start the boiler, open the valve on the radiator and wait until you no longer hear air being released. You can close the valve and move on to the next radiator once water starts to come out. Improve a forced-air system by replacing clogged furnace filters and clearing return registers of furniture and rugs.
3. Circulate the air
Just because summer breezes have turned into winter winds doesn’t mean you should retire the ceiling fan. Find the switch on the body of the fan to reverse its direction so the air blows upward. This will circulate the air without cooling the room.
4. Reduce drafts
Hunt for holes in your house to prevent heat from escaping and cold air from creeping in. Check around doors, windows, light fixtures and fireplaces for drafts. Arm yourself with weather stripping, spray foam, caulk and even heavy drapes to tackle leaks on the spot.
5. Opt for a clean-burning woodstove
Woodstoves are hot again as more environmentally friendly models have hit the market. The initial installation might be costly, but you’ll lower heating costs in the long run by burning renewable wood rather than oil or natural gas. Invest in one that has been certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and reap the benefits of a clean and cozy hearth.
6. Convert your wood-burning fireplace
A blazing fire at the flip of a switch is nothing less than modern-day magic. Traditional fireplaces are risky in terms of air quality, drafts and fire hazards. There are many options for converting your fireplace including gas, electric and wood pellet inserts. Costs and risks vary, so do your research before you buy.
7. Keep thermal mass in mind
Heat your home naturally by using materials with thermal mass, such as brick, concrete, stone and ceramic tiles. These materials naturally absorb, store and slowly emit heat. Remove carpet from concrete floors, incorporate brick walls in a new build and remodel rooms with the correct ceramic tile.
8. Know the lingo of insulation
Here are three key terms to familiarize yourself with when choosing and installing insulation:
● Building envelope: The walls, floors and roof that separate your home’s interior from its exterior.
● Thermal capacity: Low thermal capacity allows heat to transfer faster than materials with high thermal capacity.
● R-value: Insulation with higher R-value has better thermal resistance. See the fact sheet of your insulation to find the exact R-value per inch.
9. Add a radiant heat system
Hydronic radiant heat systems use hot water to carry heat through a network of tubes, which is most commonly installed beneath floors but can also be used within walls. It’s a great candidate for small spaces, like bathrooms, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly project.
10. Switch to solar
Is there a better way to combat bone-chilling temperatures than sinking into a hot bath? This winter’s eve ritual can be expensive though, as heating water is a primary energy demand in residential buildings. Cut costs by installing a solar panel that runs down to your water heater. Tax incentives and electricity bill savings give solar systems a return on investment that you’ll see right away.