In fact, research has found that approximately 20% of Americans were unable to afford their energy bill in the last year.
While ensuring your home warranty coverage is up to date is the most important step you can take to protect yourself during the winter months, there are plenty of other simple household hacks that can help reduce energy waste. Here, we look at 10 of the best tricks to maximize your home's energy efficiency.
1. Conduct a DIY energy audit
Before you can begin to cut the cost of your heating bills, you’ll need to understand your home’s energy efficiency and identify any areas of unnecessary heat loss. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert to spot clues of wasted energy and will probably be able to identify several quick wins by conducting a DIY energy assessment.
All you need to do is walk through your property and keep a checklist of any potential problems such as the following.
- Hot or cold drafts (particularly at doors and windows)
- Vents blocked with dust
- Damaged insulation
- Ice dams on your roof (these form if your attic doesn’t have proper air sealing)
- Moisture problems in summer
- Uneven temperature between rooms
- Hot or cold patches on drywall (this could indicate missing areas of insulation)
If you’d like a more thorough inspection, you may be able to arrange a professional energy audit via your utility company. As part of this process, an energy specialist can inspect your bills for signs of overuse and may also suggest any renewable energy sources that could be suitable for your home.
2. Turn down your water heater
With the average household paying between $400 and $600 per year to heat the water on their property, turning down your water heater by just a few degrees could radically cut the cost of your bills.
You can check your water’s temperature by running the faucet nearest to your heater for several minutes and then testing the water with a thermometer. If you decide to lower the temperature and have a gas heater, you should find a control panel mounted near the bottom of the appliance that will allow you to adjust the temperature. These controls are typically on the top and bottom of the tank on an electric heater
Remember, your heater should be set at no lower than 140ºF (60ºC) or you risk the spread of harmful bacteria.
3. Reverse your ceiling fans
While ceiling fans can prove invaluable for keeping us cool in summer, these devices can also provide the opposite effect in the colder months. If the blades on a fan turn in a clockwise direction, it will draw cool air upward and push down any hot air that has risen to the top of your home. You can normally switch the direction the fan blades turn via a switch on the fan or the device’s remote control.
4. Insulate your home
With the Environmental Protection Agency estimating that the average US household could save 15% on heating and cooling costs by adding insulation to their property, this is one of the most effective ways of reducing heat loss in your property.
In simple terms, insulation reduces the amount of heat lost from your property by trapping tiny pockets of air. Although the best type of insulation will depend on your property type, the most common insulation materials include mineral wool, polystyrene, and fiberglass.
When you begin the insulation process, it makes sense to prioritize the areas of your home from which heat is most likely to escape, such as exterior walls, unheated garages, attics, and crawl spaces.
Although you’ll need a professional to install exterior wall insulation, other types of insulation that are affordable and easier to install, such as mineral wool, should be available from your local hardware store.
5. Dress warmly
When the temperature in your home drops, your first instinct may be to turn up the heat. Before you reach for the thermostat, however, it makes sense to check that you’re dressed appropriately for the winter months. Bundling up a little and keeping the thermostat a few degrees lower can certainly save money on energy bills.
One of the most effective ways to ensure you’re warm enough is with the layering technique. As your base layer, you should wear something made from a material that can wick any sweat away from your body, such as silk or polyester. Then add a T-shirt or long-sleeved shirt, and finally, a fleece or sweatshirt to complete your indoor outfit.
6. Rearrange your furniture
As well as giving your home a makeover, rearranging your furniture is one of the simplest and most affordable ways of preventing heat loss.
First off, make sure that you don’t have any pieces of furniture in front of your radiators. Having large objects blocking a heat source effectively means you’re paying to heat a room but receiving little benefit. Likewise, ensure any items of furniture are several feet away from your vents to allow air to circulate properly.
And while you’re in the process of redecorating, you could invest in new, thicker curtains, as these can help your property retain heat by providing another barrier between your home and the cold outdoor temperature.
7. Use a humidifier
As winter hits, the humidity levels in your home will begin to drop, because cold air doesn’t retain as much water as warm air. This will cause the temperature in your rooms to feel cooler, and you may be tempted to turn up the heat to compensate. By adding water vapor into the atmosphere, a humidifier can rebalance these levels and cause the air in your home to feel warmer.
A humidifier can also offer health benefits for you and your family, as viruses and bacteria can’t travel as effectively in moist air, which reduces the risk of infections.
8. Get a HVAC tune-up
Rather than waiting for your heating and air conditioning to break down in an emergency, you can save money in the long run by investing in regular maintenance for these systems.
As part of a routine tune-up on your HVAC system, an engineer can spot—and remedy—any maintenance issues that are pushing up your energy bills, such as an accumulation of dust in your system, incorrect refrigerant levels, or a dirty filter.
If you’re considering buying home warranty coverage to cover your HVAC system, consider taking out a policy with American Home Shield, which will include an annual HVAC tune-up as part of your coverage.
9. Get a smart thermostat
By using smart technology to schedule your heating and air conditioning, you can regulate your home’s temperature from any location and radically cut your heating bills. In fact, government-backed figures reveal that the average household could save approximately 8% (or approximately $50) on their annual heating and cooling bills by using a certified smart thermometer.
These devices are wi-fi enabled and allow users to control the temperature in their homes via their smartphones and laptops. Imagine you’ve had to leave the property unexpectedly for several days and suddenly realize you’ve forgotten to turn the heating off. A smart thermostat would allow you to adjust your home’s temperature from any location.
In addition, many smart thermostats will provide you with information on your energy usage, which can help you avoid shockingly high bills.
10. Upgrade your furnace
While any hacks you adopt to improve your energy efficiency should help lower your heating bills, you may be fighting a losing battle if you’re relying on an out-of-date or inefficient furnace.
A new, more energy-efficient model will require far less fuel to heat your home, which could save you thousands of dollars on your utility bills in the longer term. According to government-backed figures, investing in an energy-efficient furnace model could save you approximately $20,000 during your appliance’s lifetime when compared against an older model.
Whatever the age of your furnace, you can also increase its efficiency by performing basic maintenance, such as cleaning the air filter, lubricating the blower motor, and testing the ignition switch.
If you’re worried about the cost of heating bills this winter, you’re far from alone. And, while we can’t promise miracles, following the steps outlined in this article should make your bills more affordable, and home warranty should keep you covered.
Remember, you should always keep your home at a safe temperature of at least 64°F (18°C), which the World Health Organization recommends as the minimum safe level for human habitation. And, if your bills are truly unaffordable, there are several assistance programs that may be able to provide support, such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.