Ways to save money (and energy) this Winter
We all want to save money. Hopefully, we all want to save energy as well. In this short guide, we go through a few ways to save that cash and put it to something more valuable than wasted energy.
To be savvy with your money, (and use it on more important stuff!) there are just a few simple rules to follow. Here are the top 3 tips that you can do right now:
1. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate!!
Think of a house as just another living thing. Just like any living thing, you need to care for it, and keep it warm. When you get cold inside or outside, what is the natural response? It is to put on more clothes, or cover up with blankets. This is essentially what you do to a house that is too cold. The insulation in the walls, attics, and basements all act as a giant blanket, or another layer of clothing for the house. In this way, it keeps the cold air out in the Winter, and also the cool air inside during the Summer. It's a two for one bonus! At the same time, a properly sealed and insulated house will keep out those unwanted drafts that seem to plague older houses. The types of insulation are many, but the important thing to look for is the 'R' value. The higher the number, the better the performance. If you are thinking about adding insulation to existing walls then you would typically use some type of fill insulation, such as BATT, mineral wool, or blown-in. If you are constructing new walls or want to add an even thicker 'blanket' on your existing walls, then you can consider rigid foam insulation boards. Typically, the thicker the wall, the better. It's also important to note that even if you have the most efficient furnace out there, it's all going to waste if the energy is getting lost to open cracks and thin, uninsulated walls. So though the cost of properly insulating your home properly may seem daunting at first, it is very small compared to the savings that you will gain from not wasting energy.
2. Close those openings (windows)
Though we may make every effort to thoroughly insulate all walls and floors in our home, almost every building is going to have an opening of some sort in the wall, either windows or doors. As you can guess, any opening in a fully enclosed wall will act as the path of least resistance for heat to escape. Just think of having your heavy coat open to the air on a cold Winter day! It would be the same effect for your home. One architectural goal is to have the maximum heat retainage while still maintaining some degree of openness, lightness, and viewing to the outside world. We need the air and light for physical and mental health reasons. We could all live in fully insulated concrete bunkers in which we would have excellent heat retainage, but that would be very uninspiring to live in. So, the best advise is to check the condition of your windows first. If they are single pane (older style) then this acts a a poor insulator, and heat easily escapes. Also, thin aluminum framed windows are a culprit of providing a conduit for heat to escape to the outside. So between these two factors of a window, it might be a good time to invest in replacing a couple if not all windows. The energy saved in about 2-3 years will probably pay itself off. Also check the gaps around the window frame from the outside. If they are not properly sealed from the outside,(it looks like the caulking has come loose or you can see daylight) the air will work itself in, not only causing drafts, but potential moisture buildup and then eventually mold. This is another good reason to think about replacing those old decaying windows, because at this time you can install them, seal them, and flash them properly.
3. Turn it down!
This one is very simple, but something everyone can do an zero budget. Simply turn down your thermostat to 66-68 during the Winter. Though this is not the 100% ideal temperature for human comfort, it is well within the livable range. If it is seeming to be a little chilly after turning the thermostat down, just put on another layer of clothes! The money savings on this 2 second fix are pretty straightforward- the less the furnace is working, the less gas you owe to the utility company. This step works better in conjunction when you have a properly insulated and non-leaking window house, as in the steps above. Because even if you turn your thermostat down with a drafty house, the furnace will still have to work hard to keep that temperature constant.
Spending a little money on sealing up your house can be a worthwhile investment over the long run. Though new insulation and windows may seem like a major project and cost, the benefits quickly outweigh the negative. With these 3 steps you can start to save the money, or put it to use by buying that down fleece for your dog next Winter.