These following heating tips can help keep your system operating smoothly and at peak efficiency, keeping energy costs as low as possible all winter long.
Turn Down the Heat.
Did you realize that you can reduce your heating costs by 5% just by lowering your thermostat by 5°F for 8 hours? If you maintain your home at that lower temperature for 16 hours a day, you'll knock 10% off your electric bill. If you really rough it and keep the temperature 5 degrees lower all day, your savings jump to 15%.
There are some things you need to consider of course. Is your home insulated well enough to so that the pipes won’t freeze if you lower the thermostat in extremely cold weather? You'll want to address this before you decide to lower your night–time temperatures to 55°F, which some gas and electric utilities recommend.
Don't worry about how much it costs to heat your home back up. Studies have shown that the longer you keep your home at a lower temperature, the more you’ll save on your energy bills.
During the winter months, you can use heat generated while cooking to your advantage. If you have a glass top range, you've already had to learn to not touch the surface while it's hot. As soon as you are through cooking, let that heat escape into the room. The same technique can be used for other electric stove–tops. (Don't keep gas burners going though. It could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.)
Like stove tops, you can reuse heat generated while cooking with your oven. We’ve all felt that wall of heat when we open up the oven to take our food out, right? There’s no reason to seal that heat back up inside the oven during the winter, when you can let it warm your home, allowing your traditional heating source to use less energy. Many ovens allow you to partially prop them open, and recycle cooking heat in a relatively safe manner. Safety is a concern when you consider leaving an oven door open, so homes with pets or small children should avoid this heat recycling option.
Unless you live in a very humid area, you can consider letting the heat generated by your shower escape into the rest of the house.
Turn Down the Hot Water Heater
It's tempting in the winter to turn up the hot water heater, especially if you love long hot baths. Resist the temptation and keep the thermostat at 120°F instead of 130 – 140°F, and you will see your heating bill drop. You will also reduce your risk of a severe burn. This can be extremely important for seniors or small children who could suffer severe third–degree burns from slipping and remaining exposed to 130°F water for just 30 seconds.
To prevent unhealthy bacteria, such as Legionnaires' disease, from growing in your hot water tank, don’t keep the temperature any lower than 120°F.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat allows you to enjoy comfortable heat when you want it and to reduce the temperature of your home at times when you don't need it as high. You can program your heat to drop for the hours you are at work, and rise for the hours you are at home.
You can also program your heat to begin dropping about the time you are preparing to sleep for the night. You'll fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply as long as you have the right bedding. Then you can set your thermostat to start warming up the house so it's back at a comfortable temperature when you get up in the morning.
Close down the hatches.
Make sure that your windows and doors are properly weatherized. Air leaks let out heat and let cold air in. One of the best ways to identify leaking windows, doors and outlets is to hold a candle near them. If air is leaking, the flame will flicker.
Also, make sure you aren't losing air through bathroom and kitchen ventilator fans. Only use them when absolutely necessary.
If you have a fireplace, make sure you keep the flue closed. As additional security against losing heat up the chimney install tempered or radiant glass doors to prevent the air inside the home from being pulled into the fireplace.
At night, close the curtains. This will reduce the flow of cold air into the home and hot air out. Be sure to open the curtains during the day, as any sunshine will help to heat your home, even if you have low E windows.
Routine maintenance is critically important to keeping a heating system operating properly and efficiently. Whether your heating system is electric or gas, it should see the attention of a professional at least once a year. Especially with gas, it's vital that the system is operating correctly. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real risk. While a carbon monoxide detector is another important safety measure, it should always be backed up with an annual heating system check.
There are some things that homeowners can do for themselves: check filters regularly, usually every month during the heating season. Look for signs of dirt, which leads to the blower having to work harder and longer, and increases your heating costs.