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25 Uncommon Ways To Lower Heating Costs

After looking at your heating bills, have you ever wondered — “What are inexpensive things I can do that have the most impact on heating costs?”

Most articles describe EXPENSIVE ways to make the house more energy-efficient.  Don’t get me wrong, these are excellent home improvements — if the existing components need replaced anyway.  However, replacing components which are functioning well — for just the energy savings an upgraded component offers– is not likely to give you a satisfying return on your investment.

Good News!  There is more than one way to achieve similar results. Replacing windows will increase the energy efficiency of your home, but so will covering the windows with Vinyl-Film.  Did you know you can add blinds and insulated draperies which will increase the R-Value of your windows far more than expensive High-E glass?

  • Add Solar Panels: $10-50,000.  At this price, it’s very misleading to say “Heat Your Home For Free”.
  • Replace The Windows: $10-25,000.  Depends on the grade of window you choose and how many you need.
  • Replace The HVAC System with High-Efficiency: $10-$15,000.  Depends on the size of your home and how efficient the new HVAC system is.
  • Replace The Siding & Add Air-Infiltration Barrier (like TYVEK): $10-30,000.  Depend on size of your home and the siding material you choose.

Let’s take a look at How Your Home Loses Heat:

 

 

 

 

  • Seal Up The Air Leaks: $250.00 (labor yourself) — $1,500 (hire the work done)
  • Add Vinyl-Film Interior Storm Windows:  $200.0 would cover 11 windows
  • Add Insulation To the Attic: $1,500 — $3,000:  Depends on how large your home is and how much insulation you have now.

This article offers inexpensive suggestions you can do to reduce heating bills.

WINDOWS

If your home has the old (silver) windows with single-pane glass, their Insulating-Value is less than R-1.  Additionally, the older windows get, the more air they leak around the edges because their weather stripping wears out.

One way to reduce heating costs is to cover existing windows with an exterior or interior storm window.  While there are many solutions for covering existing windows, most are costly enough that it’s better to replace the windows, given the incremental cost.  Also, from a home value standpoint, new windows increase value more than a window over old windows.

Add Reusable / Removable Interior Vinyl-Film Storm Window Kits ($11.00 each)

This provides the most benefit on north facing windows and an inexpensive way to reduce heating costs.  This kit allows you to have an interior insulating layer of vinyl film over the window in the winter.  In summer you can remove it if you want to open the window.  For windows you never open, this can stay in place year round, to reduce heating costs and cooling costs. .

This product reduces heat loss in 2 ways:

  • It prevents nearly all window air leakage from entering the home
  • The air-gap between the home’s window and the interior storm window provides excellent insulating ability.  An air-gap is incorporated into all high-efficiency windows.

To install this product (no tools required):

  • Press self-adhesive channels in place along the outside edges of the window opening (channel shown in the lower left side of photo)
  • The viny-film is temporarily hung in place with tape at the top of the opening
  • The spine is inserted into the gap in the channel (spine shown in the upper right-hand side of the photo).  This holds the vinyl-film in place
  • Remove excess film with scissors.

removable and reusable plastic storm window kit

The link below will take you to where you can buy this product:

http://www.conservationmart.com/p-373-tyz-all-72×82-white-plastic-interior-storm-window-kit.aspx?gclid=CJrCh-iLxM4CFQGPaQodsYMIWA

Add Cellular Shades and / or Insulated Drapes (Shade: $102.00 for 3′ x 6′ window)

Cellular Shades shades provide insulating over your windows, reducing heating costs and cooling costs.  They come in either light-filtering or black-out versions.  Adding tracks along the sides allows for 4-sided insulating ability.  A double-cell, light filtering cellular shade provides R-2.8 insulating value, slightly more than a Low-E window (R-2.7). Note: A cellular shade can’t help with windows air leakage.

insulating cellular shade

R-Value of different Cellular Shades:

  • Double-Cell, Light Filtering             2.8
  • Same shade + tracks on sides          3.3
  • Double-Cell, Blackout                       4.0
  • Same Shade + tracks on sides         4.7
  • Triple-Cell, Light Filtering              4.4

R-Value of different window glass: *

  • Single-Pane                                            .92
  • Two-Pane Insulating Glass              2.1
  • Two-Pane Insulating + Low-E        2.7
  • Two-Pane + Low-E + Argon Gas    3.3

* Source: http://chicagowindowexpert.com/2009/06/30/the-lowdown-on-low-e-glass/

The Cost Of A Two-Pane, Low-E, Argon-Gas Filled Window Starts at $245.00 (price includes installation) *

* Source: http://www.windowworlddfw.com/free-estimate/index.php?kw=window%20world%20dallas&src=g&gclid=CMmh8seUxs4CFQyCaQodgXkC_Q

The Cost Of A Triple Cellular Shade (R-4.4) For A 3 foot x 6 Foot Window is $102.00.**

And, should you decide to replace your windows later, the shade stays and you more than double the insulating value of the new window alone (R3.3).  Total insulating value of window + shade = R-7.7.

triple cell cellular shade

** Source: http://www.justblinds.com/products/107874?src=gawpb-107874-pla-96041484986&width=16.00&height=20.00&esvt=&esvx=None&esvadt=999999—1&esvid=&gclid=CMLZ3P6Txs4CFYgAaQod0_8EkA

Be sure your windows are locked.  Have you ever noticed when you lock your windows you can often see them pushing together more tightly? Even when doors and windows are closed, they might not be pressed tight against the weatherstripping if they’re not locked.

Use The Sun To Help Heat Your Home.   Keep your curtains open when sun is shining through.  Close them once the sun is no longer shining directly through the window.    The sun’s rays will add heat, especially south exposures which are sunny during most daylight hours.  This does not apply to north facing windows as they never receive direct sunshine through the window.

MINIMIZE AIR LEAKAGE:

Install a Fireplace Balloon.  This inflatable balloon seals off the fireplace damper.  Most dampers don’t seal well because they warp due to the heat they are exposed to. If you forget the balloon and start a fire, the balloon will deflate.   This suggestion is for wood-burning fireplaces only.

fireplace balloon

Your clothes dryer exhausts huge amounts of heated / cooled air from your home.  Set the controls so it dries only as long as it needs to.

Drying dry clothes uses more energy that you might think because the dryer is removing air from the house the entire time it’s running.  A household dryer will exhaust 240 cubic foot of air per minute while it’s operating. *

* Source: http://www.advancedthermalimaging.ca/default2.asp?active_page_id=104

A 2,000 square foot house with 8 foot ceilings has 16,000 cubic feet of air.   It takes your dryer just over an hour to exchange the air from the entire house with outside air (pulled in everywhere the home leaks air).   That’s an enormous amount of heated air removed and replaced with cold outside air.   This can be mostly prevented by opening the window closest to the dryer.

Remove window air conditioners during the winter.  They leak air and have no insulating ability to speak of.

DUCTWORK:

Duct Sealing is a huge way to reduce heating and cooling costs.  Up to 40% of heated & cooled air is lost through leaking ductwork.  Traditional methods treat leaks from the outside with tapes and mastics.  It’s not uncommon for older ductwork to have been sealed with Duct Tape — which fails quickly due to attic heat.  Mastic is a much sounder solution.

ductwork sealed with duct tape ductwork sealed with mastic

Leaking Duct Tape                                     Ductwork sealed with mastic

It’s possible pieces of your ductwork have apart over time.  This could be the result of failed duct tape, or perhaps the ductwork was disturbed by someone while in the attic.

ductwork not attached

MAKE THE MOST OF THE HEAT ALREADY IN THE ROOM:

Use your ceiling fan — blowing UP.  Set your ceiling fan to low speed with it spinning counter-clockwise to move warm air at the ceiling down into the room (moving along the walls).  This will also reduce the temperature difference from floor to ceiling, making the room more comfortable where you are.

If the air feels much colder near the floor, try a small fan sitting on the floor and blowing up.  This will help mix the coldest air in the room with the warmest air at the ceiling.  To avoid a draft, put the fan as far from the seating area as possible.

fan

You can purchase this fan at: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozeri-Brezza-II-Dual-Oscillating-10-High-Velocity-Desk-Fan/37406675?veh=dsn&wmlspartner=criteo&sourceid=cricpalowdesallhomeimprovementabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz57b206ab3e2f8356d2d5d9f6f6af7e4c.

Use heat created by other sources. There are plenty of activities you do around the house that generate warmth which can reduce heating costs.

  • When you are done with your shower, leave the bathroom door open so the heat & steam spreads to other rooms.
  • You are throwing a lot of heat down the drain when you shower or take a bath.  Close the bathtub drain and drain the water once it is cool.
  • Open the dishwasher as soon as it’s done.  This will be another notable source of heat and humidity in winter.

Rearrange the furniture in your rooms.  Move your furniture around so you are sitting near interior walls.  Exterior walls are colder and windows are colder yet.

Use your wood-burning fireplace infrequently.  A fireplace moves about 24,000 cubic feet heated air up the chimney each hour. Remember to turn the thermostat down a little when you use the fireplace.  Also, open the window (closest to the fireplace) a few inches.  This allows the fireplace to pull outside air from the closest location in the home.  Otherwise it pull air in at every location where the house leaks air.

If you have hardwood floors, add area-rugs in seating areas.  This provides some insulation when your feet are on the floor.  It will also help with the overall heat loss of the room.

Buy comfortable heavy clothes for when you are relaxing at home.  Sweat shirts and pants come in a variety of thicknesses.  Buy the fabric-weight you prefer and slow the loss of your body-heat.

Buy a twin-size cotton thermal-blanket to cover yourself while relaxing.  Cotton will slow the loss of body-heat without getting you too warm.

Add cotton thermal-blankets to your bed.  They are good for use year round, simply remove layers until you are comfortable in summer.

ADD SUPPLEMENTAL HEAT WHERE YOU ARE

Put an electric space heater in the places you use most.  This allows you to reduce heating costs by turning down the thermostat and keeping only the space you are occupying comfortably warm.  The rest of the house will be cooler but you’ll be warm.  You save up to 3% on heating costs for every degree below 70 F.

Portable heaters start at about $30, and an electric heater using 1500 watts will cost you around 10.5 cents per hour to operate on its highest setting.  Still, the savings from reducing the furnace temperature to the rest of the house will be more the cost of running the space heater .

NOTE: Do not use any space heaters other than electric.  Unvented Fuel-Burning Space Heaters exhaust carbon monoxide into your home.  It is a by-product of burning any type of fuel.  Fuel burning space heaters are intended for areas which have above average ventilation, such as a garage.

NOTE:  Don’t leave electric heaters unattended.  When leaving the room, shutting it off eliminates all risk.

Establish Heating-Cost Savings Lifestyle Habits

Establish Heating-Cost Savings Lifestyle Habits.   You can reduce heating costs by adopting new lifestyle habits.

  • Don’t stand in open doorways while talking with someone outside the home.  Invite them in or step outside and close the door.
  • Check and replace your furnace filter each month.  A dirty filter extends the amount of time the furnace must run.  A clogged air filter can cause a gas furnace to shut down in order to protect itself from overheating.
  • Minimize the use of bath vent fans and kitchen exhaust hoods during winter.  After your shower, turn the bath fan on for 5 minutes to remove only the most humid air (which rises to the ceiling).  Let the rest of the heat and humidity move into the home.
  • Be sure all your windows are locked to ensure the tightest seal.
  • If you have storm windows, be sure to close them too.
  • Add throw rugs or area rugs where you have bare floors.  A bare floor feels cold in winter.  Cover it with a rug to keep the room warmer + make the floor “feel” warm on your feet.
  • Arrange furniture to minimize seating against outside walls or windows.
  • Be sure no furniture or draperies block any heat ducts located in the floor.
  • Put on comfy, warm clothes while relaxing at home.
  • Enjoy hot beverages while you are relaxing.
  • Close off unused rooms and close the vent.  Keep in mind this affects your furnace’s air-flow, so limit closed registers to 1 or 2 at the most.
  • Building a fire in your fireplace?  90% of the heat will go up the chimney -and- heated air is pulled from the house to provide combustion-air for fire.
  • Close your fireplace flue as soon as it’s cool enough to touch.  Huge amounts of heat will rise out of your chimney if the damper is left open.
  • Minimize clothes dryer operating time by checking frequently to ensure it does not run after clothes are dry.
  • Keep your garage door closed, especially if living space is above it.

OTHER WORTHWHILE THINGS TO KNOW:

When you turn your heat down, the cost to bring the temperature back up again is much the same as what you saved while the house was cooling down.  You save money during the hours the heat was reduced. 

When you want your house warmer, set thermostat to only the temperature you want.  Turning the thermostat higher will not make the furnace heat faster, it only makes it heat longer, and to a temperature warmer than what you want.

Yes wind-chill applies to a home.  It affects anything which is warm.  If you feel your home is cooler on windy days, that’s because it is.  Wind pushes more air into the home at points where it leaks air.

Humidity level can affect a home’s comfort.  If humidity is too low (which is common in DFW winter) the home will feel cooler than if humidity was at the right amount.  The ideal range is 30-50%.  *  Buy an indoor humidity gauge and add humidity when it drops below 40%.

 home humidity levels chart
* Source: http://www.sensitivechoice.com/indoor-humidity/
SUMMARY:
     This article describes uncommon ways to reduce heating costs.  While most energy-saving articles talk about improving the house’s energy efficiency. We all have heard “increase insulation” and “seal up leaks” and other common improvements you can make to your home.
     This article tells of inexpensive to modestly priced things you can do (other than home energy-improvements)  which will have a notable to substantial impact on both heating and cooling costs.   Some items are behavior changes, though this article does not discuss “turn the thermostat lower” or other commonly suggested ideas.

 Have Electric Heat Or A Heat-Pump?  Compare Your Provider’s kWh Charge To Other Providers.

Go to www.powertochoose.org/ to see electric kWh rates from all service providers.  Plans are ranked (low to high for the charge per kWh) for the 1,000 kWh charge.

  • There are 3 rates per kWh:  500 kWh  /  1,000 kWh  /  2,000 kWh
  • Check previous bills to determine your average kWh per monthly usage.  This will guide you in determining which of the rates is most important to you.
  • Plans are for 3, 6 or 12 months.  For a fair comparison, filter “Contract Length” to only 12-month plans.
  • Check the Monthly Base Fee.  What appears  to be a great deal per kWh may be a poor value due to the monthly base fee.

Always click on the “Fact Sheet” link to see:

  • If there is a Monthly Base Fee
  • If any kWh are included in the fee

At the time of this article, the 1,000 kWh rate charge ranged from 4.5 — 12.5 cents per kWh!  Changing electric service providers is sometimes the easiest way to notably reduce heating costs with electric heat or heat pump.  This works for A/C too.

Al’s Plumbing, Heating and A/C maintains and repairs all brands of Furnace, A/C and Heat Pumps.  We also sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard, Coleman HVAC, and Ameristar (owned by American Standard).  We will ensure your HVAC is running at it’s peak ability while using the least energy possible.  Call Al’s today to discuss any problems you are having with your HVAC system and Al’s can provide you with a solution.

 

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