According to the US government, Americans spend $241 billion each year on home energy bills or $2,100 per household! Those numbers are dizzying when you consider much of this energy usage is unnecessary. With proven preventative measures and the energy efficient products available, homeowners can save up to 30% on their energy bills. While some of the energy efficient upgrades are costly up front, such as installing an energy efficient furnace, a taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures.
Winterizing your home is one of the proactive activities which lead to big savings on your energy bills. Many variables are involved in calculating this savings, Home Energy Saver, provides a terrific tool for calculating your energy savings according to your zip code and details you provide about your home. The tool provides information on all energy end uses including heating, cooling, water heating, appliances and lighting. One Colorado homeowner claims to save thousands each year from implementing the suggestions on the site.
Below we've provided a checklist of the top ways to winterize your home for increased energy efficiency and long-term savings. Additionally, you'll find a resource list for tools and suggestions to help you winterize and increase the energy efficiency of your home.
Prepare Windows, Doors & Interior Elements
EarthWorks Group reports that the average home has air leaks that when combined are equal to a nine-foot square hole in the wall. Finding and blocking leaks around windows, doors, baseboards, electrical outlets and recessed lighting will resolve the issue and provide an energy savings of between 5 to 45 percent.
- Install storm doors and windows
- Insulate windows and doors
- Block air leaks and drafts around windows and exterior doors with weather stripping
- Replace cracked glass in windows and doors
- Use door sweeps or draft snakes under doors to block drafts that can't be blocked with weather stripping
- Install outlet gaskets around all electrical outlets
- Block leaks around recessed lighting
While this may be one area of winterization that can cost the most up front, you'll realize a tax savings from the federal government of up to $1,500 to cover the cost. Once your home is insulated you may realize a savings of more than $100 a year.
- Visit DOE.gov to determine how much insulation you need by zip code
- Identify and fix moisture problems
- Insulate the crawl space and attic door
- Install wind baffles along the attic eave and in cathedral ceilings
- Use high R-value insulation on exterior walls and cathedral ceilings
- Insulate the garage door- find out how to insulate a garage door
Service Heating Systems
Servicing your home's heating systems and taking proactive steps to block energy leaks can lead to big savings over time. The simple act of tuning-up your furnace can reduce heating costs by up to 5%.
- Check the thermostats to make sure they are working properly
- Replace old thermostats with programmable models to save as much as $180 a year
- Open register vents and air returns inside the house
- Repair or replace damaged/loose vents
- Install an energy efficient furnace if you are operating on an out-dated unity- this can lead to savings of nearly $200/year
- Check, clean and replace furnace filters monthly during cold seasons
- Have your gas, oil, or other non-electric heating system serviced by a professional
- DIY: Bleed air from the hot water radiators, and turn the gas furnace pilot light on
- Insulate the water heater and turn down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit thus reducing water heating costs 6% to 10%
- Have the chimney swept and keep damper closed when not in use
Energy.gov notes that leaking ducts can reduce energy efficiency by 10 to 30%. Simple duct sealing will save you almost $100 a year.
- Check and clean interior duct work for mold, dirt and debris accumulations
- Patch holes in interior duct work
- Check and clean exposed ductwork for nests or other obstructions before turning on your heating system
- Check and patch holes in exposed duct work for damage from animals and outdoor elements
- Insulate exposed ductwork under the house and in unheated areas
Weatherize the Foundation and Exterior
Taking weatherizing measures around the foundation and exterior of your home will add to the overall increased energy efficiency you'll experience from insulating and duct sealing. Gaps and holes in your house's exterior contribute to drafts, air leaks and the possibility of ductwork damage by pests.
- Insulate plumbing that runs through unheated spaces such as crawlspaces, basements and garages
- Air seal the house envelope
- Fill gaps and holes in the house's exterior
- Seal entry points and cracks in house's foundation
- Secure crawlspace entry points
- Insulate the basement
- Check and repair window wells around basement windows
- Install plastic shields on basement windows
- Cover central air units with heavy protective material
Use an Energy Monitor
Smart technology isn't relegated to your phone, an energy monitor will keep you on top of your energy usage in real time and projects your total monthly bill. This intelligent device, research reveals, leads to significant reduction in electricity consumption saving many users 15 to 20% on their energy bills, the equivalent to several hundred dollars a year. The device displays the exact amount of electricity being used by each appliance or activity allowing the user to cut waste based on facts.
Amp Up Energy Savings Practices Inside
Simple energy saving practices performed in the home on a daily basis can go a long way in lowering your winter heating bills. For example, for every degree you lower your thermostat you will save up to 3% on your energy bill!
- Layer your clothing to keep the chill off and stay comfortable during the day and evening
- Layer bedding for optimal warmth instead of cranking up the heat at night
- Reverse ceiling fans to clockwise rotation to recirculate warm air accumulating at the ceiling. This practice alone can cut heating costs by as much as 10%
- Lower your thermostat. For every degree you lower it while running the heating system you'll save 1 to 3% on your heating bill
- Shut off unused rooms by closing vents and keeping doors closed
DIY or Get An Energy Audit
While a do-it-yourself energy audit won't be as thorough as a professional one, Energy.gov notes, you can spot many problems yourself by following their DIY Home Energy Audit online guide.
To get prepared for your professional audit and find out more about the process, visit the Energy.gov Professional Energy Audit page. The page notes that you can save 5% to 30% on your energy bill by making upgrades recommended during an audit.
Guide to Home Energy Assessments by Energy.gov
Tax Breaks for Winterizing Your Home and Saving Energy by EnergyStar.gov
The Hidden Cost of Home Energy Use by Home Energy Saver
Home Energy Saver Calculator by U.S. Dept of Energy
How to Insulate a Garage Door (Video)