According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, home heating accounts for approximately 40% of our entire energy consumption. And over 95% is done with non-renewable fossil fuels; such as oil, natural gas or electricity from coal plants.
With environmental impacts increasing and energy costs on the rise, home heating alternatives are at the forefront of our minds. Not only can these energy-efficient ideas lessen our impact on the environment, they will save money too.
Much of our effort to warm our home is lost through improper or inadequate insulation and drafts. To start the list are the many ways to insulate your home and keep accumulated heat from escaping. Following those imperative measures are ideas to keep your home warm, use less energy in keeping warm and acclimate to the seasons.
- Increase wall insulation.
Probably not the simplest job but certainly the most effective, adding insulation to your walls makes an enormous difference in your home heating bill.
- Increase attic insulation.
To determine how much is enough or how much more you need, check out the Department of Energy's Zip-Code Insulation Program.
- Use recycled insulation.
In the form of recycled paper or old blue jeans, this eco-friendly insulation can be blown into the walls or attic. You'll have to ask around your local service providers to find a company who offers it.
- How to find drafts:
On a windy day, use a stick of incense, a small candle or tea light or a strand of hair or string and slowly "trace" around all windowsills, door jams, vents etc looking for the flame to flicker or the smoke or hair to be blown away.
- Seal all drafts.
Silicone caulking or foam sealant works for drafts in non-movable sources, such as window frames, and these draft gaskets work well for electrical outlets and switches. For movable sources, like windows or doors, use weather-stripping. Using a door draft stopper (like a rolled up towel) and heavy currents can also stop drafts.
- Don't forget pet doors.
Drafts from a pet door can't be avoided completely but can be protected against with weather-stripping or even a heavy curtain on either side of the door. If your pet door is within a removable pane for sliding glass doors, be sure to weather-strip around it as well.
Home Heating Conservation:
- Passive solar heating.
Utilize the low winter positioning of the sun to warm your home by opening curtains on south and west-facing windows during the day, and removing solar shade screens until warmer weather returns.
- Perform regular maintenance on your home heating system(s).
Efficiency is lost with poorly maintained units. Get regular service done and keep exhaust filters clean.
- Avoid using exhaust fans.
Running a bathroom or kitchen exhaust fan for one hour can deplete your home of its warm air. Minimize their use by not using them or turning them off as soon as possible.
- "Reuse" oven heat.
When you've finished in the oven, leave the door open to warm the kitchen further.
- Skip the gas fireplace.
A gas fireplace will use more energy to heat a room than central home heating.
- Utilize the wood fireplace.
Wood-burning fireplaces or wood-burning stoves give off more heat than a gas fireplace and can burn scrap wood, fallen trees or branches or wood pellets, which are made from sawdust and are one of the most cost-effective forms of home heating.
- Reverse your ceiling fans.
Most, if not all, ceiling fans have a reverse setting for winter. By reversing your fan blades to rotate clockwise you draw down the risen heat from the ceiling and prevent it from dissipating through the roof or walls.
- Keep the thermostat low.
Challenge yourself to set the temperature one or two degrees lower each year. Keeping it at 55 degrees at night and 6o during the day is a common energy-efficient setting. Beware not to turn it off completely or set it too low, as this can burst pipes or cause hypothermia.
- Keep the temps steady.
Turning the heat off while you leave or more than 5-8 degrees lower at night than during the day can cause your unit to work harder when trying to warm the place up again. Pick a nice steady range instead.
- Use a programmable thermostat.
Using a programmable thermostat to turn the temp lower while you sleep or work can decrease your energy consumption up to 25% without your needing to remember.
- Consider a space heater.
In some, not all, cases a space heater may be more efficient to heat a small room than running a central home heating system.
Winterize Your Home:
- Hang curtains over windows.
Heavy curtains or blankets hung over windows will add an exterior barrier to the cold, especially if you don't have double-paned windows.
- Hang curtains around your bed.
Hanging heavy curtains or blankets around the bed (from the ceiling if you don't have a four-poster bed) will help insulate you during the night by trapping body heat.
- Place rugs in high-traffic areas.
Placing rugs on tile, linoleum, concrete or hardwood flooring will assist in insulation efforts.
- Allow yourself to acclimate.
Turn the AC off as soon as possible and/or keep the windows open as the weather changes to allow your body to acclimate naturally to the changing weather.
- Keep yourself acclimated.
Avoid using too much heat while driving and keep the office slightly cooler at work so that your body remains adjusted to the idea that it's winter.
- Dress for the season.
If you're wearing a t-shirt and jeans indoors, your thermostat is too high. Try flannel pajamas for the nighttime with thick socks, dress in warm layers during the day, invest in some wool socks and sweaters and turn that thermostat lower.
- Stick to warm foods.
Colder foods will leave you running colder, but hot foods, like soup or spicy things, will increase your sense of warmth.
- Use extra blankets.
Pile down comforters and wool blankets on the couches and beds and use several layers to stay warm.